oversight

Unmanned Aerial Systems: Air Force Pilot Promotion Rates Have Increased but Oversight Process of Some Positions Could Be Enhanced

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 2019-02-07.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                United States Government Accountability Office
                Report to Congressional Committees




                UNMANNED AERIAL
February 2019




                SYSTEMS

                Air Force Pilot
                Promotion Rates
                Have Increased but
                Oversight Process of
                Some Positions Could
                Be Enhanced




GAO-19-155
                                               February 2019

                                               UNMANNED AERIAL SYSTEMS
                                               Air Force Pilot Promotions Rates Have Increased but
                                               Oversight Process of Some Positions Could Be
Highlights of GAO-19-155, a report to
                                               Enhanced
congressional committees




Why GAO Did This Study                         What GAO Found
An increasing number of Air Force              The promotion rates for Air Force Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) pilots have
missions use unmanned aerial                   been generally similar to those of other pilots since 2013 and have increased
systems, or RPAs, to provide their             over time. See figure below for promotion rates from major to lieutenant colonel.
specialized capabilities in support of         Air Force officials stated that RPA pilot promotion rates increased because the
combat operations. The demand for              creation of a dedicated career field resulted in more competitive candidates.
crew members for these systems has
grown rapidly. For example, RPA pilot          Promotion Rates to Lieutenant Colonel for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots Compared
requirements increased by 76 percent           with Pilots in Other Career Fields from 2006 through 2017 (in percentages)
since fiscal year 2013 while those for
fighter pilots stayed about the same.
These requirements include pilots who
serve in non-operational staff positions,
such as trainers.
Senate Report 115-125 included a
provision that GAO review career
advancement for Air Force RPA pilots
compared to other pilots. This report,
among other things, describes (1) the
rates that RPA and other pilots were
promoted; (2) the rates that non-
operational staff positions requiring
RPA pilot expertise were assigned to
various organizations, and (3) the             Note: The Air Force held two promotion boards in 2006 noted as “A” and “B,” for major to lieutenant
extent to which the Air Force has              colonel.
reviewed its oversight process to              Since 2013, over 75 percent of non-operational staff positions requiring RPA pilot
effectively manage non-operational
                                               expertise were assigned to various organizations within the Air Force, according
staff positions requiring aviator
                                               to GAO’s analysis. These positions carry out support and other noncombat-
expertise.
                                               related activities as well as training functions and are essential to the
Among other things, GAO analyzed Air           development of officers. However, the overall number of these positions that
Force pilot promotion data from 2006-          require a RPA pilot is about one-tenth of the combined number of those requiring
2017. GAO also analyzed non-                   other pilots. For example, in fiscal year 2018, 83 non-operational staff positions
operational staff position data from           required RPA pilots compared to 330 requiring fighter pilots. Air Force officials
fiscal years 2013-2018 and interviewed         stated that the small number of RPA positions is because the career field is new.
officials regarding the management
and oversight of these positions.              The Air Force has not reviewed its oversight process to ensure that it is
                                               efficiently managing its non-operational staff positions that require aviator
What GAO Recommends                            expertise. Air Force officials explained that over the last 10 years, the Air Force
GAO recommends that the Air Force              reduced the number of squadrons but had not reviewed the number of non-
review its oversight process for               operational staff positions. Similarly, the Air Force has had no widely accessible
managing the non-operational staff             oversight process to monitor whether it had established an accurate number of
positions, including those for RPA             non-operational staff positions required to support the new RPA career field. In
pilots, to identify opportunities to           August 2018, the Air Force identified 513 non-operational staff positions (out of
increase efficiencies. DOD concurred           2,783) as needing further review because they lacked adequate justification of
with this recommendation.                      the need for aviator expertise. Officials described the process for managing
                                               these positions as time and labor intensive, which can cause delays in obtaining
View GAO-19-155. For more information,         reliable information needed to inform decision-making. By reviewing this process,
contact Brenda S. Farrell at 202-512-3604 or
farrellb@gao.gov.
                                               the Air Force may be able to identify opportunities to create efficiencies and more
                                               effectively manage its non-operational staff positions requiring aviator expertise.


                                                                                                United States Government Accountability Office
Contents


Letter                                                                                       1
               Background                                                                    7
               Since 2013 RPA Pilots Have Been Promoted and Nominated for
                  Education Opportunities at Rates Generally Similar to Pilots in
                  Other Fields                                                              12
               RPA Sensor Operators Have Been Promoted at Rates Similar to
                  Other Enlisted Servicemembers                                             18
               Air Force Assigned Non-operational Staff Positions Requiring RPA
                  Pilots at High Rates Since 2013                                           19
               The Air Force Has Not Reviewed Its Oversight Process to Manage
                  Its Non-operational Staff Positions That Require Aviator
                  Expertise                                                                 21
               Conclusions                                                                  25
               Recommendation for Executive Action                                          25
               Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                           26

Appendix I     Steps Taken by the Department of Defense and the Air Force to
               Address Prior GAO Report Recommendations                                     28



Appendix II    Comments from the Department of Defense                                      36



Appendix III   GAO Contact and Staff Acknowledgments                                        38


Tables
               Table 1: Nomination Rates to Developmental Education Programs
                       for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots Compared with
                       Pilots in Other Career Fields for Academic Years 2014
                       through 2018                                                         17
               Table 2: Air Force Promotion Rates for Enlisted Remotely Piloted
                       Aircraft (RPA) Sensor Operators Compared with All Other
                       Enlisted Servicemembers, 2013 through 2017                           18
               Table 3: Air Force Assignment Rates for Staff Positions That
                       Require Fighter Pilots as Compared to Those Requiring
                       Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots for Fiscal Years
                       2013 through 2018                                                    21
               Table 4: Steps Taken by the Department of Defense and the Air
                       Force to Address Prior GAO Report Recommendations


               Page i                             GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                    Related to Unmanned Aerial Systems Personnel
                    Challenges                                                                      29

Figures
          Figure 1: Change in Types of Permanent and Temporary Air
                   Force Pilots Serving as Pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft
                   (RPA), December 2013 and September 2018                                          8
          Figure 2: Promotion Rates from Captain to Major for Remotely
                   Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots Compared with Pilots in
                   Other Career Fields from 2006 through 2017, Except
                   2013                                                                             14
          Figure 3: Promotion Rates from Major to Lieutenant Colonel for
                   Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots Compared with
                   Pilots in Other Career Fields from 2006 through 2017                             15




          Abbreviations

          DOD               Department of Defense
          RPA               Remotely Piloted Aircraft
          UAS               Unmanned Aircraft System



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          Page ii                                    GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                       Letter




441 G St. N.W.
Washington, DC 20548




                       February 7, 2019

                       The Honorable James M. Inhofe
                       Chairman
                       The Honorable Jack Reed
                       Ranking Member
                       Committee on Armed Services
                       United States Senate

                       The Honorable Adam Smith
                       Chairman
                       The Honorable Mac Thornberry
                       Ranking Member
                       Committee on Armed Services
                       House of Representatives

                       An increasing number of Air Force missions call for the use of Remotely
                       Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) to provide their specialized capabilities in support
                       of combat operations. 1 The Air Force uses RPAs to gather intelligence,
                       conduct surveillance and reconnaissance, and launch attacks against a
                       variety of targets. RPA aircrews consist of two people—a pilot and a
                       sensor operator. The pilot—in most cases a rated officer, i.e., an officer
                       possessing aviation expertise—flies the aircraft. 2 The Air Force relied
                       solely on manned aircraft pilots assigned to fly RPAs until 2010 when it
                       established an RPA pilot career field for officers trained to fly only RPAs.
                       The sensor operator—an enlisted servicemember—controls the aircraft’s
                       sensors that record video and other intelligence information. The demand
                       for these skilled pilots and sensor operators has grown rapidly. For
                       example, from fiscal years 2013 to 2018, the Air Force experienced about
                       a 76 percent increase in its requirements of RPA pilots (1,366 to 2,404)

                       1
                        The Department of Defense (DOD) uses the term “unmanned aircraft system” (UAS)
                       while the Air Force uses the term Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) to describe the system
                       whose components include the necessary equipment, network, and personnel to control
                       aircraft that do not carry a human operator. Because this report focuses on the Air Force,
                       we use the term RPA.
                       2
                         Aircrew members serving in or qualified to serve in the following positions with aviation
                       expertise are known as “rated” crew members: pilots, navigators, combat system officers,
                       flight test positions, astronauts, flight surgeons, air battle managers, and remotely piloted
                       aircraft pilots. While most are officers, in accordance with the National Defense
                       Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, the Air Force implemented a plan to also allow
                       enlisted servicemembers to operate the Global Hawk RPA. Pub. L. No. 114-328 (2016).




                       Page 1                                       GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
while its requirements for fighter pilots remained about the same (3,976 to
3,951).

Our prior work has identified challenges that the Air Force has
experienced with the growth of the RPA pilot career field. For example, in
April 2014, we found shortages of RPA pilots and that the Air Force faced
challenges recruiting, developing, and retaining pilots and building their
morale. Additionally, we found that RPA pilot promotion rates were lower
than those for other career fields. 3 The Air Force generally concurred with
our seven recommendations in that report to address these issues and
subsequently has fully implemented all but one recommendation to
analyze the career field effect of being an RPA pilot to determine whether
and how being an RPA pilot is related to promotions. Further, in January
2017, we found, among other things, that the Air Force could improve its
strategic human capital planning, and we made three recommendations
to the Air Force and two to the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense
for Personnel and Readiness to which they generally concurred. 4 As of
July 2018, the Air Force had taken some action, but has not fully
implemented these recommendations. Appendix I contains more details
related to the recommendations that we have made regarding unmanned
aerial systems pilot issues along with DOD’s and the Air Force’s actions
taken to address them.

