oversight

Military Personnel: Actions Needed to Better Define Pilot Requirements and Promote Retention

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-08-20.

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

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Report to the Chairman and Ranking
                   Minority Member, Subcommittee on
                   Military Personnel, Committee on Armed
                   Services, House of Representatives

August 1999
                   MILITARY
                   PERSONNEL

                   Actions Needed to
                   Better Define Pilot
                   Requirements and
                   Promote Retention




GAO/NSIAD-99-211
United States General Accounting Office                                                   National Security and
Washington, D.C. 20548                                                             International Affairs Division



           B-283075                                                                                          Letter

           August 20, 1999

           The Honorable Steve Buyer
           Chairman
           The Honorable Neil Abercrombie
           Ranking Minority Member
           Subcommittee on Military Personnel
           Committee on Armed Services
           House of Representatives

           This report responds to the request of the Chairman and former Ranking Minority Member that we
           review and identify reasons for the reported military pilot shortages and offer solutions to address the
           issue. Specifically, we determined (1) the services’ reported and projected estimates of their pilot
           shortages, (2) the basis for the services’ pilot requirements, (3) key factors that account for the
           reported pilot shortages, and (4) concerns that are causing pilots to consider leaving the military.

           We are sending copies of this report to Senator Wayne Allard, Chairman, and Senator Max Cleland,
           Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, Senate Committee on Armed
           Services; Senator Ted Stevens, Chairman, and Senator Daniel K. Inouye, Ranking Minority Member,
           Subcommittee on Defense, Senate Committee on Appropriations; and Representative Jerry Lewis,
           Chairman, and Representative John P. Murtha, Ranking Minority Member, Subcommittee on Defense,
           House Committee on Appropriations. We are also sending copies of this report to the Honorable
           William S. Cohen, Secretary of Defense; the Honorable Lewis Caldera, Secretary of the Army; the
           Honorable John H. Dalton, Secretary of the Navy; the Honorable F. Whitten Peters, Secretary of the
           Air Force; and General James L. Jones, Commandant of the Marine Corps. Copies will also be made
           available to others upon request.

           If you have any questions about this report, please contact Brenda S. Farrell or me at (202) 512-5140.
           Other key contributors to this report are listed in appendix III.




           Mark E. Gebicke
           Director, National Security
           Preparedness Issues
Executive Summary



Purpose      The Department of Defense (DOD) reported shortages of approximately
             2,000 pilots at the end of fiscal year 1998 and projected that shortages
             would continue for several years. Retaining qualified pilots is important not
             only to ensure that operational requirements can be met, but also to recoup
             the substantial investments the services make in training their pilots.

             Concerned about reports of pilot shortages, the Chairman and former
             Ranking Minority Member of the Subcommittee on Military Personnel,
             House Committee on Armed Services, asked GAO to review and identify
             reasons for the reported pilot shortages and offer solutions to address the
             issue. Specifically, GAO determined (1) the services’ reported and
             projected estimates of their pilot shortages, (2) the basis for the services’
             pilot requirements, (3) key factors that account for the reported pilot
             shortages, and (4) concerns that are causing pilots to consider leaving the
             military.1



Background   At the end of fiscal year 1998, DOD had about 28,000 active duty
             commissioned and warrant officer pilots. These included approximately
             13,300 pilots in the Air Force; 6,600 pilots in the Navy; 4,800 warrant officer
             pilots in the Army; and 3,300 pilots in the Marine Corps. The Army is the
             only service that uses warrant officers as pilots.

             Generally, DOD pilots follow career paths that require them to serve in both
             cockpit and nonflying positions. These positions range from operational
             positions that have a direct combat mission to nonoperational positions
             that exist to carry out support activities, training functions, and other
             noncombat related activities. Pilot requirements are based on cockpit and
             operational positions needing aviation expertise as well as on a number of
             nonflying positions needed to develop pilots’ leadership skills for
             advancement purposes. Additional considerations in establishing
             requirements include the need to permit sufficient time between
             deployments and the fact that a certain percentage of pilots will not be
             available for assignment at any given point in time due to factors such as
             education and training, medical conditions, and transfers between
             assignments.


             1
              GAO has several additional, ongoing reviews requested by Congress related to military personnel
             issues, including an analysis of data from a broad military personnel survey to be implemented later this
             year, a GAO survey of servicemembers in retention critical specialties, and an historical examination of
             military retention rates.




             Page 2                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                   Executive Summary




                   All pilot candidates must complete basic flight training, lasting 1 to 2 years,
                   to earn their initial qualifications, or wings. According to DOD, the cost to
                   train each military pilot through basic flight training is about $1 million; the
                   cost to fully train a pilot with the requisite operational experience can be
                   more than $9 million. These costs will vary significantly depending on the
                   type of aircraft.

                   Upon entering pilot training, pilots begin to receive aviation career
                   incentive pay (ACIP), commonly referred to as flight pay, which was
                   designed to attract and retain officers in a military aviation career. Once
                   pilots complete their initial aviation commitment of 6 to 8 years, the
                   services are further authorized to offer bonuses, called aviation
                   continuation pay (ACP), to encourage pilots to continue in their military
                   career beyond their initial obligation. Currently, the services are authorized
                   to offer ACP to pilots through 14 years of aviation service. Pending
                   legislation contains provisions that would authorize the services to
                   continue these ACP payments through a pilot’s 25th year of aviation service.
                   DOD’s pilots, whether assigned to flying or nonflying positions, are eligible
                   to receive both ACIP and ACP, provided they meet the other eligibility
                   criteria. ACIP can be as high as $840 a month. ACP is authorized up to
                   $25,000 a year; the largest bonus currently offered is $22,000 a year.



Results in Brief   The services currently report that no unit is deploying without 100 percent
                   of its pilots, and they believe that they will continue to be able to meet their
                   operational missions. The services are able to fill their operational cockpits
                   by extending some pilots on deployments and by sending senior pilots to
                   what have traditionally been junior cockpit positions. However, the Air
                   Force and the Navy, and to a lesser extent the Army and the Marine Corps,
                   are all reporting that they are unable to fill some nonflying positions that
                   they have designated for pilots. The services project that these shortages
                   will continue for several years but the extent of these shortages has not
                   been specifically determined. While the services have procedures to review
                   their requirements, they have not comprehensively assessed whether all of
                   their required positions truly need to be filled with active duty military
                   pilots. If other personnel could fill some of these nonflying positions, the
                   services could reduce their pilot requirements and thereby reduce their
                   reported shortages. DOD needs to clearly determine the magnitude of the
                   shortages and understand the extent to which the shortages are temporary
                   or longer lasting before the services implement wholesale and potentially
                   costly changes to their current aviator management systems.




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Executive Summary




The significance of reported and projected pilot shortages is difficult to
ascertain because the basis for current pilot requirements has not been
firmly established or documented. For example, while the Air Force has
examined its nonflying positions, established certain priorities, and made
the decision to leave more than 1,000 positions reserved for pilots unfilled,
it has not formally transferred the 1,000 empty positions to other
communities and is still carrying them as pilot requirements. The services
have not sufficiently explained which nonflying positions active duty pilots
must fill nor have they classified positions according to their operational
nature or designated which positions are needed for career advancement
purposes. In addition, the Air Force was unable to break down its data on
pilot requirements and inventories in a way that would allow this type of
comprehensive assessment. Without such information, the services cannot
easily evaluate which positions it must fill on a priority basis or assess
whether other personnel such as retired military personnel, reservists,
warrant officers, military personnel who are not pilots, DOD civilians, or
contractors could fill some positions in times of shortages.

Although data on pilot requirements is incomplete, GAO identified three
key factors that are contributing to the services’ reported and projected
pilot shortfalls. First, the Air Force and the Navy reduced the number of
pilots they recruited during the personnel reductions that occurred through
most of the 1990s. This action has unintentionally contributed to an
insufficient number of pilots to fill the overall current pilot requirements.
Second, the Navy and the Marine Corps have experienced delays in their
training pipelines due to problems in coordinating training phases, a lack of
spare parts, and other factors. These delays have increased training times
and reduced the number of pilots available for their first assignments.
Third, many pilots are leaving the military before retirement since today’s
economy provides many career opportunities for pilots in private industry.
The first two factors have resulted in what may be temporary shortages
since the number of pilots entering pilot training has increased and the
Navy and the Marine Corps are addressing the training backlog.

Pilots are reporting a number of concerns that are leading them to consider
leaving the military—the high pace of operations, inadequate spare parts
and equipment to effectively do their jobs, and dissatisfaction with
leadership that, in their view, too easily accepts unacceptable demands on
service personnel. Although these concerns are not unique to pilots, GAO
identified two concerns that have particular relevance to pilots. First, many
pilots are now being asked to remain in cockpit positions, which means
they are not being given the opportunity to serve in other types of



Page 4                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                         Executive Summary




                         career-enhancing positions. Some of these pilots have become concerned
                         that they will not be competitive for promotion. In contrast, some pilots are
                         pleased to be able to spend more time in the cockpit and have, in fact,
                         expressed their dissatisfaction with assignments that take them away from
                         flying. Both the Air Force and the Navy have considered fly-only career
                         tracks in the past, but to date neither has adopted options that would
                         match individuals who wish to fly additional duty with extra flying duty or
                         instituted a fly-only career track that might deal more permanently with
                         cyclical shortages.

                         A second concern is the ACP. A pilot’s decision to accept a bonus no longer
                         provides assurance that the pilot will stay in the military until the pilot is
                         eligible to retire. Chief complaints voiced by pilots are that the ACP
                         eligibility dates are outdated and that the end of the bonus payment at year
                         14 represents a cut in pay. Pending legislation, originally requested by DOD,
                         would address this concern by giving the services the flexibility to offer
                         bonus payments through a pilot’s 25th year of aviation service.

                         GAO is making a number of recommendations to promote more accurate
                         data on pilot requirements. These recommendations are intended to help
                         the services identify opportunities to reduce their pilot requirements and,
                         in doing so, reduce their reported shortages. GAO is also making
                         recommendations to address pilot concerns that are causing pilots to
                         consider leaving the military.



Principal Findings


The Air Force and the    The services currently report that they are able to fill their operational
                         positions and that no unit is deploying without 100 percent of its pilots. The
Navy Are Reporting the   services have been able to fill their operational cockpits by extending some
Greatest Pilot           pilots on deployments and by sending senior pilots to positions formerly
                         filled by more junior servicemembers. As a result, the current reported
Shortages                shortages are occurring primarily in the nonoperational flying and support
                         positions.

                         The Air Force and the Navy are reporting the greatest shortages; within
                         these two services, the shortages are more apparent in some pilot
                         specialties than in others. At the end of fiscal year 1998, the Air Force
                         projected that its greatest shortages would occur during fiscal years 2002 to



                         Page 5                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                       Executive Summary




                       2007, primarily among its fighter, tactical airlift, and bomber pilots. The Air
                       Force projected overall shortages of between 1,900 and 2,155 pilots, or
                       between 14 and 16 percent of its pilot requirements. Fighter pilot shortages
                       were projected to reach 820 pilots, or 17 percent of its fighter pilot
                       requirements. Tactical airlift pilot shortages were projected to reach
                       311 pilots, or 15 percent of the tactical airlift pilot requirements. Likewise,
                       the Air Force projected a shortage of 294 bomber pilots, or 28 percent of
                       the bomber force pilot requirements. Despite these reported shortages, the
                       Air Force believes that it will be able to continue to fill its operational
                       cockpit positions and that shortages will occur in nonoperational positions.

                       The Navy believes that it experienced its greatest shortage of 1,153 pilots in
                       fiscal year 1998, though it projects that a shortage will continue indefinitely.
                       The Navy’s shortage of 1,153 pilots, out of a requirement of 7,712 pilots,
                       represented about 15 percent of its pilot requirements. In fiscal year 1998,
                       the Navy was short 536 helicopter pilots, or 17 percent of its helicopter
                       pilot requirements. In the case of propeller aircraft, the Navy was short
                       311 pilots, or 17 percent of its propeller aircraft pilot requirements. In the
                       jet community, the Navy was short 216 pilots, representing about
                       10 percent of its jet pilot requirements. As in the Air Force, nonoperational
                       positions will continue to be most affected by the shortages.



