updated 9/20/2006 4:50:03 PM ET 2006-09-20T20:50:03

In another cost-saving move, the Air Force will likely speed up its plan to cut 40,000 jobs, an official said Wednesday.

The service hopes to eliminate the equivalent of 40,000 full-time positions by the budget year 2009 instead of 2011, as had been considered earlier, said Capt. David W. Small, an Air Force spokesman.

The overall size of the reduction, which has been know since early this year, was prompted by a long-range Pentagon-wide plan to reshape the nation’s military services into a more agile fighting force better able to fight terrorism, while still preserving the ability to wage large conventional wars.

Small said officials are still trying to determine an exact plan for making the personnel cuts, which would not translate to 40,000 specific people but rather a complicated mix of uniformed and civilian active-duty and reserve positions.

The Air Force says personnel costs have risen 51 percent over the past decade, though the numbers of personnel have remained the same. The service estimates its buying power a year from now will be reduced by about $8 billion due to higher costs of fuel, personnel and aging aircraft, said Small.

At the same time, the Air Force is expecting a smaller-than-expected budget under a six-year spending plan for 2008 through 2013.

Slashing $1.8 billion
Even with the job cuts, Air Force Secretary Michael Wynne told reporters earlier this month that he was struggling to find new ways to slash about $1.8 billion from his budget to cover costs from the latest round of military base closings.

He said he wouldn’t cut more people above the 40,000 positions, and it would not be wise to take funding from military programs that are needed to protect the country. But, Wynne also said he meets resistance when he tries to save money on operations and maintenance by retiring aging aircraft.

“We’re finding out that those are, unfortunately, prized possessions of some congressional districts,” said Wynne.

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