In a report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 2018, the Senate Armed Services Committee included a
provision for us to provide, among other things, the promotion rates for Air
Force RPA pilots since our 2014 report as well as for RPA sensor
operators. 5 This report describes (1) the rates at which RPA pilots were
promoted and nominated to attend developmental education opportunities
as compared to the rates for pilots in other career fields; (2) the rates at
which enlisted RPA sensor operators were promoted as compared to the
rates for other enlisted servicemembers; (3) the rates at which non-
operational staff positions requiring RPA pilot expertise were assigned
among Air Force organizations; and (4) reviews the extent to which the


3
 GAO, Air Force: Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Unmanned Aerial
System Pilots, GAO-14-316 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 10, 2014).
4
 GAO, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Air Force and Army Should Improve Strategic Human
Capital Planning for Pilot Workforces, GAO-17-53 (Washington, D.C: Jan. 31, 2017).
5
    S. Rep. 115-125 (2017).




Page 2                                  GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Air Force has evaluated its oversight process used to manage non-
operational staff positions requiring aviator expertise.

To determine the rates at which RPA pilots have been promoted, we
obtained from the Air Force Personnel Center data on the number of
promoted officers and the number of officers eligible from 2006 through
2017 for pilots from four career fields—bombers, fighters, mobility, and
RPA—who qualified as “In-the-Promotion-Zone” to the ranks of major
(grade O-4), lieutenant colonel (grade O-5), and colonel (grade O-6). 6
The promotion rates from 2006 through 2012 were initially reported in our
2014 report 7 on Air Force RPA workforce issues and included in this
report for comparison purposes with the promotion rates from 2013
through 2017 that we calculated. From these data from 2013 through
2017, we calculated promotion rates to each rank for pilots from four
career fields—bombers, fighters, mobility, and RPAs—by dividing the
number of promoted officers by the number of eligible officers. We then
compared the annual RPA pilot promotion rates we calculated to (1)
those that we calculated for the other types of pilots to determine the
extent to which the rates were similar and (2) the promotion rates that we
reported in our 2014 report covering 2006 through 2012 to determine the
extent to which the rates from 2013 through 2017 had changed from
these previously reported promotion rates. Further, we reviewed Air Force
documents governing the officer promotion processes and interviewed
Headquarters Air Force Operations and Air Force Personnel Center
officials to obtain their perspectives on trends in RPA pilot promotion
rates.

To determine the rates at which RPA pilots have been nominated to
attend developmental education 8—e.g. professional military education—
6
 According to Air Force Instruction 36-2501, Officer Promotions and Selection
Continuation, (July 16, 2004) (incorporating Change June 24, 2016), officers who are
eligible for promotion fall into one of three promotion categories: Below-, In-, or Above-the-
Zone. Officers who fall “In-the-Promotion-Zone” have the greatest opportunity for
promotion. Further, since promotions to First Lieutenant (grade O-2) and Captain (grade
O-3) are basically time-phased, we excluded them from our analyses.
7
    GAO-14-316.
8
 Developmental Education includes: Professional Military Education, Joint PME,
International PME, resident and distance learning programs, as well as Air Force-
sponsored Advanced Academic Degree programs, Air Force Institute of Technology,
Naval Post-graduate School, National Defense Intelligence College, Advanced Study of
Air Mobility, the Air Force Intern Program and the Air Force Fellows Program for AF
military and civilian employees. See Air Force Instruction 36-2301, Personnel,
Developmental Education, (July 16, 2010) (incorporating Change 2 July 9, 2013).




Page 3                                       GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
opportunities as compared to the rates for pilots in other career fields, we
analyzed intermediate and senior level developmental education 9
nomination data for all eligible officers for academic years 2014 through
2018. In order to analyze data consistent with the promotion analyses we
performed, we requested developmental education nomination data from
the same time period. However, officials told us that no academic year
2013 data was available but that academic year 2018 data were
available. Therefore, we obtained the most recent 5-year developmental
education nomination data available, which covered academic years 2014
through 2018. From these data, we calculated nomination rates by
dividing the number of nominated officers by the number of eligible pilots
from four career fields—bombers, fighters, mobility, and RPAs—that
competed for nominations. We then compared the annual RPA pilot
nomination rates we calculated to those of the other types of pilots to
determine the extent to which the rates were similar. We also reviewed
Air Force documents governing the developmental education nomination
process and interviewed Headquarters Air Force Personnel and Air Force
Personnel Center officials about such processes.

To determine the rates at which enlisted sensor operators have been
promoted as compared to the rates for other enlisted servicemembers,
we obtained from the Air Force Personnel Center data on the number
promoted and the number eligible for promotion to the ranks of Staff
Sergeant (grade E-5) through Chief Master Sergeant (grade E-9) for RPA
sensor operators and the entire population of enlisted personnel. In order
to analyze data consistent with promotion analyses we performed, we
obtained this enlisted promotion data from the same period of 2013
through 2017. From these data, we calculated promotion rates for each
year by dividing the number of promoted enlisted servicemembers by the
number of eligible enlisted servicemembers. For each year, we compared
the annual enlisted RPA sensor operator promotion rates to those of the
entire population of enlisted servicemembers that were eligible for
promotions to determine the extent to which the rates were similar. We
also reviewed Air Force documents governing the enlisted promotion
processes and interviewed Headquarters Air Force Personnel and Air
Force Personnel Center officials to obtain their perspectives on trends in
enlisted sensor operator promotion rates.



9
 The background section of this report further explains these two types of developmental
education programs.




Page 4                                     GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
To determine the rates at which non-operational staff positions that
require RPA pilot expertise are assigned among Air Force organizations,
we obtained the number of non-operational staff positions required and
assigned within Air Force organizations for rated officers (i.e., have
aviator expertise) from four selected careers fields—bombers, fighters,
mobility and RPA pilots. 10 These data were obtained from Headquarters
Air Force Operations, Headquarters Air Force Personnel, and Air Force
Personnel Center. In order to analyze data consistent with the promotion
analyses we performed, we obtained this non-operational staff position
assignment data from the same fiscal years 2013 through 2017. Because
fiscal year 2018 data became available during the time of our review, we
also included it in our analysis. Therefore, we obtained the most recent 6-
year non-operational staff position assignment data available, which
covered fiscal years 2013 through 2018. From these data, we calculated
annual non-operational staff position assignment rates by dividing the
number of positions assigned by the number of positions required by Air
Force organizations for the four types of pilots. 11 We then compared the
annual RPA non-operational staff position assignment rates to those
calculated for the other types of pilots to determine the extent to which the
rates were similar.

Additionally, to determine the extent to which the Air Force has reviewed
its oversight process to effectively manage its non-operational staff
positions that require aviator expertise, we reviewed Air Force instructions
related to the requirements and responsibilities for managing the process
for reviewing and justifying the need for aviator expertise in non-
operational staff positions. 12 We evaluated Air Force practices for
obtaining and using information for various Air Force organizations
regarding their justification for aviator expertise in their non-operational
staff positions against requirements from both the applicable Air Force
instructions and the Standards for Internal Control in the Federal

10
  In their report accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal
Year 2018, the Senate also asked us to review availability of staff positions for sensor
operators. According to Air Force officials, very few staff positions exist for enlisted
personnel. Therefore, we focused our review on the availability of staff positions for rated
officers.
11
 The Air Force produces its Rated Management Directive (formerly known as the Rated
Staff Allocation Plan) to implement senior leadership guidance and priorities regarding the
use of rated resources (i.e., officers with aviator expertise).
12
  Air Force Instruction 11-412, Aircrew Management (Dec. 10, 2009); Air Force Instruction
38-201 Management of Manpower Requirements and Authorizations (Jan. 30, 2014).




Page 5                                      GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Government. 13 This included the importance of designing control activities
to achieve objectives and respond to risks and using quality information
by identifying information requirements, obtaining relevant data from
reliable sources in a timely manner, and processing the obtained data into
quality information. Further, we also interviewed operations officials from
both Headquarters Air Force and the Air Force Air Combat Command to
obtain their perspectives of the process used to review and justify the
need for aviator expertise in staff positions. Further, we also interviewed
Headquarters Air Force officials regarding the status of their efforts to
respond to a House of Representatives requirement for the Secretary of
Air Force to report the results of a review of every staff position requiring
aviator expertise within the Air Force. 14

To assess the reliability of the data used for each of the objectives, we
reviewed technical documentation for each data source to understand the
methods used to collect, store, and maintain these data; assessed the
data for errors, omissions, and inconsistencies; and interviewed officials
from Headquarters Air Force operations directorate, Headquarters Air
Force personnel directorate, and the Air Force Personnel Center who
were familiar with the systems from which the data were extracted. We
also considered the use of the data in prior related GAO reports. We
determined that the data were sufficiently reliable for our purposes of
reporting historical promotion, developmental education selection, and
rated staff position allotment trends, respectively.

We conducted this performance audit from January 2018 to February
2019 in accordance with generally accepted government auditing
standards. Those standards require that we plan and perform the audit to
obtain sufficient, appropriate evidence to provide a reasonable basis for
our findings and conclusions based on our audit objectives. We believe
that the evidence obtained provides a reasonable basis for our findings
and conclusions based on our audit objectives.




13
  GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO-14-704G
(Washington, D.C.: September 2014).
14
 H. R. Rep. No. 115-676 (2018), accompanying a bill for the National Defense
Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2019.




Page 6                                   GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Background
Air Force RPA Aircrews   RPA aircrews consist of a pilot and a sensor operator. The Air Force in
                         most cases assigns officers to fly its RPAs. 15 The Air Force relied solely
                         on manned aircraft pilots to fly remotely piloted aircraft until 2010 when it
                         established a RPA pilot career field (designated as Air Force Specialty
                         Code 18X) for officers trained to fly only RPAs. As of December 2013,
                         approximately 42 percent of the RPA pilots were temporarily assigned,
                         manned aircraft pilots and manned aircraft pilot training graduates. Both
                         of those groups of RPA pilots are temporarily assigned to fly RPAs with
                         the assumption that after their tour they will return to flying their manned
                         aircraft. By comparison, as of September 2018, manned aircraft pilots and
                         manned aircraft pilot training graduates comprised only 17 percent of the
                         RPA pilots. Further, the number of permanent RPA pilots has increased
                         from 58 percent of all RPA pilots in December 2013, to 83 percent as of
                         September 2018, as shown in figure 1.




                         15
                          In accordance with the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2017, the Air
                         Force implemented a plan to allow some enlisted servicemembers to operate the Global
                         Hawk RPA. Pub. L. No. 114-328 (2016).




