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AF looks at nixing EPRs for some to cut costs

Traffic Theater program also retooled as part of 'Every Dollar Counts'

Jun. 24, 2013 - 05:16PM   |  
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The Air Force is considering eliminating enlisted performance reports for some chief master sergeants to save money, officials said.

The proposed cost-savings measure is one of the more than 11,000 suggestions submitted by airmen in response to a call out from the the “Every Dollar Counts” program, said Vice Chief of Staff Gen. Larry Spencer.

“Now the ball is in our court to quickly assess the ideas and implement those that show the most promise — several of which have been implemented already,” Spencer wrote in a June 5 letter to airmen.

A review into the entire enlisted evaluation system is already looking into whether to require EPRs for chiefs, said Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force James Cody.

“We have asked ourselves a question: ‘Do we need to do EPRs on chiefs?’ ” Cody said during a June 19 interview with Air Force Times. “To answer part of that question, yes, we do need EPRs on some chiefs, but we may not need to do it on all chiefs and we’re kind of walking through that process.”

Right now, the Air Force has 5,959 chief master sergeants: 2,992 in the active-duty force, 1,940 in the Air National Guard and 1,027 in the Reserve, according to the Chief’s Group.

“I think we’re learning to say, ‘There are probably certain chiefs who are operating at certain levels of the Air Force, working certain levels of senior leadership, who have been chiefs long enough that they would still require a level of feedback. ... But to actually, necessarily, have the same form that everybody else has to document, we probably think there is some validity there in saying that may not be necessary,’ ” Cody said.

Ultimately, the decision about whether all chiefs should get EPRs will be part of the wider review of the evaluation system, said Cody, who did not know when the review will be completed because it is connected to so many issues.

“It ties into promotions; it ties into assignments; it ties into retainability; so it’s not as simple as just saying, ‘We’re going to change the EPR’; it’s really how we look and utilize and value the entire enlisted evaluation system,” he said.

A constant gripe from enlisted airmen is that almost every enlisted airman — whether outstanding or mediocre — gets a perfect 5 on his or her EPR because the current system makes it hard to justify giving airmen anything less. Last fiscal year, 83 percent of enlisted airmen got a 5 on their EPRs.

“What we’re talking now under this review is if — and I’m going to put a big ‘if’ — if we’re going to walk away from the system that we have today, it’s going to be a probably fairly significant change,” Cody said. “It could be something else, but in this review we are not tending to say, ‘How can we make adjustments to what we’re already doing?’ It’s really about, ‘Are we doing the right things in the enlisted evaluation system; are we valuing the right levels of things?’ with a very keen focus on performance being the most major factor in this.”

In his letter to airmen, Spencer highlighted Air Force cost savings programs that have already reaped benefits for the Air Force. For example, Air Mobility Command has saved millions of dollars this year by tweaking its Theater Express program to more accurately estimate airlift costs.

The Theater Express program is used to ship cargo around the U.S. Central Command theater using commercial aircraft, but since November, AMC has been able to put more cargo on C-17s and C-130s, said Donald Anderson, assistant director of analysis at AMC analysis, assessments and lessons learned.

“This program was over $400 million a year, and we got it down to less than $2 million without any extra aircraft being deployed,” Anderson said.

The success is in part due to a new simulation model that can more reliably predict how much space is available on military aircraft to ship cargo so aerial ports don’t have to use commercial carriers to make sure vital supplies make it to troops, he said. With years worth of data to draw upon, the model can predict up to a 95 percent certainty how much cargo can be put on military aircraft.

“Using predictive analysis, we could show the aerial port that, ‘Hey, that C-17 coming through the day after tomorrow is most likely going to have eight pallet positions on there available for cargo,’ ” Anderson said. “So the aerial port would not send those eight pallets commercial; they’d hold them back and wait for the C-17 to come through.”

AMC also updated its cost analysis model to reflect the number and type of military aircraft available, and has shown it is cheaper to move cargo using C-130Hs and C-17s than commercial aircraft, he said.

The Theater Express program will be vital to withdrawing more than 10 years worth of equipment in Afghanistan as part of the NATO drawdown, due to conclude at the end of 2014, said Col. Dennis King, chief of Air Mobility Division.

“We can’t do it all on [military aircraft], we can’t do it all on Theater Express, but when you put them together, that gives us capability to move it all out and meet the timelines,” King said.■

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