Have you ever thought to yourself, “If only could I take a year or two off to focus on my personal life? I wish I had the opportunity to take a breather from the Air Force to start a family or have kids? If only the Air Force would give me a couple years off so I use my GI Bill and get my PhD? Is there any way the Air Force would let me pursue other professional opportunities to improve myself and then rejoin the Air Force?”
Most Airmen don’t realize there is a new program called the Career Intermission Program (CIP) specifically designed to address these concerns. CIP is a congressionally approved retention tool intended to help service members facing the exact decision, “do I stay or do I go?” Now, Airmen are not forced to pick between the Air Force and family, career, or education. Instead, CIP allows you to take a sabbatical of one to three years away from active duty to do whatever you want! Congress passed public law 110-417 that states “CIP is a unique opportunity for service members to take a career intermission, without penalty, before returning to active duty service to continue their military career.”
How does it work? You apply to the Air Force Personnel Center board and provide your desired CIP duration. The board decides if you are able to participate or not. In the past, the CIP was limited to only 40 Airmen a year, but recently Congress expanded the program and now there is no limitation on the number in the program, with only 35 airmen taking advantage of the program this year. Once accepted, there is a specific CIP office at AFPC that works with you to execute your separation and return to active duty. The CIP office cuts your orders and works the specific details. You schedule your move through Travel Management Office and transition out of the Air Force. Then about three to six months prior to your return, the CIP office at AFPC will contact you and start working a follow-on assignment. Upon returning to active duty, the Air Force adjusts your date of rank to be commensurate to the time in grade of your new peer group. For example, if you are a 10 year TSgt and take two years off in CIP, you will still be a 10 year TSgt when you return.
The Positives: The Air Force continues to provide you FULL Tricare health and dental care at no cost to you and your family. Second, the Air Force will PCS you and your family to ANYWHERE in the continental U.S. Best of all, while you are in CIP, you are considered a civilian with no ties to the Air Force: no CBTs, no PT tests, no government email, no deployments, no hair requirements, no uniforms, no chow hall runs, no unplanned temporary duties, etc. Your time on CIP allows you to focus on you, your family, your personal and professional needs without the AF interfering.
So what’s the catch? First, you will NOT accrue military service towards retirement while in CIP. During your time away, you are a member of the Inactive Ready Reserve. That means during an extreme national emergency you could be called to active duty. Second, you also will have an Active Duty Service commitment (ADSC) of two months for every one month you are away. For example, if you opt for 24 months in CIP you owe the Air Force 48 months of service commitment upon return. Third, the Air Force will only pay 1/15th of your base salary. Therefore, it is essential for you to plan your finances wisely during CIP. You need to plan for an alternative income sources while doing CIP.
In conclusion, CIP is fantastic new opportunity that allows Airmen the career flexibility to address personal, family, and professional concerns for a period of time and then rejoin the active Air Force. With CIP, Airmen may take a brief hiatus away from their uniform and then resume their active duty service once their needs are complete. For the first time, active duty Airmen are afforded the career flexibility to separate the Air Force and then return. If you have any questions feel free to contact myself or AFPC.