DOD Aviator Positions:

Training Requirements and Incentive Pay Could Be Reduced

NSIAD-97-60: Published: Feb 19, 1997. Publicly Released: Feb 19, 1997.

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GAO reviewed certain Department of Defense (DOD) nonflying positions, focusing on: (1) the number of aviators (pilots and navigators) that are assigned to nonflying positions in the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force; (2) the amount of aviation career incentive pay (ACIP) and aviation continuation pay (ACP) paid to aviators in nonflying positions; (3) whether the services implement ACIP and ACP uniformly; and (4) whether the nonflying positions affect the number of aviators the services plan to train to meet future requirements.

GAO found that: (1) for fiscal year (FY) 1996, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force designated 11,336 positions, or about 25 percent of all aviator positions, as nonflying positions to be filled by aviators; (2) since FY 1994, the number of nonflying positions has decreased and this decrease is expected to continue through 2001 when the number of such positions is estimated to be 10,553; (3) for fiscal years 1994 through April 30, 1996, the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force paid $739.7 million in ACIP, of which $179.1 million was paid to aviators in nonflying positions; (4) additionally, the Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force paid $169.4 million in ACP, of which $31.9 million was paid to aviators in nonflying positions; (5) the Army does not pay ACP; (6) ACIP is payable to all aviators who meet certain flying requirements and all the services implement it in a consistent fashion; (7) with ACP, however, the services have a great deal of latitude in deciding who receives it, the length of time it is paid and the amount that is paid; (8) in determining their aviator training requirements, the services consider both flying and nonflying positions; (9) including nonflying positions increases the total aviator requirements and results in the services projecting aviator shortages in the upcoming fiscal years; (10) however, GAO's analysis showed that there are more than enough aviators available to satisfy all flying position requirements; (11) to the extent that the number of nonflying positions filled by aviators can be reduced, the number of aviators that need to be trained also could be reduced, saving training costs of about $5 million for each Navy, Marine Corps, and Air Force pilot candidate and about $2 million for each navigator candidate; and (12) the savings to the Army would be about $366,000 for each pilot training requirement eliminated.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on the draft of this report, DOD agreed that the services should review the criteria and duties of nonflying aviator positions. DOD did not agree that nonflying positions should be filled with nonaviators or that doing so would appreciably reduce aviator training requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretaries of the Army, the Navy, and the Air Force to develop criteria and review the duties of each nonflying position to identify those that could be filled by nonaviators. This could allow the services to reduce total aviator training requirements.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In commenting on the draft of this report, DOD agreed that the services need to continually review and reevaluate the need for ACP, but in DOD's opinion, the services are already doing this. GAO's position is that the need for ACP should be reevaluated in light of the studies which show that the airlines are becoming less dependent on military-trained pilots as a primary source for new hires.

    Recommendation: In view of the recent articles and studies that raise questions about the need to incentivize aviators to remain in the service, the abundance of aviators as compared to requirements for flying positions, and the value of ACP as a retention tool, the Secretary of Defense should direct the service Secretaries to reevaluate the need for ACP. If the reevaluation points out the need to continue ACP, the Secretary of Defense should determine whether the services should apply a consistent definition in deciding what groups of aviators can receive ACP.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

 

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