Basis for Pilot        Although the Air Force and the Navy are reporting shortages and predicting
                       a continuation of those shortages, the services have not comprehensively
Requirements Has Not   assessed whether all of their required positions need to be filled with active
Been Clearly           duty military pilots. Currently, the Air Force’s nonflying positions represent
                       slightly more than 20 percent of its total pilot requirements and the Navy’s
Established or         nonflying positions represent 22 percent of its pilot inventory. These figures
Documented             lack precision, however, because this type of breakdown does not capture
                       the extent to which the flying and nonflying positions carry an associated
                       operational or combat-related function as opposed to a nonoperational or
                       support function. Disparate databases do not permit these services to
                       uniformly report data on their pilot requirements and inventories nor do
                       they enable the services to identify any imbalances in the various types of
                       positions. In addition, job descriptions do not clearly explain why positions
                       require active duty military pilots. If some positions could be filled with
                       other personnel—such as navigators, warrant officers, retired military
                       personnel, DOD civilians, contractors or reservists with the required
                       aviation expertise—active duty pilot requirements, and thereby shortages,
                       could be reduced. It is also possible that aviation expertise, while desirable,
                       might not be absolutely necessary for some positions.



                       Page 6                                         GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                      Executive Summary




                      Predictions about future shortages must also be viewed within the
                      limitations under which such predictions are made. Historically, pilot
                      shortages have been recurrent and difficult to predict. For example, the Air
                      Force revised its projections in April 1999 and is now projecting 355 fewer
                      shortages than were projected at the end of fiscal year 1998.



Several Factors Are   GAO has identified three factors that are contributing to the services’
                      reported shortages. First, the Air Force and the Navy reduced the number
Contributing to       of pilots they recruited during the reductions in force during the 1990s to
Reported Shortages    avoid the involuntary separation of pilots already in the force. This decision
                      unintentionally contributed to an insufficient number of pilots to fill the
                      overall current pilot requirements. Consequently, certain year groups are
                      atypically small and current aviation personnel managers are challenged to
                      find ways to fill requirements as this population matures through the
                      workforce. The Air Force, for example, reduced active duty pilot
                      accessions from more than 1,500 in fiscal year 1990 to approximately 500
                      annually during fiscal years 1994 to 1996. Recognizing that it needed to
                      increase accessions, the Air Force has steadily increased its pilot
                      production since that time. In fiscal year 1990, the Navy accessed
                      1,039 pilots; in fiscal year 1994 the Navy accessed only 471 pilots but has
                      increased accessions since then.

                      Second, the Navy and the Marine Corps, which share the same pilot
                      training facility, have experienced training delays due to problems in
                      coordinating training phases, a lack of spare parts, and other factors. As a
                      result, pilots have been delayed in reporting to their first operational
                      assignments by as many as 40 weeks. The delays have left entry-level
                      positions empty, and the requirement for new ensigns and lieutenants is
                      going unmet.

                      Finally, pilots state that factors, such as a good job market, are making a
                      career in private industry more attractive. Civilian airlines are experiencing
                      an increased demand for pilots, and projections show this demand for
                      experienced military pilots will likely continue. The airlines can ultimately
                      pay greater salaries with less stringent schedules than the services.
                      According to the Air Force, a pilot who currently leaves the military with
                      16 years of service is typically earning a regular military compensation of




                      Page 7                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                       Executive Summary




                       about $78,000 a year, or more, depending on the location.2 Although it will
                       take the pilot more than 5 years to earn a comparable salary, since newly
                       hired pilots start at the bottom in private industry, that same pilot could
                       potentially earn as much as $160,000 a year before retiring at age 60.



Pilots’ Concerns Are   The services have conducted studies of personnel matters during the past
                       few years. While not all of the results are projectable to the entire pilot
Contributing to Low    population, they did identify sources of frustration for military pilots. In
Retention              addition, GAO administered questionnaires to more than 180 pilots in the
                       Air Force and in the Navy from several different aviation career specialties.
                       Although GAO also cannot project to the universe of pilots from this
                       limited number, the responses were similar to the factors the services have
                       identified in their studies. DOD surveys show that along with other military
                       personnel, pilots are concerned about retirement and health care benefits,
                       the high pace of operations, inadequate spare parts and equipment to
                       effectively do their jobs, and dissatisfaction with leadership that, in their
                       view, too easily accepts unacceptable demands on service personnel.
                       However, certain concerns are specific to pilots. For example, a number of
                       pilots raised concerns about the lack of opportunities for career
                       development and promotions. While some pilots expressed concerns about
                       the reduced opportunities for pilots to seek nonflying positions to broaden
                       their experience and prepare for greater responsibilities, others expressed
                       their desire to spend their careers exclusively in the cockpit.

                       Pilots also raised concerns about the ineffectiveness of the current
                       retention bonus system that stops after 14 years of aviation service. Many
                       pilots did not view the current bonus system as a viable retention tool. In
                       fact, a pilot’s decision to accept a bonus no longer provides the services
                       with the assurance that the pilot will stay in the military until the pilot is
                       eligible to retire at 20 years of service. The Air Force, for example, has seen
                       increasing numbers of pilots resign after 14 years of service during the past
                       4 years. A chief complaint voiced by pilots is that the ACP eligibility dates
                       are based on outdated assumptions. While it was previously assumed that
                       pilots would stay until retirement once they reached 14 years of service,
                       some pilots told us that they now see the end of the bonus payment at year
                       14 as a cut in pay and are more likely to leave their military service rather


                       2
                        In computing a pilot’s regular military compensation, the Air Force includes basic pay, basic allowance
                       for subsistence (nontaxed), basic allowance for housing (also nontaxed), and the equivalent of the tax
                       advantage that is derived from these last two categories.




                       Page 8                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                  Executive Summary




                  than stay. DOD has developed a proposal that would authorize the services
                  to continue bonus payments through a pilot’s 25th year of aviation service.
                  Provisions substantially similar to the DOD proposal are contained in
                  pending legislation. The proposed legislation, if approved, will give the
                  services the flexibility to implement their new bonus programs in a manner
                  that will address the pilots’ concerns. The Navy has already developed a
                  model to offer bonuses to pilots at key career decision points throughout
                  their careers in order to be a true bonus rather than an entitlement.
                  However, GAO believes that the services might be able to phase out the
                  bonus earlier than a pilot’s 25th year of aviation service since pilots are
                  rarely in the cockpit at that point in their careers.



Recommendations   GAO recommends that the Secretary of Defense direct the services to take
                  the following actions:

                  • Develop criteria and detailed job descriptions for designating positions
                    to be filled with pilots, classify the positions according to their
                    operational and flying status, and specify the types of duties that make
                    pilots essential. Moreover, for jobs that are held for pilots based on
                    reasons of career development and rotation, descriptions should
                    contain a clear justification.
                  • Using the newly developed criteria, analyze each pilot position to
                    identify those positions where active duty pilots are not required and
                    take the necessary actions to fill those positions with other personnel
                    possessing appropriate expertise, such as warrant officers, retired
                    military, contractors, DOD civilians, reservists, or navigators.
                  • Revise their databases so that the services can (1) uniformly report data
                    on future pilot requirements and inventories and (2) identify any
                    imbalances in their operational and nonoperational flying and nonflying
                    positions.

                  To the extent that shortages exist after these recommendations are
                  implemented, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the
                  services to take the following actions:

                  • More fully evaluate the merits of a fly-only career path for a segment of
                    the pilot community. In the short term, identify those pilots desiring
                    additional flying duty and match them to this extra duty to the extent
                    possible.
                  • If the pending legislation to extend the ACP is enacted, only offer the
                    bonus to those pilots who make affirmative decisions to continue their



                  Page 9                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                      Executive Summary




                         career rather than to all pilots reaching specified gates. This would
                         preclude the bonus program from being interpreted as an entitlement.



Agency Comments and   In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD partially agreed with
                      four of GAO’s five recommendations, but stated that GAO’s executive
GAO’s Evaluation      summary did not represent the sum and substance of the report as a whole
                      in that it did not reflect the positive steps DOD had taken to address pilot
                      issues. DOD also commented that GAO’s recommendations were actually
                      refinements to DOD’s own initiatives. GAO added information to its
                      executive summary to acknowledge DOD’s actions and to better explain
                      how GAO’s recommended actions differ from ongoing efforts.

                      In disagreeing with GAO’s fifth recommendation about the proposed bonus
                      system DOD said that its current bonus systems are tied precisely to key
                      career decision points and do not occur at arbitrary points in time, as GAO
                      had originally suggested. GAO agrees that arbitrary is not a fair
                      characterization of these points in time and has deleted this reference.
                      GAO has revised its recommendation to better reflect its intent that the
                      bonus system be offered to pilots as a reward for affirmative career
                      decisions rather than being interpreted as an entitlement. In addition, GAO
                      has clarified its report to emphasize that some assumptions about the
                      success of bonuses in encouraging pilots to stay until retirement may be
                      outdated and should be revisited.

                      In partially agreeing with GAO’s other recommendations, DOD outlined
                      existing and ongoing activities that it believes satisfy the intent of GAO’s
                      recommendations. Although DOD has taken positive steps to address pilot
                      issues, GAO believes that DOD needs to build on these steps by
                      establishing criteria for designating positions for pilots and identifying
                      specific positions where active duty pilots are not needed. These actions
                      would enable DOD to more systematically identify how positions could be
                      filled with other personnel.

                      DOD also suggested several technical changes to the draft, which we have
                      incorporated where appropriate. DOD’s comments are presented in their
                      entirety in appendix II.




                      Page 10                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Page 11   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Contents



Letter                                                                                               1


Executive Summary                                                                                    2


Chapter 1                Requirements Include Flying and Nonflying Positions                        16
                         The Services Use Special Pays to Retain Their Pilots                       18
Introduction             Objectives, Scope, and Methodology                                         20


Chapter 2                The Services Report That They Can Fill Their Operational
                            Requirements                                                            23
The Air Force and the    Current and Predicted Pilot Shortages                                      24
Navy Are Reporting the   Pilot Shortages Are Recurrent and Difficult to Predict                     29
Greatest Pilot
Shortages

Chapter 3                The Services Reserve Nonflying Positions for Pilots for a
                           Number of Reasons                                                        31
Opportunities May        Job Descriptions for Nonflying Positions Do Not Fully
Exist to Reassess and      Explain the Requirement for Pilots                                       32
                         Personnel Other Than Active Duty Pilots Might Be Able to
Better Document Pilot      Fill Some Requirements                                                   32
Requirements             Current Reporting of Flying and Nonflying Positions Has
                           Limited Utility                                                          34


Chapter 4                The Air Force and the Navy Reduced Pilot Accessions in the
                           1990s                                                                    39
Several Factors Are      The Navy and the Marine Corps Have Experienced Significant
Contributing to            Delays in Their Training Pipelines                                       42
                         Today’s Economy Provides Pilots With Civilian Job Opportunities            44
Reported Pilot
Shortages

Chapter 5                Indicators Show a Retention Problem                                        48
                         Surveys Show Consistent Areas of Dissatisfaction                           49
Pilot Concerns Are
Contributing to Low
Retention

                         Page 12                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                  Contents




Chapter 6         Conclusions                                                                 57
                  Recommendations                                                             60
Conclusions and   Agency Comments and Our Evaluation                                          61
Recommendations
Appendixes        Appendix I: Pilot Retention Measurements                                    64
                  Appendix II: Comments From the Department of Defense                        68
                  Appendix III: GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                        72



Tables            Table 1.1: ACP by Service (fiscal year 1999)                                20
                  Table 2.1: Key Projected Air Force Pilot Shortages, Fiscal Year 2007        26
                  Table 2.2: Key Navy Pilot Shortages, Fiscal Year 1998                       26



Figures           Figure 2.1: U.S. Air Force Pilot Requirements Versus Inventory,
                    Fiscal Years 1992-2009                                                    25
                  Figure 2.2: U.S. Navy Pilot Requirements Versus Inventory,
                    Fiscal Years 1992-2009a                                                   28
                  Figure 3.1: Distribution of Inventory of Navy Pilots by Category,
                    as of April 1999                                                          36
                  Figure 3.2: Navy Pilot Positions and Inventories                            37
                  Figure 4.1: U.S. Air Force Pilot Goals and Accessions, Fiscal Years
                    1988-2004                                                                 40
                  Figure 4.2: U.S. Navy Pilot Goals and Accessions, Fiscal Years
                    1988-2005                                                                 41
                  Figure 4.3: Naval Undergraduate Pilot Training Pipeline                     43
                  Figure I.1: Navy and Air Force Cumulative Continuation Rates,
                    Fiscal Years 1989-98                                                      65
                  Figure I.2: Navy and Air Force Pilot ACP Take-Rates, Fiscal Years
                    1989-98                                                                   67




                  Page 13                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Contents




Abbreviations

ACIP        aviation career incentive pay
ACP         aviation continuation pay
AIR, Inc.   Aviation Information Resources, Incorporated
ALPA        Air Line Pilots Association
DOD         Department of Defense
UPAS        Universal Pilot Application Service



Page 14                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Page 15   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 1

Introduction                                                                                                                     Chap1
                                                                                                                                     ter




                       Military pilots serve in both flying and nonflying positions, and the services
                       take several factors into account when they establish their pilot
                       requirements. It takes several years and millions of dollars to produce
                       pilots who are fully trained to serve in operational units. Due to the high
                       costs associated with each loss of a pilot from the military, the services rely
                       on incentive pays to retain their qualified pilots.