                         Page 7                                    GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Figure 1: Change in Types of Permanent and Temporary Air Force Pilots Serving as Pilots of Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA),
December 2013 and September 2018




                                         Note: The number below the percentage is the total number of RPA pilots that fall within the category.
                                         Permanent RPA pilots consist of (1) RPA pilots who are officers trained to fly only RPAs,
                                         (2) recategorized manned aircraft pilots who are pilots originally trained to fly manned aircraft who
                                         have converted to be RPA pilots, and (3) enlisted pilots where applicable. Temporary RPA pilots are
                                         manned aircraft pilots and training graduates who are temporarily assigned to fly RPAs with the
                                         assumption that after their tour they will return to their manned aircraft.




                                         Additionally, Air Force enlisted personnel operate the RPAs’ sensors,
                                         which provide intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities.
                                         As a crewmember, the RPA sensor operators provide assistance to the
                                         RPA pilot with all aspects of aircraft use, such as tracking and monitoring
                                         airborne, maritime and ground objects and continuously monitoring the
                                         aircraft and weapons systems status.


Officer Promotion Process                The Defense Officer Personnel Management Act, as amended, created a
                                         standardized system for managing the promotions for the officer corps of
                                         each of the military services. 16 Pursuant to the established promotion
                                         system, the secretaries of the military departments must establish the
                                         16
                                           Pub. L. No. 96-513 (1980), codified at 10 U.S.C. § 615.




                                         Page 8                                           GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                          maximum number of officers in each competitive category that may be
                          recommended for promotion by competitive promotion boards. Within the
                          Air Force, there are groups of officers with similar education, training, or
                          experience, and these officers compete among themselves for promotion
                          opportunities. There are several competitive categories including one that
                          contains the bulk of Air Force officers called the Line of the Air Force,
                          which includes RPA pilots, as well as pilots of manned aircraft and other
                          operations-oriented careers. 17

                          To determine the best-qualified officers for promotion to positions of
                          increased responsibility and authority, the Air Force appoints senior
                          officers to serve as members of a promotion selection board for each
                          competitive category of officer in the Air Force. Promotion selection
                          boards consist of at least five active-duty officers who are senior in grade
                          to the eligible officers and who reflect the eligible population with respect
                          to minorities and women, as well as career field, aviation skills, and
                          command in an attempt to provide a balanced perspective. Promotion
                          boards convene at the Air Force Personnel Center headquarters to
                          perform a subjective assessment of each officer’s relative potential to
                          serve in the next higher grade by reviewing the officer’s entire selection
                          folder. This “whole-person concept” involves the assessment of such
                          factors as job performance, professional qualities, leadership, job
                          responsibility, depth and breadth of experience, specific achievements,
                          and academic and professional military education.


Developmental Education   The Air Force developmental education programs expand expertise and
Program Selection         knowledge as well as a path that helps to ensure that personnel receive
                          the appropriate level of education throughout their careers. 18 Officers
Process
                          have three opportunities to compete for intermediate developmental
                          education programs, which focus on warfighting within the context of
                          operations and leader development, such as at the Air Command and
                          17
                            Additional competitive categories in the Air Force include the judge advocate and
                          chaplain competitive categories as well as several competitive categories for a variety of
                          medical career fields.
                          18
                            Developmental Education includes: Professional Military Education, Joint PME,
                          International PME, resident and distance learning programs, as well as Air Force-
                          sponsored Advanced Academic Degree programs, Air Force Institute of Technology,
                          Naval Post-graduate School, National Defense Intelligence College, Advanced Study of
                          Air Mobility, the Air Force Intern Program and the Air Force Fellows Program for Air Force
                          military and civilian employees. Air Force Instruction 36-2301, Developmental Education
                          (July 16, 2010) (incorporating Change 2 July 9, 2013).




                          Page 9                                      GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                           Staff College. Officers have four opportunities to compete for senior
                           developmental education programs, such as at the Air War College,
                           which are designed to educate senior officers to lead at the strategic level
                           in support of national security, and in joint interagency, intergovernmental
                           and multinational environments.

                           A subset of developmental education is Professional Military Education,
                           which includes resident and non-resident attendance options open to
                           officers in both the intermediate and senior developmental education
                           programs. Nonresident programs exist to provide individuals who have
                           not completed resident programs an opportunity to complete them via
                           correspondence, seminar, or other approved methods. Prior to 2017,
                           officers who were identified by their promotion board as a developmental
                           education candidate or “selectee” were assured of the opportunity to
                           attend some form of developmental education in-resident program.
                           However, in March 2017, the Air Force announced changes to its
                           nomination process for officer developmental education by separating in-
                           residence school selection status from promotion decisions. Since that
                           time, commanders nominate candidates for in-residence, developmental
                           education programs based on individual performance.


Various Career             Officers with aviation expertise, including RPA pilots, at various points in
Assignments for Officers   their careers, may rotate through both flying and nonflying positions to
                           broaden their career experiences. Operational positions, whether flying or
with Aviation Expertise
                           nonflying, include those positions that exist primarily for conducting a
                           military action or carrying out a strategic, tactical, service, training or
                           administrative military mission. Operational positions include a range of
                           flying positions, such as for RPA pilots, operating aircraft to gather
                           intelligence or conduct surveillance, reconnaissance or air strikes against
                           a variety of targets. Operational positions that are non-flying positions
                           could include assignments as a close-air-support duty officer in an Air
                           Operations Center.

                           Non-operational staff positions are generally non-flying positions and
                           include assignments to headquarters or combatant command positions.
                           Certain non-operational staff positions can be filled only by qualified
                           pilots. Other non-operational positions are more general in nature and are
                           divided among officer communities to help carry out support activities,
                           training functions, and other noncombat related activities in a military
                           service. These positions could include positions such as a recruiter,
                           working as an accident investigator, advisor to foreign militaries, or a
                           policy position at an Air Force major command. The Air Force views


                           Page 10                             GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                             nonoperational staff positions as a means to develop leaders with the
                             breadth and depth of experience required at the most senior levels inside
                             and outside the Air Force.


Roles and Responsibilities   Various offices within the Air Force have roles and responsibilities for the
Related to Aircrew           management of aircrew positions and personnel.
Management                   •    The Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations is to establish and
                                  oversee policy to organize, train and equip forces for the Department
                                  of the Air Force. This specifically includes the responsibility for all
                                  matters pertaining to aircrew management.
                                  •    The Directorate of Operations is responsible for developing and
                                       overseeing the implementation of policy and guidance governing
                                       aircrew training, readiness, and aircrew requirements. The
                                       directorate is the approval authority for aircrew distribution plans,
                                       rated allocation oversight and any other areas that have significant
                                       aircrew management implications.
                                       •   The Operational Training Division produces the official Air
                                           Force aircrew personnel requirements projections, and in
                                           conjunction with the Military Force Policy Division, develops
                                           and publishes the Rated Management Directive, formerly
                                           known as the Rated Staff Allocation Plan, as approved by the
                                           Chief of Staff of the Air Force as designed to meet near-term
                                           operational as well as long-term leadership development
                                           requirements. 19
                             •    The Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel,
                                  and Services has responsibilities that include developing personnel
                                  policies, guidance, programs, and other initiatives to meet the Air
                                  Force’s strategic objectives to include accessions, assignments,
                                  retention, and career development.
                                  •    The Directorate of Force Management Policy, the Force
                                       Management Division analyzes officer, enlisted and civilian
                                       personnel issues. The division also maintains a variety of
                                       computer models and databases to analyze promotion, retention,
                                       accession, compensation and separation policy alternatives.

                             19
                               According to an Air Force official, a revised instruction not publically available as of
                             January 25, 2019, changes the name of the Directorate of Operations to the Directorate of
                             Training and Readiness and the Operational Training Division will be the Total Force
                             Aircrew Management Division.




                             Page 11                                    GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                       Additionally, it is responsible for providing official aircrew
                                       personnel projections for use in various management analyses.
                                 •     The Air Force Personnel Center, one of three field-operating
                                       agencies reporting to the Deputy Chief of Staff of the Air Force,
                                       Manpower, Personnel and Services, conducts military and civilian
                                       personnel operations such as overseeing performance
                                       evaluations, promotions, retirements, separations, awards,
                                       decorations and education. The Center also directs the overall
                                       management and distribution of both military and civilian
                                       personnel.



Since 2013 RPA
Pilots Have Been
Promoted and
Nominated for
Education
Opportunities at
Rates Generally
Similar to Pilots in
Other Fields
RPA Pilots Have Been         Based on our analysis of Air Force promotion data, the percentage of
Promoted at Rates            RPA pilots promoted were generally similar in comparison to the
                             promotion rates of pilots in other career fields since 2013. However, it is
Generally Similar to Those
                             important to note that since the population of eligible RPA pilots to be
of Pilots in Other Career    considered for promotion was smaller than other pilot populations, the
Fields                       promotion of one or two RPA pilots could have a large effect on their
                             promotion rate. For example, the RPA pilot promotion rates were within
                             10 percentage points of the promotion rates for the other types of pilots in




                             Page 12                              GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
each year of those years in 8 out of 10 promotion boards to major and to
lieutenant colonel held during that time frame. 20

RPA pilot promotion rates from captain to major were generally similar as
the promotion rates for other pilots from 2014 through 2017, as shown in
figure 2. 21 For example, in 2014, 94 percent of eligible RPA pilots (29 of
31), bomber pilots (47 of 50), fighter pilots (189 of 201) and 91 percent of
eligible mobility pilots (355 of 388) were promoted from captain to major.
This is an improvement in promotion rates for RPA pilots compared to
2006 through 2012, where RPA pilot promotion rates fell below those for
all other pilots in 5 of the 7 promotion boards held. 22




20
   The Air Force convened 10 promotion boards from 2013 through 2017—one board for
promotions from captain to major in 2014, 2015, and 2016, and two boards in 2017.
Additionally, the Air Force convened five other boards for promotion from major to
lieutenant colonel.
21
     In 2013, the Air Force did not convene a promotion board for captain to major.
22
  GAO-14-316. In this report, we found that RPA pilots were promoted below the average
rate of manned aircraft pilots (i.e., fighter, bomber, and mobility pilots) in 20 of 24 boards.




