WASHINGTON, Jan. 5 (UPI) -- As the U.S. Army and Marine Corps seek dramatic increases in manpower, the Air Force is planning to fire about 1,800 mid-level officers this year.
The reduction in force, part of a total cut of 60,000 between 2004 and 2009, is meant to free up funds to buy more advanced aircraft.
"Personnel costs have risen 51 percent over the past 10 years," said Air Force spokesman Maj. David Small. "Reducing our force and asking for that savings to be diverted to our acquisition programs is how we are saving the money to spend on a modernized and recapitalized fleet."
About 1,800 officers with between six and 12 years of service under their belts have already taken cash incentives to leave the service early. The Air Force needs to cut another 1,800 this year and will convene a board to decide who gets cut in June.
Additional reductions will be taken in 2008 and 2009.
Two other programs are targeting officers in other year groups -- about 700 officers with four years experience will be axed from the payroll this year. Last year, 800 lieutenants were involuntarily separated.
This week the service is also making decisions about forcing certain colonels and lieutenant colonels into early retirement.
The Air Force hopes to get down to 316,000 people by 2009, two years sooner than it originally announced. It now has 345,000 people on active duty. By the end of FY08, it hopes to be down to 330,000.
"We are reducing end strength and becoming more efficient; it is important to maintaining our technological edge to fight the wars of today and tomorrow." Smalls said.
The dramatic cuts are expected to be controversial on Capitol Hill, particularly since the Air Force has more than 5,000 ground troops doing security missions in Iraq.