Requirements Include   At the end of fiscal year 1998, the Department of Defense (DOD) reported
                       that it had about 28,000 active duty commissioned and warrant officer
Flying and Nonflying   pilots.1 These included approximately 13,300 pilots in the Air Force,
Positions              6,600 pilots in the Navy, 4,800 warrant officer pilots in the Army, and
                       3,300 pilots in the Marine Corps. The Army is the only service that uses
                       warrant officers.2

                       The services include cockpit and nonflying positions when they determine
                       their pilot requirements and take several factors into account. To determine
                       the number of pilots they need to fill their operational cockpits, the
                       services follow Defense guidance that defines the missions upon which
                       they are to establish their operational requirements. From this guidance,
                       the services calculate the structure of their squadrons and the number of
                       crews for each aircraft by considering such things as the frequency and
                       duration of sorties, time to repair aircraft and conduct routine
                       maintenance, and crew rest time. The services also consider the number of
                       additional pilots they need to support the squadron missions. These latter
                       pilot requirements include positions such as squadron commanders,
                       operations officers, squadron instructors, and safety officers.

                       Requirements for a given combat aircraft are fairly consistent; however,
                       cockpit requirements for support aircraft will vary for specific types of
                       aircraft, depending on their mission. For example, an Air Force C-9 aircraft
                       used for medical evacuations within the Atlantic Command has a crew-seat
                       ratio of three pilots per seat, whereas the same aircraft used for
                       transporting personnel within the same command has a crew-seat ratio of


                       1
                        This figure does not include pilots beyond paygrade O-5. It also does not include student pilots who are
                       in basic flight training and have not earned their wings.
                       2
                        Army warrant officers usually enter the service as enlisted personnel and are selected, based on their
                       superior performance, to serve as specialists in the warrant officer community. In some cases,
                       personnel will join the service and immediately enter the warrant officer program. Warrant and
                       commissioned officers follow separate career paths and are subject to separate pay scales. Warrant
                       officer pilots typically fly throughout their careers.




                       Page 16                                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 1
Introduction




two pilots per seat. Air Force officials indicated that the pilot requirement
for the medical evacuation aircraft is greater to enable the aircraft to
operate around the clock in a combat environment. The total number of
pilots needed to fill the cockpits is determined by multiplying the crew-seat
ratio by the number of seats in the cockpit (which in the case of the C-9 is
two). Therefore, each aircraft used for medical evacuations requires six
pilots, and each aircraft used to transport personnel requires four pilots.
This figure is then multiplied by the number of aircraft required to carry out
a particular mission. For example, if 10 C-9 aircraft are needed for medical
evacuations, the Air Force will have a requirement for 60 pilots. If
10 aircraft are needed to transport personnel, the Air Force will have a
requirement for 40 pilots to operate the same number of aircraft.

Air Force C-130 aircraft used for search and rescue or electronic jamming
have a crew-seat ratio of two pilots per seat. The C-130 aircraft has two
cockpit pilot positions. Therefore, the total pilot requirement is four. If
10 C-130 aircraft are required to carry out search and rescue missions, the
Air Force will have a requirement for 40 pilots. Alternatively, C-130 aircraft
used in special operations have crew-seat ratios of 1.5 pilots per seat,
reducing the pilot requirement for each aircraft to three. According to Air
Force officials, the primary reason for the difference in the crew-seat ratios
for these C-130 aircraft is the expected lower number of hours that the
aircraft will be used each day. If 10 C-130 aircraft are required to carry out
special operations, the Air Force will have a requirement for 30 pilots.

In contrast, crew-seat ratios for Air Force fighter aircraft do not show this
variance because their missions do not change. For example, Air Force
data for fiscal years 1997 through 2004 show a constant crew-seat ratio of
1.25 for F-15 and F-16 aircraft.

After the services determine their operational cockpit positions, they
consider a number of other factors to determine their remaining
requirements. These factors, which are not as quantitative as those that are
used to determine operational cockpit requirements, include requirements
to send pilots to operational staffs, joint duty assignments, assignments to
the Office of the Secretary of Defense, staff positions for career
enhancement, and pilot instructor positions. These requirements are added
to the number of pilots required to meet operational flying missions.

The services anticipate that a certain percentage of their pilots will not be
available for assignment at any given point in time due to factors such as
education and training, medical conditions, and transfers between



Page 17                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                         Chapter 1
                         Introduction




                         assignments, and adjust their total pilot requirements upward accordingly.
                         Currently, the Air Force uses a factor of 12 percent and the Navy uses a
                         factor of 10 percent.



The Services Use         Under ideal conditions, it takes DOD approximately 1½ to 2½ years,
                         depending on the type of aircraft, to produce a fully trained, operational
Special Pays to Retain   pilot. All military pilots, whether they will fly fixed- or rotary-wing aircraft,
Their Pilots             receive about 1 to 2 years of undergraduate pilot training. After completing
                         their undergraduate pilot training and receiving their wings, graduates in all
                         of the services then receive additional advanced specialized aircraft
                         training before they are assigned to an operational unit.

                         The cost of a pilot’s training and flying experience varies depending on the
                         type of aircraft. According to DOD, the cost to train each military pilot
                         through basic flight training is about $1 million, and the cost to fully train a
                         pilot with the requisite operational experience can be more than $9 million.
                         In exchange for their expensive training, each pilot incurs a commitment to
                         serve an additional 6 to 8 years of aviation service following pilot training.3
                         For example, the Air Force estimates a training cost of slightly more than
                         $1 million to get an F-15 pilot through initial training and another $2 million
                         through flight lead/aircraft commander qualifications. For an F-15 pilot
                         separating at the end of the 8-year service obligation, the Air Force
                         estimates that it will forfeit an investment of about $8 million. These figures
                         include those costs associated with operating and maintaining the pilot
                         training commands as well as those costs associated with operating and
                         maintaining the aircraft used for training purposes in the operational
                         squadrons. The figures also include the pay and allowances for command,
                         staff, and support personnel at the training commands, but do not include
                         the pay and allowances of the pilots in training. The Army estimates that it
                         has invested about $2 million by the time an Apache helicopter pilot
                         completes the service obligation.

                         In view of the investment in training its pilots, the services currently rely on
                         a system of special pays to promote retention and avoid the cost of
                         replacing pilots who leave. Upon entering basic flight training, each new
                         pilot currently begins to receive aviation career incentive pay (ACIP),


                         3
                          The Air Force will raise the commitment to 10 years beginning in fiscal year 2000. Pilots can also incur
                         other obligations to serve in the military at various points in their military careers, usually for shorter
                         periods of time, for such things as accepting orders to new assignments or attending particular schools.




                         Page 18                                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 1
Introduction




commonly referred to as flight pay. The ACIP, which was designed to
attract and retain officers in a military aviation career, starts at $125 a
month for up to 2 years of service and rises over the years to $840 a month
for a pilot with 15 to 23 years of aviation service. For the period of service
after 22 years, the amount gradually decreases until it reaches $250 a
month after 25 years of service.

Once pilots complete their initial aviation commitment, the services are
authorized to offer bonuses, called aviation continuation pay (ACP), to
encourage them to continue in their military career beyond the initial
aviation obligation. The services have offered this incentive even in those
cases where pilots have already incurred an additional obligation to serve
the military for a few more years.4 Current law5 authorizes the services to
pay ACP bonuses of up to $25,000 per year to aviators for each additional
year of commitment if they have completed between 6 and 13 years of
aviation service and agree to remain on active duty to complete 14 years of
aviation service. Currently, the Air Force offers $22,000 per year to all pilots
with the required years of aviation service who sign a commitment to stay
in the service 5 additional years and smaller dollar amounts to those who
sign a commitment for 1, 2, or 3 years. The Marine Corps offers $12,000 a
year to pilots in targeted aircraft specialties where the shortages are
critical. The Navy targeted its ACP bonuses to critically short pilot
communities in the past but is now offering a flat 2-year bonus of
$12,000 per year to all eligible pilots. The Army began offering aviation
continuation pay for the first time in fiscal year 1999. Currently, the Army is
offering $12,000 a year to Apache helicopter pilots. Table 1.1 presents the
fiscal year 1999 ACP program by service.




4
We previously reported on the ACP bonus in our report entitled Aviation Continuation Pay: Some
Bonuses Are Inappropriate Because of Prior Service Obligations (GAO/NSIAD-95-30, Oct. 14, 1994).
5
37 U.S.C. 301b.




Page 19                                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                         Chapter 1
                         Introduction




                         Table 1.1: ACP by Service (fiscal year 1999)

                                               Annual
                         Service              payment      Duration         Eligibility
                                                                       a
                         Air Force             $22,000     Long term        All eligible pilots
                                               $12,000     3 years

                                                 $9,000    2 years

                                                 $6,000    1 year
                         Navy                  $12,000     2 years          All eligible pilots and naval flight officers
                         Marine                            Long term        Pilots and naval flight officers in critically
                         Corps                 $12,000                      short aircraft specialties
                         Army                  $12,000     Long term        Apache pilots
                         a
                          Long term is defined as an agreement to stay through 14 years of aviation service.
                         Source: GAO from service data.


                         Military pilots, whether assigned to flying or nonflying positions, are
                         eligible to receive both ACIP and ACP, provided they meet the other
                         eligibility criteria.



Objectives, Scope, and   In response to concerns of the Chairman and former Ranking Minority
                         Member, Subcommittee on Military Personnel, House Committee on Armed
Methodology              Services, about the potential impact of pilot shortages, we reviewed and
                         identified reasons for the pilot shortages and solutions to alleviate the
                         shortages. Specifically, we determined (1) the services’ reported and
                         projected estimates of their pilot shortages, (2) the basis for the services’
                         pilot requirements, (3) key factors that account for the reported pilot
                         shortages, and (4) concerns that are causing pilots to consider leaving the
                         military.

                         To determine the extent of projected pilot shortages, we gathered data on
                         pilot shortages from each of the services. We also gathered data on past
                         shortages so that we could identify trends and place an historical
                         perspective on the projected shortages. We concentrated on Air Force and
                         Navy data when we conducted our analyses because these two services are
                         reporting the greatest number of pilot shortages. Furthermore, we limited
                         our scope to active duty pilots.

                         To determine the basis for pilot requirements, we documented the
                         procedures used in determining requirements and what process the
                         services follow to validate these requirements. In pursuing this objective,



                         Page 20                                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 1
Introduction




we discussed methodologies with officials from the Office of the Secretary
of Defense and the military services. We gathered data on Air Force and
Navy flying and nonflying pilot requirements and worked closely with
service officials to resolve discrepancies that appeared in different data
sets that the services provided to us. In addition, we conducted our own
analysis to categorize the flying and nonflying pilot positions according to
whether they were operational or nonoperational. Our definition of
operational positions, whether flying or nonflying, included those positions
that exist primarily for conducting and supporting combat activity. Our
definition of nonoperational positions included those positions that exist
primarily to carry out support activities, training functions, and other
noncombat related activities. We also reviewed 275 Air Force justifications
for positions to be filled by active duty military pilots.