Page 13                                       GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Figure 2: Promotion Rates from Captain to Major for Remotely Piloted Aircraft
(RPA) Pilots Compared with Pilots in Other Career Fields from 2006 through 2017,
Except 2013




Notes: In 2013, the Air Force did not convene promotion boards for captain to major and in 2017 it
held two promotion boards, noted as “A” and “B”.


Additionally, the promotion rates for RPA pilots from major to lieutenant
colonel relative to other types of pilots in 2013 through 2017 showed a
similar improvement compared to 2006 through 2012, as shown in figure
3. For example, in 2017, 75 percent of eligible RPA pilots (15 of 20) were
promoted, which is generally similar to the promotion rates for the other
pilots—78 percent for bomber pilots (18 of 23), 83 percent for fighter
pilots (75 of 90), and 72 percent for mobility pilots (143 of 199). However,
in 7 of the 8 promotion boards held from 2006 through 2012, RPA pilot
promotion rates from major to lieutenant colonel fell below the promotion
rates for all other pilots.




Page 14                                         GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Figure 3: Promotion Rates from Major to Lieutenant Colonel for Remotely Piloted
Aircraft (RPA) Pilots Compared with Pilots in Other Career Fields from 2006 through
2017




Note: In 2006, the Air Force held two promotion boards for major to lieutenant colonel, noted as “A”
and “B”.


The one exception to the promotion rates being generally similar was the
rate at which RPA pilots were promoted from lieutenant colonel to
colonel. In this case, the rates for RPA pilots diverged notably from the
promotion rates of bomber, fighter, and mobility pilots from 2013 to 2017.
For example, in 2016, 1 out of the 5 (20 percent) eligible RPA pilots was
promoted to colonel. In contrast, 13 of 21 (62 percent), bomber pilots, 32
of 51 (63 percent) fighter pilots, and 34 of 65 (52 percent) mobility pilots
were promoted from lieutenant colonel to colonel. However, the
promotion rates of RPA pilots from lieutenant colonel to colonel that we
calculated should be considered cautiously as fewer than 10 RPA pilots
were eligible for promotion boards each year through this time period.
The promotion of one or two officers could have a large effect on the
promotion rate due to the small number of eligible RPA pilots.

In April 2014, we reported that Air Force officials attributed the low RPA
pilot promotion rates from 2006 through 2012 generally to the process




Page 15                                          GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                            that it used to staff RPA pilot positions at that time. 23 Specifically, they
                            stated that commanders generally transferred less competitive pilots from
                            other pilot career fields to RPA squadrons to address the increased
                            demand. Air Force officials also stated that these officers generally had in
                            their records fewer of the factors that the Air Force Personnel Center
                            identified that positively influence promotions than their peers. 24 They said
                            that because the bulk of RPA pilots who competed for promotion during
                            the time of our previous review was transferred using this process, these
                            were the reasons that RPA pilots had been promoted at lower rates than
                            their peers.

                            Air Force officials stated that they believed the trend of increased
                            promotion rates for RPA pilots from 2013 through 2017 mostly reflected
                            the change in the population of eligible pilots who were recruited and
                            specialized as an RPA pilot (i.e., the 18X career field). According to Air
                            Force officials, the creation and establishment of this career field resulted
                            in an increase in the number of skilled and more competitive promotion
                            candidates. Specifically, as of September 2018, the number of permanent
                            RPA pilots outnumbered all other types of pilots serving as RPA pilots
                            combined.


RPA Pilots Have Been        RPA pilots were nominated to attend developmental education programs,
Nominated to                such as professional military education, at rates similar to the rates for
                            other pilots from academic years 2014 through 2018, according to our
Developmental Education     analysis of Air Force data. 25 An officer’s attendance at developmental
Programs at Rates Similar   education programs can be a factor that is taken into consideration when
to Pilots in Other Career   being assessed for promotion. Our analysis showed that, for the
Fields                      academic years 2014 through 2018, nomination rates for RPA pilots to
                            Intermediate and Senior Developmental Education programs combined
                            ranged from a low of 25 percent for academic year 2016 to a high of 31

                            23
                                 GAO-14-316.
                            24
                             Air Force documentation notes that pilots selected for RPA assignments tended to
                            perform at lower levels on flight-safety evaluations than pilots retained in manned-aircraft
                            squadrons.
                            25
                              An Air Force official within the Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower,
                            Personnel and Services, Directorate for Force Development explained that Air Force
                            officers are nominated in a given year for the upcoming academic year, which runs from
                            July of the following year to the end of June one year later. For example, if an officer is
                            nominated in 2018, then the officer would attend school in the 2019 to 2020 Academic
                            Year, which would generally begin in July 2019 and end in June 2020.




                            Page 16                                     GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                                       percent for academic year 2015. In comparison, nomination rates across
                                                       the same time period for pilots in other career fields ranged from a low of
                                                       21 percent for mobility pilots for academic year 2016 to a high of 35
                                                       percent for fighter pilots for academic year 2014. Table 1 provides the
                                                       various nomination rates for each of the different types of pilots that we
                                                       analyzed.

Table 1: Nomination Rates to Developmental Education Programs for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots Compared with
Pilots in Other Career Fields for Academic Years 2014 through 2018

 Year                                                                                  2014           2015           2016           2017           2018
 Bomber pilots                   Number of eligible nominees                            237            248            238             229            239
                                 Number nominated                                         64             55             57             61             63
                                 Nomination rate (percent)                       27 percent     22 percent     24 percent     27 percent     26 percent
 Fighter pilots                  Number of eligible nominees                          1,117          1,055            923             896            832
                                 Number nominated                                       390            321            224             286            214
                                 Nomination rate (percent)                       35 percent     30 percent     24 percent     32 percent     26 percent
 Mobility pilots                 Number of eligible nominees                          1,372          1,361          1,307          1,284           1,334
                                 Number nominated                                       423            371            271             315            329
                                 Nomination rate (percent)                       31 percent     27 percent     21 percent     25 percent     25 percent
 RPA pilots                      Number of eligible nominees                            157            163            159             167            168
                                 Number nominated                                         45             50             39             46             47
                                 Nomination rate (percent)                       29 percent     31 percent     25 percent     28 percent     28 percent
Source: GAO analysis of Air Force data. | GAO-19-155

                                                       Note: For each academic year we compared the number of RPA pilots and pilots in other career fields
                                                       that were eligible to attend either Intermediate or Senior Developmental Education programs to the
                                                       number that were nominated and calculated the resulting nomination rates.




                                                       Page 17                                        GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                                           The Air Force promoted enlisted RPA sensor operators at a rate similar to
RPA Sensor                                                 the rates of all enlisted servicemembers, according to our analysis of Air
Operators Have Been                                        Force promotion data. 26 Specifically, the Air Force promoted an average
                                                           of 100 RPA sensor operators (or an average of 26 percent) annually for
Promoted at Rates                                          the period from 2013 through 2017. Similarly, the Air Force annually
Similar to Other                                           promoted an average of approximately 27,000 enlisted personnel (or an
                                                           average of 25 percent) for the same period. Our analysis showed that in
Enlisted                                                   2013 through 2017, promotion rates for RPA sensor operators ranged
Servicemembers                                             from a low of 18 percent in 2014 to a high of almost 35 percent in 2017.
                                                           The promotion rates across the same time period for all other enlisted
                                                           servicemembers ranged from a low of approximately 19 percent in 2014
                                                           to a high of 32 percent in 2017. Table 2 provides the various promotion
                                                           rates that we analyzed.

Table 2: Air Force Promotion Rates for Enlisted Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Sensor Operators Compared with All Other
Enlisted Servicemembers, 2013 through 2017

 Year                                                                        2013             2014              2015              2016              2017
 RPA sensor operators                     Number eligible                     226               373               463               488               370
                                          Number promoted                      56                67               113               136               128
                                          Promotion rate               25 percent        18 percent       24 percent        28 percent        35 percent
                                          (percent)
 All other enlisted                       Number eligible                107,071           115,104           115,625           108,270            91,657
 servicemembers
                                          Number promoted                  22,474           21,638            28,798            31,024            29,377
                                          Promotion rate               21 percent        19 percent       25 percent        29 percent        32 percent
                                          (percent)
Source: GAO analysis of Air Force data. | GAO-19-155

                                                           Note: We compared the combined number of eligible enlisted servicemembers in the ranks of E5
                                                           through E9 with the number of these eligible servicemembers who were promoted from 2013 through
                                                           2017.


                                                           Air Force enlisted servicemembers in the lowest four levels (grades E1-
                                                           E4) are selected for promotion based on time in grade and time in
                                                           service. Selection for promotion to the next two levels, known as the non-
                                                           commissioned officer levels (grades E5 and E6), is based on the
                                                           Weighted Airman Promotion System to fill the requirement. This system
                                                           provides weighted points for an individual’s performance record and

                                                           26
                                                             We compared the combined number of eligible enlisted sensor operators in the grades
                                                           of E5 through E9 with the number of these eligible servicemembers who were promoted
                                                           from 2013 through 2017.




                                                           Page 18                                      GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                        service decorations received, and the results of tests to assess an
                        individual’s promotion fitness and job skills and knowledge. Selection for
                        promotion to the senior non-commissioned officer level (grades E7-E9) is
                        based on the same Weighted Airman Promotion System plus the results
                        from a central board evaluation. Servicemembers eligible for promotions
                        to the non-commissioned ranks are assessed and then listed from the
                        highest to lowest scores and offered promotion if they fall above a specific
                        cutoff score established to meet quotas within each career field and for
                        each rank.

                        While enlisted servicemembers must pass knowledge and skills tests to
                        qualify for promotions, officials explained that the resulting promotion
                        rates essentially reflect requirements and are not indicative of
                        competitiveness across career fields as with officer promotion rates.
                        Officials stated that enlisted servicemember promotions are based on the
                        service’s numeric personnel requirements for each enlisted grade. To
                        consider an enlisted servicemember for promotion from among those who
                        are eligible, a vacancy must first be required at the next higher grade
                        within that servicemember’s occupational area, known as their Air Force
                        Specialty Code that needs to be filled. For example, in 2017, the Air
                        Force required promotions for 128 RPA sensor operators, and officials
                        promoted that many enlisted servicemembers from the cohort of 370
                        eligible servicemembers.


