Command budget, personnel outlooks top issues at annual AFMC, union leaders meeting Published June 30, 2011 By Monica D. Morales Air Force Materiel Command Public Affairs WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- Air Force Materiel Command will face the challenge of maintaining strategic priorities while operating within an environment of reduced or flattened budgets, command officials said during a June 28, 2011, meeting between AFMC senior leaders and the military's largest employee union. The annual joint national labor management meeting brought together AFMC Commander Gen. Donald Hoffman and John Gage, national president of the American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO, along with other command and union officials. The group convened for an afternoon of briefings and discussions aimed at sharing information about the issues facing the AFMC workforce and outlining AFMC and AFGE management-labor partnership expectations for the upcoming year. "All four of the command's mission areas are enabled by a high-quality workforce, and meetings like this are important business to us," said General Hoffman. "Retaining that level of quality is important, particularly as we acclimate to an atmosphere of efficiencies." The command's financial briefing also highlighted the potential for future budgets to be constrained. The bottom line, according to finance officials, is that the upcoming budgets will call for "tail to tooth realignment of dollars to preserve capability and readiness." Similarly, the Air Force's implementation of civilian hiring controls in May limited the hiring to one action for every two vacancies, said an AFMC manpower and personnel official. Additionally, survey data gauging interest in applications for the Voluntary Early Retirement Authority/Voluntary Separation Incentive Program is being compiled. Top among civilian personnel policy topics discussed was the Defense Department's adoption of the Telework Enhancement Act, signed into law in December 2010. The act mandates that DOD designate by early June 2011 how many of its 900,000 civilian positions are eligible for telework. President Obama signed the act into law with the overarching goal of increasing telework to improve the Defense Department's capability to continue operations in crisis situations. The law also reflects a response to the efficiencies outlined by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates in August 2010. Mr. Gage said that the last year has presented great challenges in the form of assessing workforce and budgetary reductions. "Meetings like this continue to be important, particularly in a time when the full education of the challenges facing personnel is critical," Mr. Gage said. "We have to be informed and ready to respond." The meeting also included a briefing of the Partnership Council's annual report. Dr. Steve Butler, AFMC executive director, and Scott Blanch, AFGE Council 214 president, noted that the council's recent meetings at two AFMC bases allowed for robust discussion regarding issues like the command's transition to a single staffing tool for streamlined hiring, better accessibility to benefits and entitlements for segments of the workforce and civilian academic programs. The Partnership Council was formed in the late 1990s, following several turbulent years of labor relations in the command. In addition to the co-chairs, the council consists of four union representatives, who usually are AFGE local chapter presidents from AFMC bases, as well as four management members, who typically are executive directors from AFMC centers. The meeting also included briefings about Air Force efficiencies and an initiative aiming to reduce civilian hiring to 80 days, an improvement over the present 116-day timeline.