To identify factors contributing to reported shortages, we met with officials
in each of the services to gain their perspectives on factors contributing to
pilot shortages. In addition, we reviewed past retention studies conducted
by the Congressional Research Service, the Congressional Budget Office,
and private research organizations including the Commonwealth Institute
and RAND.

To analyze the reasons why pilots are leaving the service, we reviewed
quality-of-life surveys conducted by the Air Force and the Navy. In addition,
to corroborate the results of these surveys, we administered our own
questionnaire to more than 180 pilots in the Air Force and the Navy at
5 installations and conducted follow-on discussions with more than 120 of
the pilots who responded to our questionnaire.6 We selected the
installations in order to talk to pilots in a number of different specialties.
These included Air Force fighter and tactical airlift pilots and Navy
helicopter pilots, jet pilots, and propeller aircraft pilots. While we cannot
project our results to the universe of pilots from our limited number of
questionnaires, the responses we received were consistent with existing
studies, and the comments from the participants were instructive.

To determine the extent to which job opportunities exist for military pilots
with the commercial airlines, we met with representatives from private
industry, including the Air Line Pilots Association (ALPA) and the Universal
Pilot Application Service (UPAS) and gathered data from Aviation
Information Resources, Inc. (AIR, Inc.).


6
Some navigators were included in these discussions.




Page 21                                               GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 1
Introduction




To help us identify any lessons learned and possibilities for solutions from
foreign militaries, we conducted interviews with defense officials from the
German, British, and Australian embassies in Washington, D.C., and the
Canadian National Defense Forces in Ottawa, Ontario. We also consulted
the government auditing agencies of Germany, Australia, Canada, and
Britain.

We performed our work at the following locations:
Directorate for Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management, Office of the
 Assistant Secretary of Defense, Washington, D.C.;
Air Force Personnel Center, Randolph Air Force Base, Texas;
Naval Bureau of Personnel, Arlington, Virginia;
Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, Arlington, Virginia;
Headquarters, Marine Corps, Quantico, Virginia;
Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Tucson, Arizona;
Langley AFB, Norfolk, Virginia;
Naval Air Station, Cecil Field, Florida;
Naval Air Station, Jacksonville, Florida; and
Naval Station, Mayport, Florida.

We conducted our review between July 1998 and June 1999 in accordance
with generally accepted government auditing standards.




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Chapter 2

The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
Greatest Pilot Shortages                                                                                 Chap2
                                                                                                             ter




                      The services currently report that no unit is deploying without 100 percent
                      of its pilots, and they believe that they will continue to be able to meet their
                      operational missions. The services have been able to meet their operational
                      commitments by sending senior pilots back to junior positions and having
                      pilots spend more time on deployments. In all communities, therefore, the
                      shortages are occurring almost exclusively in nonoperational positions.

                      Currently, the Air Force and the Navy are reporting the greatest number of
                      pilot shortages, and within these two services, the shortages are more
                      apparent in some pilot specialties than in others. The two services project
                      that their pilot shortages in nonflying positions will continue for the next
                      several years, but that they will continue to be able to fill their operational
                      cockpits. It is important to note, however, that shortages are historically
                      recurrent and the services are limited in their ability to accurately project
                      future pilot inventories.



The Services Report   The services currently report that they are able to fill their operational
                      flying positions and that no unit is deploying without 100 percent of its
That They Can Fill    pilots. The services report that this is at some cost, however, as they are
Their Operational     only able to fill their flying positions by sending pilots back into the cockpit
                      at higher ranks and having pilots spend more time on deployments. As a
Requirements          result of these actions, the shortages are occurring primarily in nonflying
                      positions, and the services believe that they will continue to be able to fill
                      their operational flying positions.

                      Air Force officials have made cockpit positions a staffing priority, and they
                      are making a concerted effort to fill these positions before they fill their
                      nonflying positions. The Air Force is filling its cockpit positions by sending
                      senior-graded pilots back into the cockpit. Currently, approximately 3,100
                      pilots, or 54 percent of majors and lieutenant colonels, are filling junior
                      cockpit positions normally filled by lieutenants and captains. Under ideal
                      conditions, these pilots would be assigned to career development
                      assignments to prepare them for future leadership positions. Generally,
                      when a pilot reaches the major and lieutenant colonel level, the pilot would
                      serve in positions such as squadron commander or operations officer.

                      The Chief of Naval Operations has set a goal that no unit will deploy
                      without 100 percent of its required pilots—and the Navy has reported that
                      no operational cockpit is going empty. The Navy has worked to fill its
                      cockpits by extending the length of time that first tour operational pilots
                      spend on sea tours from 36 to 42 months and by reducing the length of time



                      Page 23                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                           Chapter 2
                           The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
                           Greatest Pilot Shortages




                           a pilot spends in shore tours from 36 months to 30 months. To accomplish
                           this, the Navy is leaving some nonflying billets empty.



Current and Predicted      Despite being able to fill their operational positions, each of the services is
                           reporting pilot shortages, but to varying degrees. At the end of fiscal
Pilot Shortages            year 1998, the Air Force anticipated that its greatest shortages would occur
                           in fiscal year 2007, while the Navy reported that its greatest shortages
                           already occurred in fiscal year 1998. The Army is only experiencing
                           significant shortages within its Apache helicopter pilot community and
                           believes it can address the shortages with management tools already
                           available to it. The Marine Corps anticipates increasing shortages of
                           fixed-wing pilots until fiscal year 2005. As noted, all services have given
                           priority to filling their operational flying positions, and as a result,
                           shortages are occurring almost exclusively in nonoperational positions.


Air Force Shortages Will   At the end of fiscal year 1998, the Air Force reported that it had a shortage
Peak in Fiscal Year 2007   of 648 pilots, or 5 percent of its 13,986 pilot requirement. The shortages
                           were in the fighter and tactical airlift pilot communities. The fighter pilot
                           specialty had a requirement of 4,876 pilots, with a shortage of 499, or
                           10 percent of fighter pilot requirements. Tactical airlift pilot requirements
                           were 2,054, with a shortage of 113 pilots, or 6 percent of the tactical airlift
                           pilot requirements.

                           At the end of fiscal year 1998, the Air Force anticipated that its most critical
                           shortages would occur during fiscal years 2002 through 2007, when it
                           projected shortages of between 1,900 and 2,155 pilots, or between 14 and
                           16 percent of its overall pilot requirements. Figure 2.1 displays the actual
                           Air Force’s stated pilot requirements and its inventory for fiscal years 1992
                           through 1998 and projected requirements and inventory for fiscal
                           years 1999 through 2009. The divergence between requirements and the
                           supply of pilots that begins in 1997 can be attributed in part to the affects of
                           reduced pilot accessions in the early 1990s. This will be discussed in more
                           detail in chapter 4.




                           Page 24                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                                             Chapter 2
                                             The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
                                             Greatest Pilot Shortages




Figure 2.1: U.S. Air Force Pilot Requirements Versus Inventory, Fiscal Years 1992-2009

17,500


17,000


16,500


16,000


15,500


15,000


14,500


14,000


13,500


13,000


12,500


12,000


11,500
         1992   1993   1994   1995   1996   1997   1998   1999    2000    2001    2002    2003    2004    2005   2006   2007   2008   2009


                                                          Requirements            Inventory


                                             Note: Air Force data include both flying and nonflying positions.
                                             Source: GAO from fiscal year 1998 U.S. Air Force data.


                                             The Air Force projected that its greatest shortage would occur in fiscal
                                             year 2007, and would continue in the fighter and tactical airlift
                                             communities; the Air Force also projected that shortages will begin to
                                             emerge in bomber pilot communities, peaking in 2007. The Air Force
                                             projected shortages of 15 percent of its tactical airlift pilots, 17 percent of



                                             Page 25                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                           Chapter 2
                           The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
                           Greatest Pilot Shortages




                           its fighter pilots, and 28 percent of its bomber force pilot requirements.
                           Table 2.1 displays the key projected shortages for Air Force pilots in fiscal
                           year 2007.



                           Table 2.1: Key Projected Air Force Pilot Shortages, Fiscal Year 2007

                                                                                                                       Shortage as a
                                                                                Projected                              percentage of
                           Aircraft type              Requirementa              force size            Shortage          requirement
                           Tactical airlift                      2,015                1,704                  311                 15
                           Fighters                              4,715                3,895                  820                 17
                           Bombers                               1,049                  755                  294                 28
                           a
                               Includes both flying and nonflying requirements. All aircraft types are not included.
                           Source: U.S. Air Force data from end of fiscal year 1998.




Navy Shortages Peaked in   Navy data shows that its greatest shortage of pilots was in fiscal year 1998.
Fiscal Year 1998           The Navy’s shortage of 1,153 pilots, out of a requirement of 7,712 pilots,
                           represented about 15 percent of its pilot requirements. Navy data also
                           show that the greatest number of shortages occurred among those pilots
                           who fly helicopters, followed by those who fly propeller aircraft, and,
                           finally, jets. As shown in table 2.2, in fiscal year 1998, the Navy was short
                           10 percent of its requirements for jet pilots, 17 percent of its helicopter
                           pilot requirements, and 17 percent of its propeller aircraft pilot
                           requirements.



                           Table 2.2: Key Navy Pilot Shortages, Fiscal Year 1998

                                                                                                                       Shortage as a
                                                                                                                       percentage of
                           Aircraft type              Requirementa              Force size            Shortage          requirement
                           Jets                                  2,221                2,005                  216                 10
                           Helicopters                           3,195                2,659                  536                 17
                           Propeller aircraft                    1,845                1,534                  311                 17
                           a
                               Includes both flying and nonflying requirements. All aircraft types are not included.
                           Source: U.S. Navy data.


                           Over the next 5 years, the Navy projected that, if actions it is currently
                           taking are successful, its pilot shortages will dissipate, but not disappear.




                           Page 26                                                         GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
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The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
Greatest Pilot Shortages




The overall shortage of Navy pilots is projected to improve from 15 percent
to 8 percent by fiscal year 2004. The Navy projected that its propeller pilot
community will be slightly healthier, with a shortage of 213 pilots out of a
requirement of 1,845 pilots. This shortage represents 12 percent of the
Navy’s propeller pilot requirements, and shows an improvement from the
shortage of 17 percent that the Navy experienced in fiscal year 1998. The
jet pilot community is projected to improve slightly, from a shortage of
10 percent in fiscal year 1998 to 9 percent in fiscal year 2004, representing a
shortage of 189 pilots out of a fiscal year 2004 jet pilot requirement of
2,211 pilots. Finally, the helicopter community is projected to see the most
improvement, with its shortage declining from 17 percent in fiscal
year 1998 to 5 percent in fiscal year 2004, when the Navy projects it will be
short 161 pilots out of a requirement for 3,307 helicopter pilots. Figure 2.2
displays the Navy’s pilot requirements and inventory for fiscal years 1992
through 1998 and projected requirements and inventory for fiscal
years 1999 through 2009.




Page 27                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                                           Chapter 2
                                           The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
                                           Greatest Pilot Shortages




Figure 2.2: U.S. Navy Pilot Requirements Versus Inventory, Fiscal Years 1992-2009a
9,500



9,000



8,500



8,000



7,500



7,000



6,500



6,000



5,500



5,000
        1992   1993   1995   1996   1997   1998       1999    2000    2001     2002    2003    2004     2005    2006       2007   2008   2009

                                                             Requirements        Inventory


                                           a
                                               The Navy’s data from fiscal year 1994 was incomplete and is not included.
                                           Note: Navy data include both flying and nonflying positions.
                                           Source: GAO from U.S. Navy data and projections as of February 1999.