                        For each year since 2013, the Air Force has assigned over 75 percent of
Air Force Assigned      the non-operational staff positions that require an RPA pilot to the
Non-operational Staff   organizations that had requested those positions, according to our
                        analysis of service headquarters data. However, the overall number of
Positions Requiring     non-operational staff positions that require an RPA pilot is about one-
RPA Pilots at High      tenth of the number of those requiring pilots in other career fields. For
                        example, in fiscal year 2018 the Air Force had 83 non-operational staff
Rates Since 2013        positions that required an RPA pilot compared to 330 positions requiring
                        fighter pilots. Air Force officials stated that the number of RPA positions
                        was smaller than for other pilots because the career field is relatively new
                        and still growing.

                        Non-operational staff positions are generally non-flying positions and
                        include assignments to headquarters or combatant command positions.
                        Certain non-operational staff positions can be filled only by qualified
                        pilots. Other non-operational positions are more general in nature and are
                        divided among officer communities in a military service. Officers with
                        aviation expertise, including RPA pilots, at various points in their careers


                        Page 19                             GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
may rotate through both flying and nonflying positions to broaden their
career experiences and Air Force officials stated that staff assignments
are essential to the development of officers who will assume greater
leadership responsibilities.

Headquarters Air Force prepares allocation or “assignment” plans to
provide positions requiring aviator expertise to various Air Force
commands and other entities. 27 Under this process, these organizations
identify the number of non-operational staff positions requiring aviator
expertise (e.g., pilots) they require as well as indicate the type of aviator
expertise that is needed to fill those positions, (e.g., fighter, bomber,
RPA). Headquarters Air Force then determines the extent to which the
staff position requirements can be met in accordance with senior
leadership priorities designed to equitably manage the shortage of
officers with aviation expertise. The results of this process are outlined in
the Air Force’s annual Rated Management Directive which reinforces
each organization’s flexibility for using their entitlements in non-
operational staff and other positions.

In some instances, the Air Force is able to assign enough positions to an
organization to meet nearly all of its non-operational staff position
requirements. For the purposes of our analyses, the assignment rate is
determined by the number of positions assigned compared to the number
of positions the organization required. 28 For example, in fiscal year 2018
the Air Force assigned 99 percent of the non-operational staff positions
that require an RPA pilot to the requesting entities. In other instances, the
Air Force assignment rate of non-operational staff positions may be much
lower because of competing management priorities or shortages of
personnel in a career field. As a result, the Air Force’s assignment of staff
positions can vary across the different career fields. For example, the Air
Force fighter pilot career field has had fewer fighter pilots than its
authorization number since 2013. 29 Therefore, the Air Force assignment

27
  For purposes of this report, we use the term “assignment,” while the Air Force uses the
term “allocate” when referring to the development of its plans to distribute positions
requiring aviator expertise among organizations that need such expertise.
28
  According to an Air Force official, the assignment rate does not always equate to the
attachment of a person to that position. The number of personnel attached to an
organization might be different than its “assignment rate” because a person in the specific
career field needed for a position may not be available to fill the position.
29
 GAO, Military Personnel: DOD Needs to Reevaluate Fighter Pilot Workforce
Requirements, GAO-18-113 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 11, 2018).




Page 20                                     GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                                       rate for staff positions requiring fighter pilots is significantly lower than the
                                                       rate for staff positions requiring other types of pilots. For example, in fiscal
                                                       year 2017, the Air Force assignment rate for staff positions requiring a
                                                       fighter pilot was 18 percent, which was less than a quarter of the rate for
                                                       staff positions requiring an RPA pilot, as shown in table 3.

Table 3: Air Force Assignment Rates for Staff Positions That Require Fighter Pilots as Compared to Those Requiring
Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA) Pilots for Fiscal Years 2013 through 2018
Rates in percent

 Fiscal year                                                                    2013          2014          2015           2016          2017            2018
 Fighter pilots                                                                    50            50            44             28            18              29
 RPA pilots                                                                        85            97            99             90            79              99
Source: GAO analysis of Air Force data. | GAO-19-155

                                                       Note: For purposes of this report, we computed an assignment rate as the number of positions an
                                                       organization is “entitled to” or “assigned” as compared to the number of positions the organization
                                                       indicates it requires. According to an Air Force official, this assignment rate does not always equate to
                                                       the actual attachment of a person to that position. The number of people attached to an organization
                                                       might be different than its “assignment rate” because a person in the specific career field requested
                                                       for a position may not be available to fill the position.




                                                       The Air Force has not reviewed its oversight process to ensure that it is
The Air Force Has                                      effectively and efficiently managing its review of non-operational staff
Not Reviewed Its                                       positions that require aviator expertise, such as RPA pilots. 30 Air Force
                                                       officials explained that its oversight process for managing these positions
Oversight Process to                                   requiring pilot expertise consists of a time-consuming, labor-intensive
Manage Its Non-                                        process of exchanging emails and spreadsheets with 57 organizations,
                                                       such as various Air Force Major commands like the Air Combat
operational Staff                                      Command, the Air Force Special Operations Command, and the National
Positions That                                         Guard Bureau. According to these officials, this process consists of the
                                                       maintenance and exchange of spreadsheets and briefing slides with
Require Aviator                                        information about every position found throughout the Air Force and in
Expertise                                              various other entities that are required to be reviewed and validated
                                                       annually. Additionally, this process is maintained by one official within the
                                                       Headquarters Air Force who must exchange the spreadsheets via email
                                                       approximately twice a year with officials from each of the organizations

                                                       30
                                                        We previously identified that, while the Air Force had procedures to review their staff
                                                       positions, it had not comprehensively assessed whether all of its requirements truly
                                                       needed to be filled with active duty pilots. GAO, Military Personnel: Actions Needed to
                                                       Better Define Pilot Requirements and Promote Retention, GAO/NSIAD-99-211
                                                       (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 20, 1999).




                                                       Page 21                                           GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
that are responsible for annually justifying their continued need for non-
operational staff positions requiring aviator expertise. Air Force officials
stated that this process does not always produce complete and accurate
information in a timely manner as in some instances the information
produced is not relevant by the time a complete review of the positions is
accomplished.

Headquarters Air Force officials familiar with its oversight responsibilities
stated that using a different system would more efficiently and effectively
support their ability to manipulate, analyze and share information among
the applicable organizations and make informed decisions. For example,
these officials explained that over the last 10 years, the Air Force drew
down the number of squadrons, but did not do a good job of cross
checking that reduced number of squadrons with a revised number of
staff positions required for support. Therefore, the number of non-
operational staff positions was not adjusted and are now artificially high in
some career fields and others may have fewer non-operational staff
positions than needed. These officials added that as the new RPA pilot
career field has developed, there has been no timely and widely
accessible system of checks and balances to establish an accurate
number of non-operational staff positions required to support the career
field. Further, they said that using a different system that allows them to
have more timely and quality information would enhance their ability to
manage and make decisions regarding the appropriate mix of expensive
pilots and others with aviator expertise between operational line positions
and non-operational staff position needs. They said this would better
ensure that there is a reasonable range of non-operational staff positions
required for each career field, such as for the growing RPA pilot career
field.

An October 2017 memorandum from the Air Force Chief of Staff stated
that the number of non-operational staff positions which require aviation
expertise must be brought into balance with the Air Force’s ability to
produce the appropriate number of officers with aviator expertise. The
memorandum also stated that organizations were strongly encouraged to
change their current requirements to meet the available current force
levels including converting chronically unfilled non-operational staff
positions requiring aviator expertise to positions specifically designated
for RPA pilots. As a result of two separate reviews, Air Force officials
identified hundreds of these positions that lacked adequate justification or
qualifications to support the positions’ requirement to be filled by officers




Page 22                              GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
with aviator expertise. 31 For example, in August 2018, out of 2,783 non-
operational staff positions, the Air Force found that 513 of these positions
were evaluated as lacking adequate justification or mission qualifications
to support the need for aviator expertise and 61 positions were eliminated
after further review. 32

Prior to 2010, according to officials, the Headquarters Air Force
maintained a web-based management oversight system to review and
approve the justifications for its non-operational staff positions requiring
aviator expertise that allowed for wide access to and manipulation and
timely analyses of information. Additionally, this former system provided
multilevel coordination among Headquarters Air Force and its major
commands for reviewing the justifications of all of the positions. According
to Headquarters Air Force officials, the use of this management oversight
system was discontinued in 2010 due to a decision to no longer fund the
contractor maintaining the system. In October 2018, officials from one of
the Air Force’s Major Commands confirmed that the current oversight
system in use is time-consuming, does not readily support information
analysis and that plans to integrate it with another existing management
system had not happened.

The Headquarters Air Force official in charge of managing this process
told us that he had submitted multiple requests over the last 3 years to
integrate the information being managed with spreadsheets and emails
into an existing personnel management system to improve the efficiency
of the process. However, according to this official, higher priorities and
31
  The first review in March 2017 was part of the Air Force’s Aircrew Crisis Task Force’s
ongoing work to address a growing shortage of experienced aircrew members. This task
force consists of Air Force senior leaders from the headquarters, major commands and
other experts addressing strategies, plans and initiatives falling under seven lines of effort:
requirements, accessions, production, absorption, retention, sortie production and industry
collaboration. Air Force officials stated that they reviewed all positions to identify, among
other things, any staff positions with position qualifications requiring fighter pilots that
could potentially be changed to accommodate RPA pilots. This review identified 101
positions that specifically required fighter pilot expertise, but were filled at that time by
officers with other types of aviator expertise. The task force identified another 279 staff
positions requiring aviator expertise that had been chronically unfilled for at least the
previous 4 years.
32
  In May 2018, the House of Representatives directed the Secretary of the Air Force to
evaluate and justify every staff position requiring a pilot or rated officer (i.e., an officer with
aviator expertise) across the Department of the Air Force and joint communities. H. R.
Rep. No. 115-676 (2018), accompanying a bill for the National Defense Authorization Act
for Fiscal Year 2019. See Air Force, Report to Congressional Committees, Pilot Staff
Requirements Validation (December 2018).




