A 2005 graduate from the United States Air Force Academy, Matthew served for nine years in the active-duty Air Force, first as an instructor of Undergraduate Pilot Training at Vance Air Force Base and then as a KC-10 Instructor Pilot at Travis Air Force Base. He received his master's degree in strategic public relations from George Washington University in 2010. In 2014, he transferred into the Air Force Reserves and is now a space officer and public policy commentator.
Personnel management is not just a problem in the military, it is a problem everywhere. A 2014 study released from the Society for Human Resource Management found that more than half of human resource professionals graded their company either a C+ or B in how they manage performance. Given the strong lack of faith in leadership highlighted by the recent Military Times series and the 2014 Navy Retention Study, the military would probably be lucky to get grades like that. The Air Force’s current effort to change the enlisted performance report and promotion system is just one example of how the military is trying to change its ways. Unfortunately, the problem with these changes is that they are often a generation behind current practices in human resources circles.
The F-35 Lightning II, otherwise known as the Joint Strike Fighter, has a lot of critics and a lot of supporters. To cut through the debate currently being waged on the aircraft it is important to point out four facts about the situation the Department of Defense finds itself in: The F-35 is behind schedule and over-budget; it isn't delivering the capabilities the military needs; the world is vastly different from the one in which the F-35 was envisioned; and fourth and most importantly, the DoD has cancelled, or terminated early, massive weapons programs in the past for similar reasons.
The United States spends a lot of money on defense. This is not an astounding fact. Just last month the president of the United States signed the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2015, giving the Department of Defense a base budget of $496 billion, plus $64 billion for what is referred to as Overseas Contingency Operations spending. This is because despite having a budget of nearly half a trillion dollars, the DoD base budget only covers normal operations and not combat spending. Also in the NDAA is $17.9 billion for the Department of Energy to spend on our nuclear weapons programs. If you didn't know, our nuclear weapons, though deployed on Navy submarines and housed in Air Force silos, are actually paid for by the Energy department.
While much of the Air Force spent 2014 worrying about force cuts, a select group of airmen faced the exact opposite situation. A small selection of pilots and combat systems officers were eligible for up to $25,000 per year if they signed up for an additional service commitment. Because they are in particularly high demand, fighter pilots could sign up for an extra nine years, earning them $225,000 in retention bonuses over that period. So, why is the Air Force paying some individuals to stay while forcing other airmen, including pilots, to leave? The answer to that lies in how pilots are made.
No one can miss the fact that the U.S. military is getting smaller. Serious cuts in every part of the Department of Defense budget are being enacted, planned, and imagined. One of the most visible ways these cuts are being mandated is through a reduction in end strength, the legal limit of personnel for each service. Every branch is dealing with these personnel cuts differently, yet the programs can generally be divided into two categories: voluntary and involuntary separation.