Army Shortages Are Limited                 According to Army data, in fiscal year 1998, the Army had an overall
to Apache Helicopter Pilots                requirement of 4,745 warrant officer pilots and an inventory of
                                           4,799 warrant officer pilots, for a surplus of 54 warrant officer pilots, or
                                           1 percent. At the end of fiscal year 1998, the Army reported a shortage of
                                           106 pilots out of a requirement of 1,059 pilots in its Apache helicopter pilot



                                           Page 28                                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
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                               The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
                               Greatest Pilot Shortages




                               force, or 10 percent. The Army projected that it would be able to meet its
                               future Apache helicopter pilot requirements by (1) offering the ACP
                               beginning in fiscal year 1999, (2) allowing certain pilots who were not
                               promoted to stay on active duty, and (3) allowing others who left the
                               service to return to active duty. The Army did not foresee a shortage for the
                               rest of its helicopter fleet.1



Marine Corps Fixed-wing        The Marine Corps reported an overall shortage of 406 pilots at the end of
Pilot Shortages Will Peak in   fiscal year 1998, representing a shortage of about 11 percent of its overall
                               requirement of 3,676 pilots. The Marine Corps reported shortages in its
Fiscal Year 2005               fixed-wing community–with a shortage of 311 pilots out of a requirement of
                               1,452 pilots, or 21 percent of requirements at the end of fiscal year 1998.
                               The rotary-wing community reported a shortage of 95 pilots out of a
                               requirement of 2,224 pilots, or about 4 percent of requirements.

                               The Marine Corps projected an increasing shortfall in the fixed-wing
                               community culminating in a shortage of 402 pilots, or 29 percent of its
                               requirement for 1,411 fixed-wing pilots in fiscal year 2005. Meanwhile, the
                               rotary-wing community is predicted to experience a surplus of 145 pilots,
                               or 7 percent above the 2,033 helicopter pilot requirements, in fiscal
                               year 2005.



Pilot Shortages Are            It is important to note that pilot shortages in general tend to be recurrent.
                               While the services undertake efforts to control the cycles of gains and
Recurrent and Difficult        losses in the pilot communities, the difficulties inherent in predicting the
to Predict                     behavior of individuals make these efforts particularly challenging for
                               personnel planners.

                               A previous GAO study shows that pilot shortages are not a new
                               phenomenon. In 1982, for example, we reported that the Navy experienced
                               or projected pilot shortages of between 10 and nearly 26 percent between
                               fiscal years 1977 and 1983.2 In that same report, we also found that the
                               Marine Corps experienced or projected a pilot shortage of between 3 and
                               14 percent during the same time frame. In addition, the Air Force

                               1
                                Unlike the other services, the Army has relatively few fixed-wing aircraft. The Army currently has
                               5,005 rotary-wing aircraft and 276 fixed-wing aircraft.
                               2
                                Millions Spent Needlessly in Navy and Marine Corps’ Aviation Bonus Program (GAO/FPCD-82-56,
                               Aug. 9, 1982).




                               Page 29                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
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The Air Force and the Navy Are Reporting the
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experienced pilot shortages in 7 of the fiscal years between fiscal year 1988
and fiscal year 1997, ranging from a high of 9 percent in fiscal year 1989 to a
low of slightly less than 1 percent in fiscal year 1992.

Because of the difficulties inherent in making predictions, DOD’s ability to
predict future inventories is also limited. For example, in 1988, DOD
reported to Congress that the Air Force had a shortage of about 1,300
mid-grade pilots. DOD further predicted that by fiscal year 1994, the Air
Force would be short 2,900 pilots. Instead of experiencing this shortage,
the Air Force had a surplus of 413 pilots, or about 3 percent of its
requirements, in fiscal year 1994. Finally, mid-fiscal year 1999 figures
demonstrate these points. For example, the Air Force now projects, as of
April 1999, that its shortages will not reach their nadir until fiscal year 2008
and at that point will be about 1,800 rather than the 2,155 that the Air Force
projected just 6 months before.




Page 30                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 3

Opportunities May Exist to Reassess and
Better Document Pilot Requirements                                                                         Chap3
                                                                                                               ter




                          The current and projected shortages reported by the services must be
                          viewed within the context of how they determine and document their pilot
                          requirements. Pilot requirements are based on many other factors in
                          addition to the number of cockpits that must be filled. For example, the
                          services must reserve additional nonflying positions to provide pilots with
                          opportunities for career development and relief from tours of duty where
                          pilots are likely to be away from home. However, we found that the
                          services have not comprehensively assessed all of the positions reserved
                          for pilots to determine whether they truly need to be filled with active duty
                          military pilots. If other military and civilian personnel who cost less and
                          take less time to train could fill some positions, the services may be able to
                          reduce their pilot requirements and thereby their reported shortages.
                          Moreover, improved classification of pilot positions by their operational or
                          nonoperational nature would help the services decide which positions
                          should be filled on a priority basis in times of shortages and to better
                          evaluate which positions might be filled by personnel other than active
                          duty pilots.



The Services Reserve      As noted in chapter 1, the services consider a number of factors in
                          establishing their pilot requirements. As a result of their requirements
Nonflying Positions for   determination processes, a substantial number of nonflying positions are
Pilots for a Number of    included in their requirements. Accordingly, a number of nonflying
                          positions for pilots are needed to permit them to advance in their careers
Reasons                   and avoid excessive deployments away from home. Pilots in the Air Force,
                          the Navy, and the Marine Corps are commissioned officers and, as such,
                          they are required to fill duties in addition to their flying responsibilities.
                          The usual career progression for pilots includes rotations through flying
                          and nonflying positions because the services view staff assignments as
                          essential to the development of officers who will assume greater leadership
                          responsibilities. In addition, other opportunities for pilots to receive
                          graduate school education or training require them to be assigned to
                          nonflying billets at certain times in their careers. Nonflying positions also
                          permit pilots respites from deployment cycles and offer opportunities for
                          pilots to participate in community and family activities and engage in
                          academic pursuits. Such assignments allow pilots intervals at home
                          between deployments, which some officials believe favorably affects
                          retention.

                          The Air Force’s nonflying positions currently represent slightly more than
                          20 percent of its total pilot requirements, and the Air Force expects this to




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                         Opportunities May Exist to Reassess and
                         Better Document Pilot Requirements




                         remain relatively constant over the next several years. The Navy’s nonflying
                         positions currently represent 22 percent of its pilot inventory.



Job Descriptions for     Job descriptions for nonflying positions do not explain why the positions
                         have to be filled by active duty pilots. For example, the Air Force prepares
Nonflying Positions Do   job descriptions to demonstrate why active duty pilots should fill nonflying
Not Fully Explain the    positions and provided us with a sample of pilot justifications for 275 Air
                         Force Headquarters staff positions. Pilots in these nonflying positions
Requirement for Pilots   perform a range of duties, including planning deployments, providing
                         guidance for developing cockpit avionics and displays, and evaluating
                         modernization proposals to existing and future aircraft. In these job
                         descriptions the Air Force demonstrated that particular work centers
                         require a mix of pilots and other personnel. However, the justification for a
                         specific number of pilots was not clear because the job descriptions did not
                         explain how these designations or skill mixes were established. For
                         example, one job description called for a pilot with the rank of major to
                         serve in a policy and programs division within a test and evaluation
                         directorate. However, the job description also stated that the work center
                         consists of six aviators, six officers who are not aviators, and two civilians.
                         It did not demonstrate how the mix of personnel was determined. While the
                         Navy maintains brief descriptions for its different positions, these
                         descriptions also do not clearly explain why these positions need to be
                         filled with active duty pilots.



Personnel Other Than     Several opportunities exist to reduce current active duty pilot requirements
                         and fill those positions with other personnel. In 1997, we recommended
Active Duty Pilots       that the services develop criteria and review the duties of each nonflying
Might Be Able to Fill    position to identify those that could be filled by personnel other than
                         pilots.1 We noted that such an assessment could allow the services to
Some Requirements        reduce their pilot requirements. These other personnel could include
                         warrant officers, retired military, contractors, DOD civilians, reservists, or
                         navigators and naval flight officers. During our current review, we found
                         that the Air Force has converted more than 500 positions formerly reserved
                         for aviators and is filling them with other Air Force officers. The Air Force
                         has also examined its nonflying positions, established certain priorities,


                         1
                          DOD Aviator Positions: Training Requirements and Incentive Pay Could Be Reduced
                         (GAO/NSIAD-97-60, Feb. 19, 1997).




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and made the decision to leave more than 1,000 positions reserved for
pilots unfilled. However, the Air Force has not formally transferred the
1,000 empty positions to other communities and is still carrying them as
pilot requirements. We also found that the Navy has left certain nonflying
positions unfilled and has not formally transferred its nonflying positions to
other communities.

The Navy is currently predicting an excess of naval flight officers beginning
in fiscal year 2001, increasing to a surplus of 344 naval flight officers by
fiscal year 2004. The Navy also reports that most of its nonflying positions
are interchangeable and can be filled by either pilots or naval flight officers
and that it takes less time and money to train a naval flight officer than a
pilot. This extra pool of aviators created by the surplus of naval flight
officers could be used during pilot shortages to fill some of the nonflying
positions currently reserved for pilots. The Air Force also has a surplus of
navigators that could be used to fill nonflying positions.

In addition, the Navy is exploring the possibility of filling a few positions,
such as hangar deck officers and fuels officers, with limited duty officers2
and chief warrant officers. The Navy recently explored this issue in June
1999. The Navy has also prioritized its general and unrestricted officer
positions that do not require flying or combat operations to determine how
many should be filled by air, surface, and submarine warfare officers.
However, since retention challenges exist in all warfare communities, the
Navy is reluctant to pass the aviator share of these positions on to other
communities. This continuing problem reflects the importance of
thoroughly reviewing whether civilians or others could fill some positions.

The Air Force addressed the issue of how to best fill its nonflying positions
at a conference on April 13, 1999. One of the recommendations coming out
of this conference was to examine the Air Force nonflying positions and
identify alternatives to filling them with pilots. Alternatives being
considered include using civilian contractors, reserve officers, and
nonpilots and allowing former active duty pilots to return to military
service. Returning former active duty military pilots to the cockpit is not
entirely new. Since 1995, the Air Force’s recall program has resulted in
114 pilots being returned to active duty. The Army has instituted a recall


2
 Limited duty officers are former enlisted personnel who, on the basis of their outstanding
performance, compete to become commissioned officers. They enjoy the same precedence and
exercise the same authority as unrestricted commissioned officers. However, their promotion potential
is limited to the Navy rank of captain.




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                        program for former active duty Army pilots. This voluntary recall program
                        has resulted in 111 pilots accepting, with nearly all now on active duty.
                        Similarly, the Navy has an active duty recall program focusing on
                        intermediate strike instructor pilots associated with Naval reserve units.

                        Through our work, we found that the British Royal Air Force provides an
                        example of aviator requirements being reduced successfully. The Royal Air
                        Force, which has 3,714 pilots and navigators (of the equivalent of major
                        rank and below), is experiencing pilot shortages. After analyzing
                        1,230 ground-based aviator positions, the Royal Air Force determined that
                        465 or 38 percent could either be transferred to other branches or
                        eliminated. This reduction in requirements was the second major round of
                        cuts for the Royal Air Force in recent years. In the last round, more than
                        250 positions were removed or transferred. In addition, the Royal Air
                        Force reviewed nonoperational flying positions and identified an additional
                        61 positions for removal or transfer. Each squadron was asked to rate its
                        aviator positions for aviator essentiality. Headquarters personnel reviewed
                        these justifications and returned questionable justifications to the
                        squadrons for confirmation. This difficult process resulted in a dramatic
                        cut in requirements. Royal Air Force officials also told us, however, that
                        their actions increased the number of ground-based personnel needed to
                        fill the positions previously designated for aviators, and that it would take
                        5 to 8 years to fully staff these positions with ground-based personnel.

                        We acknowledge that converting pilot positions will be a long-term process
                        and that it will take time for other communities to absorb pilot
                        requirements that may be transferred to them. However, given the high
                        costs and length of time associated with training pilots, we continue to
                        believe that converting pilot requirements has merit.



Current Reporting of    The services’ reporting of data on flying and nonflying positions lack
                        precision because this type of breakdown does not capture the extent to
Flying and Nonflying    which these positions carry an associated operational or primary military
Positions Has Limited   function as opposed to a nonoperational or support function. Without this
                        information, it is difficult to evaluate which positions the services should
Utility                 fill on a priority basis and whether some positions could be filled by other
                        personnel during times of shortages.