Page 23                                        GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
funding issues have precluded the information from being integrated into
another existing system. In September, 2018, another Air Force official
told us that the Program Management Office that manages a system into
which the information could be integrated was behind schedule in
implementing several other system updates. Because of these delays, the
official acknowledged that no review has yet been done of what is needed
to provide the most efficient management oversight process of the
information currently being managed via the spreadsheet process. The
official said that before any actions could take place, a review of
requirements and priorities would be needed in order to make a
determination as to what changes could be made. Therefore, he said that
there are no decisions or timelines available for reviewing a process that
would provide the validation information for non-operational staff positions
in a timelier and widely accessible manner.

Air Force instructions state that major commands are required to perform
annual aircrew requirements reviews including review and revalidation of
all aircrew positions, except for rank of colonel or higher, to ensure aviator
expertise is required, and report the results to the Headquarters Air Force
Operations Training Division. 33 Further, the Headquarters Air Force
Operations Training Division has the responsibility to ensure a
management process is in place to provide efficient and effective
oversight of the major commands’ annual review and revalidation of the
aircrew position requirements process. Additionally, Standards for Internal
Control in the Federal Government states that management should
identify needed information, obtain the relevant information from reliable
sources in a timely manner, and process the information into quality data
to make informed decisions and evaluate its performance in achieving
key objectives and addressing risks. 34

By reviewing its oversight process, the Air Force may be able to identify a
more efficient manner to manage its non-operational staff positions that
require aviator expertise. A management oversight process that provides
timely and widely accessible position justification information may help

33
  Air Force Instruction 11-412, Aircrew Management (December 10, 2009) and Air Force
Instruction 38-201, Management of Manpower Requirements and Authorizations (Jan. 30,
2014). According to an Air Force official, a revised instruction not publically available as of
January 25, 2019, changes the name of the Operations Training Division to the Total
Force Aircrew Management Division.
34
  GAO, Standards for Internal Control in the Federal Government, GAO-14-704G
(Washington, D.C.: Sept. 10, 2014).




Page 24                                      GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                     ensure that the proper type of aviator expertise needed in these positions
                     is up to date. In turn, this could result in a more efficient use of the Air
                     Force’s short supply of expensive pilot resources, particularly fighter
                     pilots, and could potentially improve its ability to assign and develop
                     effective leaders, such as those within the growing RPA career field.


                     The Air Force continues to expand the use of RPAs in its varied missions
Conclusions          of intelligence gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance, and combat
                     operations. While the overall number of eligible RPA pilots is much
                     smaller compared to other pilots, over the last 5 years RPA pilots have
                     achieved promotions and nominations to attend developmental education
                     programs at rates that were generally similar in comparison to pilots in
                     other career fields. Additionally, non-operational staff positions requiring
                     RPA pilots have been assigned to entities at high rates since 2013, but
                     the number of positions available to them is smaller than the number that
                     require fighter, bomber, and mobility pilots because the career field is still
                     growing.

                     Air Force officials have noted problems with the current oversight process
                     which may be hindering its ability to efficiently and effectively manage
                     these non-operational staff positions as required by Air Force policy. For
                     example, the Air Force has recently identified that a large number of
                     these positions designated as requiring officers with aviator expertise
                     lacked adequate justification for that requirement. By reviewing the
                     efficiency and effectiveness of its management oversight process that
                     provides information in a timelier and more widely accessible manner, the
                     Air Force could better ensure that it makes informed decisions regarding
                     the need for pilots in certain non-operational staff positions and is in
                     compliance with policy. It also could help ensure that the Air Force more
                     efficiently uses its short supply of expensive pilot resources. Ultimately,
                     this may positively affect its ability to assign and develop effective
                     leaders, such as those within the growing RPA career field.


                     The Secretary of the Air Force should review its management oversight
Recommendation for   process that provides information and documents the justifications of the
Executive Action     Air Force’s non-operational staff positions requiring aviator expertise,
                     including RPA positions, to identify opportunities for increased efficiency
                     and effectiveness and take any necessary actions. (Recommendation 1)




                     Page 25                              GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                     In written comments reproduced in appendix II, DOD concurred with
Agency Comments      comments to the recommendation, and provided separate technical
and Our Evaluation   comments, which we incorporated as appropriate.

                     DOD concurred with the recommendation to review the management
                     oversight process that provides information and documents the
                     justifications of the Air Force’s non-operational staff positions requiring
                     aviator expertise, including RPA positions, to identify opportunities for
                     increased efficiency and effectiveness and to take any necessary actions.
                     In its comments, DOD stated that it agrees the current oversight process
                     is time-consuming and could be more efficient. However, it believes this
                     process is effective because the Air Force was able to validate the need
                     for having pilots fill a majority of its non-operational staff positions during
                     a recent congressionally-mandated review of these positions. As we
                     reported, this review of all staff positions requiring aviator expertise
                     across the Air Force and other defense entities discovered more than 500
                     of approximately 2,800 positions that were initially found to be lacking
                     adequate justifications, and 61 positions eventually were eliminated. We
                     believe the Air Force’s results from this one-time review is an example of
                     how the current process is not consistently yielding up-to-date validations
                     of positions. Further, DOD also stated that while a move to automating
                     the process again has been considered, current funding shortfalls prevent
                     the Air Force from establishing an automated system to increase the
                     process’s efficiency. We continue to believe that the Air Force should
                     review its current process in order to identify any viable means to
                     increase its efficiency and effectiveness. Such a review may provide the
                     Air Force with opportunities to more consistently provide the proper type
                     of aviator expertise needed to fill its staff positions as well as potentially
                     provide more leadership opportunities to those within growing career
                     fields, such as RPA pilots.




                     Page 26                              GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
We provided a draft of this report to DOD for review and comment.

We are sending copies of this report to the appropriate congressional
committees, the Acting Secretary of Defense, and the Secretary of the Air
Force. In addition, this report will be available at no charge on the GAO
website at http://www.gao.gov.

If you or your staff have any questions regarding this report, please
contact me at (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov. Contact points for our
Offices of Congressional Relations and Public Affairs may be found on
the last page of this report. GAO staff who made major contributions to
this report are listed in appendix III.




Brenda S. Farrell
Director
Defense Capabilities and Management




Page 27                            GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department
              Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
              Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
              GAO Report Recommendations


of Defense and the Air Force to Address
Prior GAO Report Recommendations
              Since 2014, we have issued three reports assessing the Air Force’s
              remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) workforce management.

              •   In April 2014, we found that the Air Force had shortages of pilots of
                  remotely piloted aircraft (RPA) and faced challenges to recruit,
                  develop, and retain pilots and build their morale. 1 We also found that
                  Air Force RPA pilots experienced potentially challenging working
                  conditions and were promoted at lower rates than other career fields.
                  We made seven recommendations, and the Air Force generally
                  concurred with our recommendations. It has fully implemented all but
                  one recommendation to analyze the career field effect of being an
                  RPA pilot to determine whether and how being an RPA pilot is related
                  to promotions.
              •   In May 2015, we found that the Air Force faced challenges ensuring
                  that their RPA pilots completed their required training and that the
                  Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Readiness
                  had not issued a training strategy that addresses if and how the
                  services should coordinate with one another to share information on
                  training pilots who operate unmanned aerial systems. 2 We made one
                  recommendation related to these findings with which DOD concurred.
                  However, in September 2018, an official from the Office of Secretary
                  of Defense for Readiness stated that there are compelling reasons
                  why a training strategy is no longer necessary and that no action is
                  planned to implement the recommendation.
              •   In January 2017, we found, among other things, that the Air Force had
                  not fully tailored a strategy to address the UAS pilot shortage and
                  evaluated their workforce mix of military, federal civilian, and private-
                  sector contractor personnel to determine the extent to which these
                  personnel sources could be used to fly UAS. 3 We made five
                  recommendations related to these findings with which the Air Force
                  and DOD generally concurred. As of July 2018, the Air Force has
                  taken some action to address the first three recommendations and
                  officials from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for


              1
               GAO, Air Force: Actions Needed to Strengthen Management of Unmanned Aerial
              System Pilots, GAO-14-316 (Washington, D.C.: Apr. 10, 2014).
              2
               GAO, Unmanned Aerial Systems: Actions Needed to Improve DOD Pilot Training,
              GAO-15-461 (Washington, D.C.: May 14, 2015).
              3
               GAO, Unmanned Aerial Systems, Air Force and Army Should Improve Strategic Human
              Capital Planning for Pilot Workforces, GAO-17-53 (Washington, D.C: Jan. 31, 2017).




              Page 28                                    GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                            Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                            Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                            GAO Report Recommendations




                                            •    Personnel and Readiness have fully implemented the other two
                                                 recommendations.
                                            In table 4, we present the recommendations that we made to the Air
                                            Force and the Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness
                                            and summarize the actions taken to address those recommendations as
                                            of September 2018.




Table 4: Steps Taken by the Department of Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior GAO Report Recommendations
Related to Unmanned Aerial Systems Personnel Challenges

Recommendations from GAO-14-316 to the Air Force                    Status of Recommendation and Steps Taken to Address
                                                                    Recommendations
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air     Recommendation Closed-Implemented. With the conclusion of
Force to update crew ratios for Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA)     the Air Force's extensive review of the MQ-1/9 Remotely Piloted
units to help ensure that the Air Force establishes a more          Aircraft (RPA) community and its completion of its manpower
accurate understanding of the required number of RPA pilots         studies for these units, a new Air Force Manpower Standard was
needed in its units.                                                issued in April 2017. In addition to updating crew ratios required
                                                                    for mission execution, this manpower standard also included
                                                                    support staff requirements needed to run an operational unit.
                                                                    Further, in accordance with FY18 Presidential Budget approval
                                                                    timeline, Unit Manning Documents are being updated to reflect the
                                                                    new standard, which will help the Air Force present a clear picture
                                                                    of the number of these units' health consistent with other weapon
                                                                    systems. This action by the Air Force helps it know if it has any
                                                                    Unmanned Aircraft System (UAS) pilot shortfalls even after its
                                                                    current requirement is met, which could exacerbate existing
                                                                    strains on this workforce. Because of these actions, we believe
                                                                    the Air Force met our recommendation. As such, it was closed as
                                                                    implemented.
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air     Recommendation Closed-Implemented. Officials said that on
Force to establish a minimum crew ratio in Air Force policy below   November 30, 2015 the Air Force established 10:1 as the
which RPA units cannot operate without running unacceptable         minimum Crew to Combat Line ratio as directed by the Air Force
levels of risk to accomplishing the mission and ensuring safety.    Chief of Staff, which was later formalized in a March 2017 Air
                                                                    Force Manpower Standard. This action by the Air Force helps it
                                                                    ensure that RPA units are operating at acceptable levels of risk to
                                                                    mission and safety. Because of these actions, we believe the Air
                                                                    Force met our recommendation. As such, it was closed as
                                                                    implemented.




