Military Personnel:

Actions Needed to Better Define Pilot Requirements and Promote Retention

NSIAD-99-211: Published: Aug 20, 1999. Publicly Released: Aug 20, 1999.

Contact:

Derek B. Stewart
(202) 512-5559
contact@gao.gov

 

Office of Public Affairs
(202) 512-4800
youngc1@gao.gov

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the reasons for the reported military pilot shortages, focusing on: (1) the services' reported and projected estimates of their pilot shortages; (2) the basis for the services' pilot requirements; (3) key factors that account for the reported pilot shortages; and (4) concerns that are causing pilots to consider leaving the military.

GAO noted that: (1) the services report that no unit is deploying without 100 percent of its pilots, and they believe that they will continue to be able to meet their operational missions; (2) however, the Air Force and the Navy, and to a lesser extent the Army and the Marine Corps, are all reporting that they are unable to fill some nonflying positions that they have designated for pilots; (3) the services project that these shortages will continue for several years but the extent of these shortages has not been specifically determined; (4) while the services have procedures to review their requirements, they have not comprehensively assessed whether all of their required positions truly need to be filled with active duty military pilots; (5) if other personnel could fill some of these nonflying positions, the services could reduce their pilot requirements and thereby reduce their reported shortages; (6) the significance of reported and projected pilot shortages is difficult to ascertain because the basis for pilot requirements has not been firmly established or documented; (7) the services have not sufficiently explained which nonflying positions active duty pilots must fill nor have they classified positions according to their operational nature or designated which positions are needed for career advancement purposes; (8) although data on pilot requirements is incomplete, GAO identified three key factors that are contributing to the services' reported and projected pilot shortfalls; (9) the Air Force and the Navy reduced the number of pilots they recruited during the personnel reductions that occurred through most of the 1990s; (10) the Navy and the Marine Corps have experienced delays in their training pipelines due to problems coordinating training phases, a lack of spare parts, and other factors; (11) many pilots are leaving the military before retirement since today's economy provides many career opportunities for pilots in private industry; (12) GAO identified two concerns that have particular relevance to pilots; (13) many pilots are now being asked to remain in cockpit positions, which means they are not being given the opportunity to serve in other types of career-enhancing positions; (14) some of these pilots have become concerned that they will not be competitive for promotion; and (15) a pilot's decision to accept a bonus no longer provides assurance that the pilot will stay in the military until the pilot is eligible to retire.

Status Legend:

More Info
  • Review Pending-GAO has not yet assessed implementation status.
  • Open-Actions to satisfy the intent of the recommendation have not been taken or are being planned, or actions that partially satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-implemented-Actions that satisfy the intent of the recommendation have been taken.
  • Closed-not implemented-While the intent of the recommendation has not been satisfied, time or circumstances have rendered the recommendation invalid.
    • Review Pending
    • Open
    • Closed - implemented
    • Closed - not implemented

    Recommendations for Executive Action

    Recommendation: To the extent that shortages exist after these recommendations are implemented, the Secretary of Defense should direct the services to fully evaluate the merits of a fly-only career path for a segment of the pilot community. In the short term, identify those pilots desiring additional flying duty and match them to this extra duty to the extent possible.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD cites past studies of the fly-only track by each of the services as showing that different challenges arise that they will have to address. However, DOD does not plan to conduct follow-up work on GAO's recommendation at this time.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to revise their databases so that the services can: (1) uniformly report data on future pilot requirements and inventories; and (2) identify any imbalances in their operational and nonoperational flying and nonflying positions.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD reports that (1) it does not see any advantages to having a single, standardized database for all the military services, and (2) current manpower and requirements products meet its requirements.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to, using the newly developed criteria, analyze each pilot position to identify those positions where active duty pilots are not required and take the necessary actions to fill those positions with other personnel possessing appropriate expertise, such as warrant officers, retired military, contractors, Department of Defense civilians, reservists, or navigators.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Air Force approved a strategy for filling rated headquarters staff vacancies and is making progress with meeting the rated staff officer shortfalls with personnel other than active duty pilots. The Air Force's major commands have corrected 207 billets for civilian fill, filled 132 positions, and committed to 13 additional positions. Twenty positions were filled by limited recall of reserve officers.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Defense should direct the services to develop criteria and detailed job descriptions for designating positions to be filled with pilots, classify the positions according to their operational and flying status, and specify the types of duties that make pilots essential. Moreover, for jobs that are held for pilots based on reasons of career development and rotation, descriptions should contain a clear justification.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: DOD reports that, while it partially concurs with the recommendation, it prefers the military services' current methodologies used to identify, verify, and staff rated billets.

    Recommendation: To the extent that shortages exist after these recommendations are implemented, the Secretary of Defense should direct the services to only offer the aviation continuation pay bonus to those pilots who make affirmative decisions to continue their career rather than to all pilots reaching specified gates. This would preclude the bonus program from being interpreted as an entitlement.

    Agency Affected: Department of Defense

    Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: No action is intended.

    Apr 16, 2014

    Apr 11, 2014

    Apr 10, 2014

    Apr 9, 2014

    Apr 8, 2014

    Apr 3, 2014

    Apr 2, 2014

    Looking for more? Browse all our products here