                        Operational positions, whether flying or nonflying, include those positions
                        that exist primarily for conducting combat activity. Positions that are
                        operational and flying would include cockpit positions that have a combat



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mission. Positions that are operational but nonflying require a pilot
because of the pilot’s aviation background, experience, or warfare
expertise; however, these positions do not require a pilot to operate an
aircraft in support of specific military operations. Examples of positions
that are operational and nonflying would include catapult and arresting
gear officers on an aircraft carrier and joint staff officers who develop
operations plans.

Pilots in nonoperational positions carry out support activities, training
functions, and other noncombat related activities. Nonoperational
positions that have a flying aspect are designated for pilots who fly
frequently in the performance of their duties but do not have a direct
combat mission, such as flight instructors and test pilots. Nonoperational
positions that do not have a flying requirement are designated for pilots
based on the needs of the service to fill officer billets. These positions may
draw on the pilot’s expertise or they may be general enough for any officer
to perform. These positions would include positions such as accident
investigators, advisors to foreign militaries, military academy teachers, and
recruiters.

We attempted to analyze the extent to which Air Force and Navy pilots are
serving in positions that are flying, nonflying, operational, and
nonoperational. We concentrated on these two services when we
conducted our analyses because they are reporting the greatest number of
shortages. The Navy provided us with figures to demonstrate its pilot
distribution according to these categories. According to mid-fiscal
year 1999 data provided by the Navy, its total pilot inventory was 5,575.3
About 3,200 of these pilots were in operational positions. Of these,
approximately 2,600 pilots were in operational positions that are flying and
600 pilots were in operational positions that are nonflying. The Navy also
had 2,375 pilots in nonoperational positions. Of these, 1,750 pilots were in
flying positions and 624 pilots were serving in nonoperational billets that
are nonflying. Figure 3.1 displays the percentages of Navy pilots that fill
these different types of positions.




3
These figures exclude about 745 pilots who were categorized as unavailable for duty because they
were in transit between duty stations, in training, on medical leave, or imprisoned.




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Figure 3.1: Distribution of Inventory of Navy Pilots by Category, as of April 1999

                         Nonflying/
                         operational
                            10%

      Nonflying/
    nonoperational
        11%
                                                                Flying/
                                                              operational
                                                                 47%




             Flying/
          nonoperational
              32%

Source: GAO from U.S. Navy data.


Certainly, the justification is greatest for military pilots to fill flying
operational positions since this is what they have been trained to do. The
possibility exists that personnel other than active duty military pilots could
fill some of the flying nonoperational and nonflying positions. Especially
during a period of critical pilot shortages, it is not clear why the Navy is
filling 624 positions that are both nonflying and nonoperational with pilots.
These 624 positions represent 55 percent of the Navy’s mid-fiscal year 1999
shortage of 1,130 pilots and provide the Navy with several possibilities to
fill some of these positions with personnel other than active duty military
pilots.

This type of analysis is also useful in that it can identify for the services the
extent to which they are filling their positions on a priority basis. For
example, Navy data show that the Navy is currently experiencing a
15-percent shortage in its flying operational positions, a 30-percent
shortage in its flying nonoperational positions, a 34-percent shortage in its
nonflying operational positions, and 16-percent shortage in its nonflying
nonoperational positions. As previously noted, the Navy has been able to
fill its operational cockpits by extending some pilots on deployments and



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                                            by sending senior pilots to positions formerly filled by more junior service
                                            members. The Navy is meeting the nonflying levels by using both pilots and
                                            naval flight officers. Figure 3.2 shows the number of positions, by category,
                                            and the extent to which each category is filled.



Figure 3.2: Navy Pilot Positions and Inventories
                                    3,500


                                    3,000


                                    2,500


                                    2,000


                                    1,500


                                    1,000


                                     500


                                       0
                                                   Flying/                 Flying/                   Nonflying/                Nonflying/
                                                 operational            nonoperational               operational             nonoperational
                   Positions                          3,067                    2,512                     1,659                      973
                               a                      2,602                   1,751                      1,097                     820
                   Inventory
                   Shortage                           -465                    -761                       -562                      -153
                   Shortage as a percent              15%                      30%                       34%                       16%
                   of requirement

                                            a
                                             Nonflying/operational and nonflying/nonoperational inventories include both naval flight officers and
                                            pilots.
                                            Source: GAO from U.S. Navy data.


                                            The Air Force provided us with a breakdown of its flying and nonflying
                                            positions but was unable to identify which of the nonflying positions were




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nonoperational. Currently, approximately 1,000, or 36 percent of the Air
Force’s nonflying positions are vacant. These positions are equivalent to
47 percent of the 2,155 pilot shortages that the Air Force projects will occur
in fiscal year 2007. Although it may not be realistic to assume that the Air
Force could convert all 1,000 positions, they do provide the Air Force with
several opportunities to reevaluate its requirements and fill some of these
positions with personnel other than active duty military pilots.




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                                                                                                               ter




                          Several factors have contributed to the services reported current and
                          projected pilot shortages. First, the Air Force and the Navy reduced their
                          new pilot entries (accessions) during the military downsizing that began in
                          the early 1990s. Because fewer pilots entered the force, the services are
                          now reporting shortages in relation to their pilot requirements. In addition,
                          the Navy and the Marine Corps have experienced training delays that have
                          resulted in pilots reporting to the final phase of their training as many as
                          40 weeks late. Furthermore, the current economy is providing military
                          pilots with job opportunities in private industry and pilots are finding the
                          pay and benefits associated with those job opportunities attractive.



The Air Force and the     During the military force reductions that took place during this decade, the
                          Air Force and the Navy significantly reduced their pilot recruiting goals and
Navy Reduced Pilot        actual new pilot accessions. One of the intended purposes behind these
Accessions in the 1990s   decisions was the desire to arrive at a smaller force by taking in fewer new
                          pilots instead of forcing highly experienced and highly trained pilots
                          already in the force to leave the military. Although the decisions to reduce
                          accessions may have helped the services avoid involuntary personnel
                          separations, they have produced the unintended consequences that the
                          services are facing today. The services did not foresee today’s operating
                          environment, which includes a high level of military operations, a much
                          smaller force, a sustained good economy, and an expanding private airline
                          industry that provides military pilots with ample civilian job opportunities.
                          Consequently, these actions have produced insufficient numbers of pilots
                          to support current requirements, which has contributed to the services’
                          need to retain more pilots. Certain year groups are atypically small, and
                          current aviation personnel managers are challenged to find ways to fill
                          requirements as this smaller pilot population matures through the
                          workforce.

                          The Air Force, for example, reduced active duty pilot accessions from more
                          than 1,500 new pilots in fiscal year 1990 to approximately 500 new pilots
                          each year during fiscal years 1994 through1996. Recognizing that it needed
                          to increase accessions, the Air Force has steadily increased its pilot
                          production since that time. The service accessed approximately 900 new
                          pilots in fiscal year 1998 and expects to meet its capacity of 1,100 new pilot
                          accessions by fiscal year 2000. The capacity to access pilots beyond 1,100 is
                          limited by the current number of training facilities and training slots for
                          new, inexperienced pilots. Figure 4.1 shows Air Force pilot actual
                          accessions and goals for fiscal years 1988 through 1998 and projected goals
                          for fiscal years 1999 through 2004. The lack of a gap between accessions



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                                            and goals during these fiscal years reflects the decision to lower the
                                            accession goals during this time.



Figure 4.1: U.S. Air Force Pilot Goals and Accessions, Fiscal Years 1988-2004
1,800



1,600



1,400



1,200



1,000



  800



  600



  400



  200



     -
         1988   1989   1990   1991   1992   1993      1994   1995   1996    1997    1998   1999   2000   2001   2002   2003   2004

                                                                Actual     Goal


                                            Source: GAO from U.S. Air Force data.


                                            The Navy experienced a similar pattern. In fiscal year 1990, the Navy
                                            accessed 1,039 student pilots; in fiscal year 1994, the Navy accessed just
                                            471 student pilots. In fiscal year 2000, the Navy will access 728 new pilots
                                            and thereafter will access 878 student pilots each year for the foreseeable
                                            future. Figure 4.2 shows Navy pilot actual accessions and goals for fiscal



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                                             Several Factors Are Contributing to
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                                             years 1988 through 1999 and projected goals for fiscal years 2000 through
                                             2005.



Figure 4.2: U.S. Navy Pilot Goals and Accessions, Fiscal Years 1988-2005

1,400




1,200




1,000




  800




  600




  400




  200




    -
        1998   1989   1990   1991   1992   1993   1994   1995   1996     1997    1998   1999   2000   2001   2002   2003   2004   2005

                                                                Actual    Goal


                                             Source: GAO from U.S. Navy data.




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The Navy and the        In addition to problems with pilot accessions, the Navy and the Marine
                        Corps have experienced significant delays in moving new trainees through
Marine Corps Have       their new pilot training pipelines. In some cases, it has taken 40 weeks
Experienced             longer than expected to produce trained pilots. These delays have further
                        contributed to the pilot shortages. Fiscal year 1998 data show that there
Significant Delays in   were about 600 new Navy student pilots still in training who should have
Their Training          already reported to their first operational assignments. This increase in
Pipelines               training time, coupled with the smaller numbers of new pilots created by
                        reduced accessions, has exacerbated the shortfalls in both the Navy and
                        the Marine Corps. However, the Navy now has a working group to better
                        integrate the different phases of training to minimize delays and to identify
                        choke points.

                        For the most part, Navy and Marine Corps student pilots train side-by-side,
                        and all pilots must first complete naval undergraduate pilot training, which
                        is divided into several segments, before they receive their initial
                        qualifications, or wings. These segments include aviation preflight
                        indoctrination, primary fixed-wing training, intermediate flight training,
                        and advanced flight training. Preflight indoctrination takes place in a
                        classroom setting. Primary fixed-wing training takes place in fixed-wing
                        trainer aircraft, regardless of the type of aircraft the Navy or the Marine
                        Corps aviator will ultimately fly. Following the preflight indoctrination and
                        the primary fixed-wing training, the services decide what aircraft the pilot
                        will fly depending on the pilot’s grades, the desires of the pilot, and the
                        needs of the service. The pilot in training begins to specialize at this point
                        in time and is assigned to one of four tracks to receive the intermediate and
                        advanced flight training. These tracks are (1) jet aircraft, (2) carrier
                        propeller aircraft, (3) propeller aircraft, and (4) helicopters. Upon
                        successful completion of the advanced flight training, pilots receive their
                        wings. New pilots then proceed to a fleet replacement squadron, at which
                        point they receive specialized training in a specific type of operational
                        aircraft. Depending on the type of aircraft, this specialized training will take
                        an additional 6 to 9 months. It is at this point in time that a pilot is prepared
                        to report to his or her first operational squadron. At the completion of this
                        3-year operational tour, the Navy and the Marine Corps consider the pilot to
                        be “seasoned.” Figure 4.3 displays the planned training pipeline from
                        commissioning through the completion of the first operational assignment.




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                                           Several Factors Are Contributing to
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Figure 4.3: Naval Undergraduate Pilot Training Pipeline

                 Fixed-wing                                      Jet, prop, carrier prop           Specialized
  Classroom                                                                                                       Squadron
                   trainers                      Jet              or helicopter trainers             aircraft

    Aviation
                  Primary                          Prop             Intermediate                       Fleet
       pre-                     Pilot assigned
                   fixed-                                                 and              Wings      replace-      1st tour    “Seasoned”
      flight                       to aircraft                                                                                 =
                    wing                                               advanced                         ment                       pilot
    indoctri-                                          Carrier
                  training                                          flight training                  squadron
     nation                                             prop

                                            Helo


     6 weeks     5 months                 6-13 months                                         6-9 months          About 36 months

                                           Note: The Navy also adds in travel times of roughly 2 weeks between each training segment.
                                           Source: GAO from U.S. Navy and U.S. Marine Corps information.