                                            Page 29                                     GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                              Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                              Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                              GAO Report Recommendations




Recommendations from GAO-14-316 to the Air Force                        Status of Recommendation and Steps Taken to Address
                                                                        Recommendations
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air         Recommendation Closed-Implemented. In December 2015, Air
Force to develop a recruiting and retention strategy that is tailored   Combat Command concluded its RPA community Culture and
to the specific needs and challenges of RPA pilots to help ensure       Process Improvement Program, which resulted in over 140
that the Air Force can meet and retain required staffing levels to      initiatives—many of which were still in process as of July 2018.
meet its mission.                                                       According to Headquarters Air Force officials, these initiatives
                                                                        collectively were designed by the Air Force to serve as a
                                                                        comprehensive strategy for addressing such challenges as,
                                                                        among other things, the recruiting and retention of personnel
                                                                        within the RPA career field. Other recruiting-related actions these
                                                                        officials told us about include having officers with RPA pilot
                                                                        experience serving at the U.S. Air Force Academy as instructors
                                                                        and as the ROTC company commanders and instructors at
                                                                        several large, nationally recognized universities, thus giving
                                                                        attention to the career field among future Airmen. They said this
                                                                        and the overall growing national interest in RPAs and their uses
                                                                        has provided other avenues to identify and recruit pilots and as
                                                                        such increased the inventory of new dedicated RPA pilots from 18
                                                                        percent at the time of our 2014 report to 54 percent as of April
                                                                        2018. Further, in July 2018, Headquarters Air Force officials
                                                                        stated that they believed many other initiatives were designed to
                                                                        specifically address RPA pilot retention. Some of these changes
                                                                        include decreasing the number of combat lines that RPA crews
                                                                        are flying; expanding services and RPA operations to additional
                                                                        locations; designating eight RPA reconnaissance squadrons to
                                                                        attack squadrons; authorizing RPA aircrews to log combat time
                                                                        when flying aircraft within designated hostile airspace regardless
                                                                        of the aircrew's physical location; and increasing personnel
                                                                        requirements primarily to stand up new squadrons to get enough
                                                                        personnel to institute an established combat-to-dwell ratio. Most
                                                                        significantly, in July 2018, officials said that they established a
                                                                        new division to be the headquarters focal point for overseeing
                                                                        RPA personnel matters throughout the Air Force. They also stated
                                                                        the Air Force established a career field manager specifically for
                                                                        RPA personnel, placing the career field on par with manned
                                                                        aircraft pilot career fields. Because of these actions, we believe
                                                                        the Air Force met our recommendation. As such, it was closed as
                                                                        implemented.




                                              Page 30                                       GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                            Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                            Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                            GAO Report Recommendations




Recommendations from GAO-14-316 to the Air Force                     Status of Recommendation and Steps Taken to Address
                                                                     Recommendations
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air      Recommendation Closed-Implemented. In December 2015, the
Force to evaluate the viability of using alternative personnel       Secretary of the Air Force established a program to train enlisted
populations including enlisted or civilian personnel as RPA pilots   pilots to operate the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS, which conducts
to identify whether such populations could help the Air Force meet   high-altitude reconnaissance missions. In a March 2018 report to
and sustain required RPA pilot staffing levels.                      Congress, the Air Force stated it was implementing a deliberate
                                                                     plan that allows enlisted pilots to pilot the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS
                                                                     and at that time, 11 enlisted pilots had completed all training
                                                                     requirements and were flying operational missions. Additionally,
                                                                     another 30 enlisted pilot students were in various stages of flight
                                                                     training and 30 more enlisted pilot candidates had been selected
                                                                     for training during the FY 19 training year. Further, an Air Force
                                                                     selection board met in July 2017 to consider officer as well as
                                                                     civilian candidates for various test pilot positions to include test
                                                                     UAS pilots and selected 63 primary and alternate students to
                                                                     attend U.S. and allied test pilot schools starting in summer 2018.
                                                                     Therefore, these actions by the Air Force shows that it is using
                                                                     alternative personnel populations as RPA pilots, which could help
                                                                     it meet and sustain required RPA pilot staffing levels. Because of
                                                                     these actions, we believe the Air Force met our recommendation.
                                                                     As such, it was closed as implemented.
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air      Recommendation Closed-Implemented. In an effort to address
Force to incorporate feedback from RPA pilots by using existing      concerns identified by Airmen and family members in the UAS
mechanisms or by collecting direct feedback from RPA pilots.         community, in August 2015, the Air Combat Command initiated
                                                                     the Culture and Process Improvement Program, which was
                                                                     designed to take place across 12 Air Force Active Duty, Reserve
                                                                     and Guard bases. In December 2015, officials announced the
                                                                     results of this study of the UAS community in an attempt to
                                                                     improve operations and ensure long-term mission success. The
                                                                     Air Force reports that the program generated 143 initiatives that
                                                                     were derived from nearly 2,500 inputs across the UAS community
                                                                     and were focused on improving all aspects of the UAS community
                                                                     including, but not limited to, quality of life, career progression, and
                                                                     operations. As of February 2018, officials stated that the Air Force
                                                                     was almost 60 percent complete with implementation of the 143
                                                                     initiatives. Given that the Air Force has collected direct feedback
                                                                     from the UAS pilots and others and has implemented a substantial
                                                                     level of actions directed at improving and managing this career
                                                                     field, this should help address recruiting, retention, training, and
                                                                     other challenges related to the UAS community. Because of these
                                                                     actions, GAO believes the Air Force met our recommendation. As
                                                                     such, it was closed as implemented.




                                            Page 31                                       GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                             Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                             Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                             GAO Report Recommendations




Recommendations from GAO-14-316 to the Air Force                      Status of Recommendation and Steps Taken to Address
                                                                      Recommendations
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air       Recommendation Implemented. In August 2015, the Air Combat
Force to analyze the effects of being deployed-on-station to          Command initiated the Culture and Process Improvement
determine whether there are resulting negative effects on the         Program, which was designed to take place across 12 Air Force
quality of life of RPA pilots and take responsive actions as          Active Duty, Reserve and Guard bases. In December 2015,
appropriate.                                                          officials announced the results of this study of the UAS community
                                                                      in an attempt to improve operations and ensure long-term mission
                                                                      success. This study revealed, among other things, that the MQ
                                                                      1/9 UAS lacks an established requirement for a specified time to
                                                                      be spent doing non-combat related operations known as a "dwell"
                                                                      period for the squadron members. This dwell time would provide
                                                                      opportunities for other activities like attending various types of
                                                                      training and professional military education programs, taking
                                                                      personal leave, etc. In January 2017, the Air Force Chief of Staff
                                                                      approved a memo that established a "combat-to-dwell" ratio
                                                                      requirement as a new concept tailored for deployed-on-station
                                                                      combat operations. By formally establishing a model that includes
                                                                      the establishment of additional RPA squadrons which helps
                                                                      ensure enough personnel to institute the dwell requirement for the
                                                                      deployed-on-station forces, members of one squadron will always
                                                                      be in a "dwell" status-or in other words, not trying to juggle or
                                                                      balance their warfighting duties with other personal
                                                                      responsibilities. The Air Force's action to establish a requirement
                                                                      for MQ 1/9 squadron members to be away from combat
                                                                      operations on a planned basis should help address the effects of
                                                                      being deployed-on-station and help improve UAS pilots' quality of
                                                                      life. Because of these actions, we believe the Air Force met our
                                                                      recommendation. As such, it was closed as implemented.
The Secretary of Defense should direct the Secretary of the Air       Recommendation Closed-Not implemented. As of October
Force to include the career field effect of being an RPA pilot into   2017, the Air Force had not included the career field effect of
the Air Force Personnel Center’s (AFPC) analysis to determine         being a UAS pilot in its analysis of promotion rates. In its written
whether and how being an RPA pilot is related to promotions and       response to our report, the Air Force stated that it tracks UAS pilot
determine whether the factors the Air Force identified in its         promotion rates as a subset of the Line of the Air Force and
analysis of Line of the Air Force officers are also related to RPA    therefore factors related to promotions identified in the analysis of
pilot promotions.                                                     the Line of the Air Force are directly related to the UAS pilot
                                                                      promotions. Officials from the Air Force Personnel Center in June
                                                                      2018 told us again that they have not included the career field
                                                                      effect of being an RPA pilot into any of their analyses and they
                                                                      know of no plans to begin analyzing that as a factor. Therefore,
                                                                      the Air Force does not plan to take any action related to this
                                                                      recommendation. As such, it was closed as not implemented.




