KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany -- The Air Force will spare more airmen from involuntary separation in part to bolster the service's nuclear missile corps, which has faced a series of embarrassing lapses, the Air Force announced.
As a result, the Air Force says, about 4,000 fewer airmen than originally expected will meet involuntary retention boards this summer and fall.
"Establishing full manning in our nuclear positions underscores the vital importance of this mission," Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James was quoted as saying in an Air Force news release issued Friday. Better staffing, she said, offers "these critical" airmen "a more stable work schedule and improves their quality of life."
The focus on improving the nuclear force follows a series of embarrassing lapses among the airmen in charge of the country's intercontinental ballistic missiles, including a major cheating scandal and poor inspection results.
Increasing the staffing for the nuclear mission, however, doesn't account for the entire 4,000 airmen now being told they're no longer eligible for possible involuntary separation.
Letting go of fewer airmen this summer is also intended to guard against the budget uncertainty that comes with not knowing whether the service will be allowed to trim its force structure as planned, officials said in the news release.
"We don't want to cut a single" airman "more than the number absolutely necessary to keep our force in balance," Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Mark A Welsh III was quoted as saying.
The Air Force did not say from which career fields more airmen would be retained nor how many airmen the service still needs to shed.
James said in a March interview with Stars and Stripesthat the Air Force drawdown calls for reducing the service's active-duty numbers by about 16,700 airmen in fiscal 2015.
The relevant retention boards will meet this month, according to the Air Force, with results to be released in late July or early August.
Airmen are advised to check myPers, the Air Force's personnel web site, to find out their latest status.