                                           Marine Corps pilots follow the same training track, with the exception that
                                           they, like all other new Marine Corps officers, are required to attend the
                                           Basic School at Marine Corps Base Quantico, which lasts 26 weeks, prior to
                                           reporting to pilot training.

                                           Data provided by the Navy in June 1999 illustrating current training times—
                                           from the beginning of pilot training through the assignment to a fleet
                                           replacement squadron—demonstrate the magnitude of the training delays.
                                           For example, the planned time to train for a jet pilot through the fleet
                                           replacement squadron is 30 months, but the actual time to train was
                                           45 months, representing a delay of 15 months or approximately 65 weeks.
                                           In the case of propeller aircraft, the planned time to train is 24 months, but
                                           the actual time to train was 30 months, representing a delay of 6 months or
                                           approximately 26 weeks. In the case of helicopters, the planned time to
                                           train is 24 months, but the actual time to train was 28 months, representing
                                           a delay of 4 months or approximately 16 weeks.

                                           Data provided to us by the Marine Corps, as of February 1999, demonstrate
                                           the delays pilots in training have been experiencing even before they
                                           reported to the fleet replacement squadron. For example, the planned time
                                           to train a jet pilot through wings—including the 26 weeks for Marine Corps
                                           Basic School and 4 weeks for travel—is 105 to 119 weeks, depending on the




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                       training aircraft used. However, the actual time to train was 145 to
                       153 weeks, or a delay of 32 to 41 weeks, depending on the type of jet trainer
                       used. In the case of propeller aircraft and helicopters, the planned time to
                       train to earn wings is 90 weeks, and the actual time to train was 120 to
                       129 weeks, or a delay of 30 to 39 weeks.

                       Navy officials attributed these delays to several factors. For example, while
                       the services may have emphasized getting a student pilot through a
                       particular phase of the pilot training, these phases were not properly
                       coordinated, and backlogs occurred while student pilots waited to report
                       to the next segment. Additional problems have occurred at the fleet
                       replacement squadrons. Officials attributed many of the delays during this
                       phase of training to a lack of spare parts, available aircraft for training,
                       mechanical problems with some trainer aircraft, and shortages in enlisted
                       air crew. They explained that the fleet replacement squadrons find
                       themselves competing with the operational squadrons for parts and
                       aircraft, and they have often been given lower priority.

                       The Navy has contracted with a private firm to help the Navy and the
                       Marine Corps to better align the different phases of training in order to
                       decrease the delays between segments and better coordinate all areas of
                       training. As a result, delays have come down between 6 and 26 percent,
                       depending on the community.



Today’s Economy        The potential for job prospects in private industry, the allure of potentially
                       large salaries, and the appeal of private airline retirement packages are
Provides Pilots With   currently providing military pilots with attractive options. Commercial
Civilian Job           airline hiring projections made by private industry suggest that the current
                       demand for experienced military pilots will likely continue. Projections of
Opportunities          airline hiring factor in an increased requirement for pilots caused by
                       growth in the regional and major airline industries and mandatory airline
                       pilot retirement at age 60. Any increases that result from airline industry
                       expansion or continuing favorable economic conditions will further fuel
                       the commercial airlines’ need for pilots. Military pilots possess skills that
                       are readily transferable to the airlines industry. They have received
                       extensive formal training in areas such as aircraft systems, aerodynamics,
                       air traffic control procedures, and meteorology. Further, military pilots can
                       be easily trained on the jet and/or heavy aircraft qualifications required by
                       the airlines.




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DOD closely monitors data produced by Aviation Information Resources,
Incorporated (AIR, Inc.), which studies various trends within the
commercial airline industry. Currently, this company is projecting
significant growth among the private airlines. In a 1998 job market analysis,
AIR, Inc., reported that 57,019 pilots were employed by the 14 major U.S.
airlines in 1998 and projected that 40,000 new job openings to fly large jets
would occur due to industry growth, pilot attrition, and retirement by 2007.
The AIR, Inc., analysis also projected that the number of U.S. commercial
aircraft would grow from 7,334 aircraft in 1997 to 9,218 aircraft by the year
2005. In terms of retirement, the analysis reported that many pilots hired
during a big hiring surge in the mid-1960s are now retiring. The analysis
showed that there were more than 1,150 major airline pilot retirements in
1997 and projected that there would be an additional 16,400 pilot
retirements by 2007. For one major airline alone, AIR, Inc., projected that
54 percent of that company’s pilots would retire between 1998 and 2008.

Military pilots find the potential for large salaries and lucrative retirements
attractive. Although initial private airline salaries are low, they can grow
significantly. AIR, Inc., reported in 1998 that the average annual pay for
pilots in the first year of employment in the 14 major airlines was $30,144.
However, AIR, Inc., also reported that this average salary could rise to
$161,052 for an airline captain who has more than 10 years of employment
in 1 of the 14 major airlines. (Of the 14 major airlines, AIR, Inc., reported
that the salary range for pilots in the highest bracket is between
$92,424 and $195,480.) In addition, the airlines offer generous retirement
packages. AIR, Inc., estimated that the value of a 30-year career with one of
the three largest major airlines for a pilot, hired at age 30, who flies until
age 60 and enjoys a normal retirement, is between $6.7 to $8.0 million. (It is
very unlikely that a military pilot could fulfill a minimum military service
obligation and a 30-year career with a commercial airline. However, a
military pilot may be able to complete a 29-year career.)

Military pilots also consider the fact that airline salaries are driven totally
by seniority within a particular airline. Although increased experience
within the military, a private regional airline, or another major airline might
make a pilot more competitive for employment, this additional experience
will have no bearing on the pilot’s salary with the particular airline. One
consequence of this structure is that military pilots experience a reduction
in their pay before they start receiving the larger salaries.

The following scenario illustrates this. According to the Air Force, a
typical military pilot with 10 years of experience who is promoted at



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normal rates currently receives an annual regular military compensation1
of about $57,000. When flight pay is added, the salary grows to
approximately $65,000. (This figure assumes that a pilot has not accepted a
retention bonus and also does not include any local cost of living
adjustments, which vary depending on where a pilot is assigned.) In
addition, a pilot with 10 years experience is likely to be assigned to a
nonflying position in the military that will reduce his or her competitive
status in the airline industry. If that pilot decides to leave the military and
finds employment with 1 of the 14 major airlines, that pilot will receive an
average starting salary of about $30,000, representing a salary reduction of
about half of the military compensation. However, this pilot is facing the
potential for greater pay and benefits. By the 6th year, that same pilot will
receive a private industry average salary of about $88,000 and will have
6 years of contributions into a retirement plan, increased retirement
benefits, and increased seniority in the airline. The pay alone will be
approximately equivalent to the salary the pilot would receive had he or
she stayed in the military. A typical salary for a military pilot with 16 years
of service is about $78,000. When flight pay is added in, the pay is
equivalent to approximately $88,000.

The Air Force has calculated that military pilots who ultimately leave the
military to go to a private airline lose a percentage of their lifetime earnings
in each additional year that they stay in the military. Several factors
account for this. First, the initial pay differential increases as the military
salary rises. Second, the number of years in which a pilot can participate in
a commercial airline retirement plan decreases. Finally, military pilots will
attain seniority in the commercial airlines, and the associated larger
salaries, later in their careers. According to Air Force calculations, the total
career earnings of a pilot who enters the military at age 22, leaves the
military after 9 years, is hired by a private airline, and then retires at age
60 is $4,368,460. Conversely, the total career earnings of a pilot who enters
the military at age 22, accepts a retention bonus, retires at 20 years of
service, receives military retirement pay, is hired by private industry, and
then retires at the mandatory age of 60, is $4,063,472. According to Air
Force calculations, it will cost the military member almost $305,000 to
remain in the service until retirement.




1
 In computing a pilot’s regular military compensation, the Air Force includes basic pay, basic allowance
for subsistence (nontaxed), basic allowance for housing (also nontaxed), and the equivalent of the tax
advantage that is derived from these last two categories.




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In addition to job opportunities and potentially more lucrative pay and
benefits packages, many pilots are attracted to private industry by the
promise of a better quality of life and a chance to spend more time with
their families. Military members often work long hours and spend extended
periods of time away from their homes. Conversely, private industry
officials told us that many commercial pilots work no more than 15 days a
month. Although these pilots may spend many of these nights away, they
will also spend the remainder of the month at home. Private industry
officials described a commercial pilot’s job as the best “part-time” job an
individual could find.

There is, of course, a down side to joining private industry, and one of the
biggest problems is a lack of job security. In the early 1990s, for example,
the airline industry laid off approximately 2,000 pilots. Because the airlines
operate exclusively under a seniority-based system that is company
specific, a commercial pilot with years of experience who leaves one
airline to join another will be hired at a entry-level salary. Commercial
pilots in mid-career can expect to experience significant salary reductions
should the airline industry face future downturns.




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Pilot Concerns Are Contributing to Low
Retention                                                                                             Chap5
                                                                                                          ter




                    Air Force and Navy actions to reduce pilot accessions during DOD’s
                    reductions in force and the training delays in the Navy and the Marine
                    Corps have produced reported pilot shortages and are driving the need to
                    retain more pilots in the service. Furthermore, this need to retain additional
                    pilots is exacerbated by an increase in pilot resignations. The services have
                    conducted several studies over the past several years and have identified
                    frustrations that pilots state they are experiencing in their military careers.
                    We administered our own questionnaire to more than 180 Air Force and
                    Navy pilots at several different installations and held small group
                    discussions with over 100 of these individuals. While we cannot project the
                    results of our own questionnaires to the pilot community as a whole, our
                    results were consistent with the findings that the services have identified in
                    their own surveys. The services have taken certain actions to respond to
                    these concerns. However, opportunities exist for additional action.



Indicators Show a   In general, the services are currently experiencing retention problems in
                    their pilot communities. DOD uses several indicators to measure retention,
Retention Problem   including the cumulative continuation rate, the ACP take-rate, and number
                    of pilot resignations. A full description of the cumulative continuation rate
                    and the ACP take-rate is in appendix I. Although the indicators used by the
                    services are limited in their predictive value, these three indicators show
                    that retention is currently an issue in the Air Force and the Navy. For
                    example, between fiscal years 1997 and 1998, the Air Force’s pilot
                    cumulative continuation rate declined from 71 percent to 46 percent. The
                    Air Force bonus take-rate for all of its contracts declined from a high of
                    81 percent in fiscal year 1994 to 42 percent in fiscal year 1998. The number
                    of Air Force pilot resignations increased from 498 in fiscal year 1996 to
                    1,052 in the first 10 months of fiscal year 1998.

                    Based on the same indicators, the Navy is also experiencing a retention
                    problem. The Navy’s cumulative continuation rate declined from 39 percent
                    in fiscal year 1997 to 32 percent in fiscal year 1998. The Navy’s bonus
                    take-rate for pilots declined from 50 percent in fiscal year 1994 to
                    21 percent in fiscal year 1998. The number of pilot resignations in the Navy
                    actually decreased from 316 resignations in fiscal year 1996 to
                    299 resignations in fiscal year 1997, but then increased to 347 resignations
                    in fiscal year 1998.




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Surveys Show                 The Air Force and the Navy have conducted different studies in recent
                             years that have identified reasons why pilots are leaving or are considering
Consistent Areas of          leaving the service. While all of the results are not projectable to the entire
Dissatisfaction              pilot population, the results of these surveys show that along with other
                             military specialties, pilots are concerned about retirement and health care
                             benefits and other quality of life issues. In addition, there are areas of
                             concern that are particularly relevant to pilots, including the pace of
                             operations, limited spare parts and equipment, senior military and civilian
                             leadership, aviator retention bonuses, and promotion opportunities and
                             assignments.

                             We administered our own questionnaire to more than 180 pilots in the Air
                             Force and the Navy and conducted small group discussions with more than
                             120 pilots who responded to our questionnaire at several different Air
                             Force and Navy bases.1 Our questionnaire results and discussions
                             identified the same primary reasons for pilot separations as disclosed by
                             the Air Force and the Navy studies.