                                             Page 32                                      GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                            Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                            Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                            GAO Report Recommendations




Recommendations from GAO-14-316 to the Air Force                    Status of Recommendation and Steps Taken to Address
                                                                    Recommendations
Secretary of Defense should direct the Under Secretary of           Recommendation Closed-Not Implemented. In September
Defense for Personnel and Readiness to address how the              2018, a DOD official within the Office of the Under Secretary of
services should coordinate with one another in the strategy on      Defense for Personnel and Readiness said that (1) the services
UAS pilot training that the Office of the Under Secretary of        are responsible for training,
Defense for Personnel and Readiness is currently drafting.          (2) the services have a common set of tactics, techniques and
                                                                    procedures that promote the operational capabilities of the UAS
                                                                    community;(3) a Joint Chiefs of Staff Instruction exists that defines
                                                                    Joint training standards and Basic and Joint mission qualification
                                                                    levels required to support the Joint force; and
                                                                    (4) the Federal Aviation Agency is now allowing at one site the
                                                                    military to train in the national air space beyond visual line of sight
                                                                    unlike previously.
                                                                    He said that it is the position of DOD that the need for an OSD
                                                                    strategy for UAS training has been overtaken by these events and
                                                                    it does not intend to implement this recommendation. As such, it
                                                                    was closed as not implemented.
Recommendation from GAO-17-53 for the Secretary of the Air Status of Recommendations and Steps Taken to Address
Force                                                      Recommendation
To help ensure that the Air Force strategies to address UAS pilot   Recommendation Open. While the Air Force did not revise its
shortages are tailored to address remaining issues, such as the     Get Well Plan to address these issues affecting the RPA career
significant amount of pilots who are temporarily assigned to the    field, in an effort to address concerns identified by Airmen and
UAS pilot career, the limited amount of cadet interest in the UAS   family members in the UAS community, in August 2015, the Air
pilot career, and the workload of UAS pilots, we recommend that     Combat Command initiated the Culture and Process Improvement
the Secretary of Defense direct the Secretary of the Air Force to   Program, which was designed to take place across 12 Air Force
revise the Get Well Plan to address these issues.                   Active Duty, Reserve and Guard bases. In December 2015,
                                                                    officials announced the results of this study and reported that the
                                                                    study generated 143 initiatives that were derived from nearly
                                                                    2,500 inputs across the UAS community and were focused on
                                                                    improving all aspects of the UAS community including, but not
                                                                    limited to, quality of life, career progression, and operations. As of
                                                                    February 2018, officials stated that the Air Force was currently 57
                                                                    percent complete with implementation of the 143 initiatives.
                                                                    Additionally, in July 2018, Air Force was in the process of
                                                                    establishing a new division to be the headquarters focal point for
                                                                    overseeing RPA personnel matters throughout the Air Force and
                                                                    they also stated the Air Force established a career field manager
                                                                    specifically for RPA personnel, placing the career field on par with
                                                                    manned aircraft pilot career fields. These latest efforts show that
                                                                    the Air Force is taking actions to address challenges to the RPA
                                                                    community beyond the goals of the Get Well Plan that we
                                                                    identified and on an enterprise-wide level. We believe that this
                                                                    recommendation should remain open until more progress is
                                                                    made.




                                            Page 33                                      GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                              Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                              Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                              GAO Report Recommendations




Recommendation from GAO-17-53 for the Secretary of the Air Status of Recommendations and Steps Taken to Address
Force                                                      Recommendation
To help the Air Force ensure that its strategies are having the         Recommendation Open. As of July 2018, the Air Force is in the
intended effects, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense            process of establishing a new division to be the headquarters
direct the Secretary of the Air Force to monitor the extent to which    focal point for overseeing RPA personnel matters throughout the
achieving the human capital goals in its strategy helps the Air         Air Force and they also stated the Air Force established a career
Force achieve its programmatic goals.                                   field manager specifically for RPA personnel, placing the career
                                                                        field on par with manned aircraft pilot career fields. These latest
                                                                        efforts show that the Air Force is taking actions to address
                                                                        challenges on an enterprise-wide level to the RPA community that
                                                                        we identified and may be developing more up-to-date metrics and
                                                                        procedures for monitoring the extent to which the Air Force is
                                                                        achieving both its RPA human capital and programmatic goals.
                                                                        We believe that this recommendation should remain open until
                                                                        more progress is made.
To help ensure that it is poised to meet future needs for UAS           Recommendation-Open. In a March 2018 report to Congress,
pilots, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the           the Air Force stated it had developed a deliberate plan to allow
Secretary of the Air Force to explore the potential use of additional   enlisted pilots to fly the RQ-4 Global Hawk UAS as it provided the
flexibilities that would enable it to increase the number of UAS        ideal environment to expand mission flexibility. Further, as another
pilots in its workforce.                                                way to build capability in support of human capital strategies by
                                                                        using flexibilities, an Air Force selection board met in July 2017 to
                                                                        consider officer as well as civilian candidates for various test pilot
                                                                        positions to include test UAS pilots. Finally, the Air Force is
                                                                        seeking legislative changes to allow the Air Reserve Component
                                                                        to perform full time, 24/7, 365 operational missions such as the
                                                                        UAS mission, in Active Guard Reserve status. If allowed, the Air
                                                                        Reserve Component will pursue converting Military Technician
                                                                        positions to Active Guard Reserve status. Additionally, in July
                                                                        2018, Air Force is in the process of establishing a new division to
                                                                        be the headquarters focal point for overseeing RPA personnel
                                                                        matters throughout the Air Force and they also stated the Air
                                                                        Force established a career field manager specifically for RPA
                                                                        personnel, placing the career field on par with manned aircraft
                                                                        pilot career fields. These latest efforts show that the Air Force is
                                                                        taking actions to address on an enterprise-wide level the
                                                                        challenges to the RPA community that we identified. We believe
                                                                        that this recommendation should remain open until more progress
                                                                        is made.




                                              Page 34                                        GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                                            Appendix I: Steps Taken by the Department of
                                            Defense and the Air Force to Address Prior
                                            GAO Report Recommendations




Recommendation from GAO-17-53 for the Office of the                   Status of Recommendations and Steps Taken to Address
Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness                      Recommendation
To help address personnel shortages and meet mission needs            Recommendation Closed-Implemented. In December 2017,
cost effectively, we are making a recommendation that the Office      the Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Reserve
of the Secretary of Defense, through the Under Secretary of           Affairs) issued a memo to the Air Force and the Army requesting
Defense (Personnel and Readiness) direct the Air Force and the        implementation of actions to meet the recommendations from this
Army to evaluate the workforce mix and the use of federal civilians   GAO report on UAS Human Capital Planning. As part of that
for UAS pilot positions                                               memo, the Air Force and the Army were requested to provide an
                                                                      assessment of current UAS workforce mix and plans and of
                                                                      potential modifications to that mix to be included in their program
                                                                      plans for fiscal year 2020. More specifically, they were instructed
                                                                      to include an assessment of the current military manpower
                                                                      allocations for UAS operations, evaluating military essentiality and
                                                                      identifying opportunities for military to civilian conversion when
                                                                      military essentiality does not exist and when such conversions
                                                                      would not compromise desired operational performance. Further,
                                                                      the Air Force and the Army were instructed to provide a detailed
                                                                      assessment of current UAS missions performed by contractors to
                                                                      evaluate if the work is inherently governmental, closely associated
                                                                      with inherently governmental, or should otherwise be performed
                                                                      by government personnel consistent with determining workforce
                                                                      mix procedures in accordance with DOD Instruction 1100.22,
                                                                      Policy and Procedures for Determining Workforce Mix (Apr.12,
                                                                      2010) (incorporating Change 1, Dec. 1, 2017). Because of the
                                                                      direction, the Air Force and the Army submitted their evaluation of
                                                                      their UAS workforce mix in May and June of 2018, respectively,
                                                                      and are in a better position to determine the most efficient
                                                                      combination of resources to meet their mission needs. Because of
                                                                      these actions, we believe DOD met our recommendation. As
                                                                      such, the recommendation was closed as implemented.
To help address personnel shortages and meet mission needs            Recommendation Closed-Implemented. In December 2017, the
cost effectively, we are making a recommendation that the Office      Assistant Secretary of Defense (Manpower and Reserve Affairs)
of the Secretary of Defense, through the Under Secretary of           issued a memo to the Air Force and the Army requesting
Defense (Personnel and Readiness) direct the Air Force and the        implementation actions to meet the recommendations from this
Army to conduct cost analyses consistent with DOD guidance and        GAO report on UAS Human Capital Planning. As part of that
ensure cost effectiveness of the UAS pilot workforce mix.             memo, the Air Force and the Army were requested to submit,
                                                                      where military essentiality is proven, consideration of adjusting
                                                                      military manpower mix that is informed by a cost analysis
                                                                      consistent with DOD Instruction 7041.04, Estimating and
                                                                      Comparing the Full Costs of Civilian and Active Duty Military
                                                                      Manpower and Contract Support (July 3, 2013) and a detailed
                                                                      assessment of current UAS missions performed by contractors to
                                                                      evaluate, among other things, where civilian performance would
                                                                      represent a more cost effective method of accomplishing the
                                                                      work, also consistent with cost analyses procedures in
                                                                      accordance with DOD Instruction 7041.04. Because of this
                                                                      direction, the Air Force and the Army submitted their evaluations
                                                                      of their UAS workforce mix in May and June of 2018, respectively,
                                                                      and are in a better position to determine the most efficient
                                                                      combination of resources to meet their mission needs. Because of
                                                                      these actions, we believe DOD met our recommendation. As
                                                                      such, it was closed as implemented.
Source: GAO analysis. | GAO-19-155




                                            Page 35                                       GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             Appendix II: Comments from the Department
             of Defense



of Defense




             Page 36                                     GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Appendix II: Comments from the Department
of Defense




Page 37                                     GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                  Acknowledgments



Acknowledgments

                  Brenda S. Farrell, (202) 512-3604 or farrellb@gao.gov
GAO Contact
                  In addition to the contact named above, Lori Atkinson (Assistant Director),
Staff             Rebecca Beale, Amie Lesser, Felicia Lopez, Grant Mallie, Ricardo
Acknowledgments   Marquez, Richard Powelson, Amber Sinclair, and John Van Schaik made
                  key contributions to this report.




(102543)
                  Page 38                               GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
                         Appendix III: GAO Contact and Staff
                         Acknowledgments




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Federal Programs
                         Orice Williams Brown, Managing Director, WilliamsO@gao.gov, (202) 512-4400,
Congressional            U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7125,
Relations                Washington, DC 20548

                         Chuck Young, Managing Director, youngc1@gao.gov, (202) 512-4800
Public Affairs           U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7149
                         Washington, DC 20548

                         James-Christian Blockwood, Managing Director, spel@gao.gov, (202) 512-4707
Strategic Planning and   U.S. Government Accountability Office, 441 G Street NW, Room 7814,
External Liaison         Washington, DC 20548




                         Page 39                                GAO-19-155 Remotely Piloted Aircraft Workforce
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