Air Force: Hiring Freeze Could Leave Thousands of Civilian Jobs Open

Amy Ruiz, Air Force Personnel Center human resources specialist, provides information about Air Force civilian careers to an attendee during the Hiring Heroes Career Fair at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam. (Air Force photo)
Amy Ruiz, Air Force Personnel Center human resources specialist, provides information about Air Force civilian careers to an attendee during the Hiring Heroes Career Fair at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam. (Air Force photo)

The Air Force fears it will face thousands of empty positions in the next few months because of the federal hiring freeze imposed by the White House on Jan. 23.

The service said it is working with the Defense Department to provide additional guidance for those in the pipeline for new jobs.

"The appointment of federal employees who began work on or before Jan. 23 will not be affected, and those with existing 'firm' offers with effective dates on or before Feb. 22 may proceed," the service's announcement said.

Aside from military personnel already exempt from the ruling, the Air Force said other exemptions "may be permitted to meet the national security mission."

"Our civilian force is absolutely critical to our readiness and mission; we are taking every step to ensure we get this right," said Lt. Gen. Gina M. Grosso, the deputy chief of staff for Air Force manpower, personnel and services.

"Our team has been working closely with [the Office of the Secretary of Defense] to draft clear Air Force guidance on implementation and hiring freeze exemptions," Grosso said in the release.

"As of today, we have not received the final DoD guidance memorandum, which we believe will contain some relief in critical mission areas," she said.

Civilians make up roughly 26 percent of the total Air Force, with 179,000 positions currently staffed, Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis told Military.com. About 96 percent of civilian Air Force jobs are currently filled, he said.

But on any given month, the service loses about 1,300 personnel. Between the already vacant positions unable to be filled because of the freeze and the Air Force's historic attrition rate, the civilian workforce could shrink by 3 percent over the next four months, leaving more than 13,000 open positions, officials said.

"Once the DoD guidance is released, we will provide the field with detailed guidance on exemption processing to ensure the most swift and effective method to request needed relief," Grosso said.

RELATED: Trump's Federal Hiring Freeze Could Hurt Vets: Officials

President Donald Trump's memo last week addressed contracting, stating, "Contracting outside the government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted."

The Air Force reiterated that outside contracting will remain blocked for the time being.

"The impact of this freeze will likely be felt over time as personnel retire and separate from the Air Force," Grosso said.

"Because of the vital role civilians perform, we will work to provide as much information as possible, as quickly as possible with regard to the freeze."

-- Oriana Pawlyk can be reached at oriana.pawlyk@military.com. Follow her on Twitter at @Oriana0214.

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