                             Examples of some DOD surveys we reviewed include an Air
                             Force-administered “Careers and New Directions” survey in 1996 of
                             random groups of personnel who intended to remain in the service and of
                             other groups of personnel who had established a date of separation. Pilots
                             were included in this survey. In 1997, the Air Force also administered a
                             quality of life survey to more than 200,000 personnel. Again, this survey
                             included pilots. In 1998, the Air Force conducted phone interviews with
                             pilots who did not take a retention bonus. The Navy has also administered
                             different studies in recent years. These include an aviator retention study
                             conducted by a Navy aviator retention team in 1997, a retention study
                             conducted by the Navy’s Atlantic Command in 1997, a retention study
                             conducted by the Pacific Command in 1998, and a second 1998 retention
                             study that was conducted by the Naval Postgraduate School.


Concern About High Pace of   According to the 1997 Air Force quality of life survey administered to more
Operations                   than 200,000 personnel, one of the critical issues facing the Air Force
                             during the past several years has been the high level of operations.
                             Additionally, other studies have shown that Air Force pilots who declined



                             1
                             Some navigators were included in these discussions.




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the retention bonus in fiscal years 1996 through 1998 cited the pace of
operations, additional duties, and family issues as primary concerns.

The Air Force reported that since 1995, there has been a slow, but steady
increase in the number of reported temporary duty days and the number of
hours worked by military personnel. Other work that we have done
supports this observation.2 For example, the Air Force reported that since
about 1989, the average number of personnel deployed for operations other
than war has more than quadrupled, from about 3,400 personnel in 1989 to
about 14,600 personnel in 1997. We found that deployments are
concentrated in a small percentage of career fields and that 5 percent of Air
Force active duty personnel accounted for 27 percent of the temporary
duty assignments in fiscal year 1998. Pilots, for example, comprised
4 percent of total active duty personnel, but accounted for 9 percent of
total temporary duty assignments.

In response to our questionnaire and small group discussions, Air Force
pilots identified the frequency and length of deployments and lack of clear
mission objectives as their primary concerns. The Air Force pilots we met
expressed concerns specifically about the frequency of deployments to
Southwest Asia, the austere living conditions, and the inability to train
during those deployments. They questioned the need for a sizeable,
constant presence in that area, and suggested that they would be better off
training in U.S. air space and deploying on an as-needed basis. They also
expressed concerns about the Air Force expeditionary force initiative that,
though intended to add more predictability to pilot deployments, would
result in an increase in the length of Air Force deployments from 45 to
90 days. Navy pilots had a different expectation about the length of
deployments since naval deployments are typically 6 months in length.
However, Air Force and Navy pilots alike raised concerns about the pace of
operations between deployments. Several Navy pilots told us that the
schedule between deployments is often more demanding than the
deployments themselves. One pilot said that he often gets more sleep and
communicates with his wife more often via e-mail while on deployment
than he does when he is working 10- to 12-hour days between deployments.

The services have taken several actions to address these concerns. For
example, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff has been working to


2
 Military Operations: Impact of Operations Other Than War on the Services Varies (GAO/NSIAD-99-69,
May 24, 1999).




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                        reduce the number of deployments and exercises. This includes a
                        15-percent reduction in joint exercises in fiscal year 1998 and plans for an
                        additional 5-percent reduction in service exercises in fiscal years 1999 and
                        2000. The Navy has mandated a 25-percent reduction in operational duties
                        associated with the Inter-Deployment Training Cycle. The Air Force
                        recently reduced Southwest Asia unit rotations from 90 to 45 days. The Air
                        Force is currently reorganizing itself into an expeditionary force with the
                        explicit intent of providing greater stability and predictability in
                        deployments and will increase the length of deployments back to 90 days.
                        Under this reorganization, air crews and support teams will be assigned to
                        1 of 10 expeditionary forces, 2 of which would be on call for 1 90-day
                        deployment every 15 months. This reorganization is still in development
                        and is to be implemented on January 1, 2000.


Concerns About          Pilots further expressed their concerns about conducting their missions
Constrained Resources   with inadequate resources. Navy pilots surveyed by the U.S. Atlantic Fleet
                        in 1997 reported low job satisfaction due to a lack of flight time and poor
                        parts support. They complained about additional nonflying demands and
                        other exercise requirements and “doing more with less.” The pilots in our
                        survey cited aging fleets, a lack of spare parts, and increased demands on
                        aircraft maintainers as sources of concern. Pilots in both services told us
                        that they only learn on a day-to-day basis whether or not they will be able
                        to fly on training missions due to the limited number of operating aircraft in
                        their squadrons. These pilots expressed concerns that they are not
                        maintaining their requisite combat skills under these conditions. Other
                        work we have done in the Air Force has shown that this perceived shortage
                        of spare parts may be due more to deficiencies in forecasting requirements,
                        inventory management, repair problems, and budgeting problems.3
                        Nevertheless, the perception of the pilots we interviewed was that spare
                        parts are not available to them and that aircraft mechanics spend an
                        inordinate amount of time inefficiently removing working parts from one
                        aircraft to repair another. In fact, when we asked pilots to provide us with
                        the single change that would encourage them to stay in the military, one of
                        the Navy pilots’ top answers was a fix for spare parts shortages. The pilots
                        also expressed their concerns for their enlisted mechanics, adding that it is
                        difficult for them to motivate their enlisted personnel in such a difficult
                        work environment.


                        3
                         Air Force Supply: Management Actions Create Spare Parts Shortages and Operational Problems
                        (GAO/NSIAD/AIMD-99-77, Apr. 29, 1999).




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                            In response to these concerns, the Navy has added $4.2 billion to spare
                            parts and flying hour funding over 4 years to fully fund flight hour
                            programs, spare parts, and maintenance. In our work on the Air Force
                            flying hour program, we found that programmed hours were not flown for a
                            number of reasons, but that lack of funding was not a cause for underflying
                            the program.4



Concerns About Leadership   On another theme related to these issues, many pilots also expressed
                            through discussions and in responses to questionnaires their frustration
                            with military and civilian leadership above their immediate chain of
                            command. They perceived reluctance on the part of leadership to stand up
                            and say no to expanded work under decreasing budgets and reduced
                            manpower. They added that DOD needs to cut back on its commitments to
                            match the personnel reductions in the force, suggesting that military and
                            civilian leaders are holding pilots to new missions within old structures.



Concerns About the Bonus    Pilots also have voiced concern about compensation, including retirement
System                      and health care issues and—particularly for pilots—the effectiveness of the
                            bonus system. The Navy’s Retention Group found that pilots were
                            frustrated by the erosion of compensation and benefits. The Air Force’s
                            1997 Quality of Life survey indicated that pilots believe their pay and
                            benefits were not as good as those offered in the private sector. In a survey
                            of pilots conducted by the Navy’s Atlantic Fleet Command in 1997, pilots
                            said that, while the bonus “sweetens the pot for fence sitters,” it did not
                            affect the decision of many polled to stay in the service. Of the 80 bonus
                            takers we interviewed, only 32, or 40 percent, told us that they were very
                            likely or definitely planning to stay in the military after they completed
                            their current obligation. All others were undecided, somewhat unlikely, or
                            very likely to leave the military.

                            The pilots we met with also raised concerns about the inequities in the
                            current bonus system and stated that it is not working effectively for a
                            number of reasons. The bonus was developed in order to encourage
                            aviators to stay through their 14th year of service. Until very recently, most
                            bonus recipients continued their military service—after their bonus
                            payments terminated—to retirement. Prior to fiscal year 1995, the Air


                            4
                             Defense Budget: Observations on the Air Force Flying Hour Program (GAO/NSIAD-99-165, July 8,
                            1999)




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                        Force expected 93 percent of pilots who accepted a bonus obligating them
                        to stay in the military through their 14th year of aviation service to then go
                        on and stay until they were eligible to retire at 20 years. However, in fiscal
                        year 1998, the Air Force projected that only 25 percent of pilots who
                        accepted a bonus will stay until they are eligible to retire. In addition, some
                        pilots we talked to complained about the perceived “cut in pay” that occurs
                        when a pilot reaches 14 years of aviation service and is no longer eligible to
                        receive bonus money. Air Force data confirms this concern.

                        DOD has reviewed the shortcomings in the current bonus system—
                        including the fact that the 14-year cutoff date for the ACP is no longer
                        effective at retaining pilots—and Congress is considering legislation that
                        would expand the authority of the services to provide bonuses. DOD has
                        developed a proposal that addresses the concern about the 14-year cutoff
                        date by allowing the services to offer up to $25,000 a year to aviators
                        through their 25th year of aviation service. It requires that the pilot must
                        have completed the minimum service requirement and signed an
                        agreement to serve at least 1 additional year in order to receive the ACP.
                        The DOD proposal does not, however, require the services to identify a
                        critical shortage in an aviation specialty in order to offer the ACP.
                        Moreover, although the proposal would authorize the services to pay the
                        bonus through a pilot’s 25th year of aviation service, we believe that paying
                        the bonuses up to that point may be unnecessary since pilots are rarely in
                        the cockpit at that point in their careers. Provisions substantially similar to
                        DOD’s proposal are included in pending defense authorization legislation.

                        The Navy has already developed a model, called Aviation Career
                        Continuation Pay, to implement this new system. If the proposal becomes
                        law, the Navy plans to offer bonuses to individuals at major career decision
                        points rather than focusing on gates based on specific years of service. The
                        bonus would be offered to those, for example, who are beginning a
                        department-head tour or those who agree to take on an additional tour of
                        sea duty, and they would allow the Navy to reward aviators who decide to
                        make the Navy a career. This would also make the ACP a true bonus, rather
                        than an entitlement. We believe that the outline of the Navy’s model
                        addresses some of the pilot concerns about the current system.



Concerns About Career   Pilots are also concerned about career progression and promotion
Progression             opportunities. Military pilots are normally required to serve in a variety of
                        positions in order to be promoted and to develop the necessary leadership
                        skills. In the ideal career path within the Air Force, for example, lieutenants



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fill cockpit positions to develop pilot proficiency and become mission
ready during their first tour assignments. Upon completing this tour, pilots
are normally promoted to the rank of captain and report to their second
assignment. The focus of this tour is to increase the depth of their cockpit
experience and to enable the pilots to assume greater squadron
responsibilities. Senior captains report to a third assignment and begin
performing duties aimed at broadening their experience and preparing
them for increased leadership responsibilities. These pilots will serve in
positions such as weapons school instructors, test pilots, and staff
assignments. These pilots also focus on professional and educational
development activities, which could include work on a master’s degree.
Successful pilots can expect to be promoted to the rank of major during
this assignment. Subsequent assignments at the major and lieutenant
colonel level emphasize leadership enhancement and career broadening
assignments to include positions as squadron commanders, operations
officers, and joint duty assignments.

However, many pilots are now being asked to remain in cockpit positions,
rather than serving in career-enhancing positions, and pilots we met raised
concerns about the lack of opportunity for career development and
promotions. These pilots have “grown up” in a military environment in
which they have seen separation incentives, 15-year retirements, and
forced early retirements after 20 years of service. They do not see the
military as a guaranteed job. Some Air Force pilots raised concerns to us
about being sent back to junior flying positions and not getting assignments
to the traditional military leadership positions. These pilots believe that the
personnel assignment and promotion systems are no longer synchronized
since they believe they will be penalized for their nontraditional career
paths. For example, pilots in the Air Force perceive that promotion boards
still expect them to gain staff and education experiences to be competitive
for promotion. In addition, Navy officials are concerned about pilots being
promoted without the requisite career developing experiences.

While some pilots expressed their concerns about the reduced
opportunities for pilots to seek nonflying opportunities to broaden their
experience and prepare for greater responsibilities, others expressed a
desire to spend their careers exclusively in the cockpit. Some of the pilots
we spoke with said that, in essence, the Air Force is creating a fly-only
path, and they suggested that the services do this formally. The Navy pilots
surveyed by the Atlantic Command specifically expressed the desire to fly
more, stating that they joined the Navy to fly military aircraft. Similarly,
over 60 percent of the pilots we questioned stated that the number one



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reason they joined the service was for excitement and love of flying. The
Navy’s Retention Team reported that two of the primary comments from
pilots concerned the increased workload and collateral duties and the
pilots’ desire to eliminate the current focus on secondary duties. Pilots told
us that they lose their edge in the cockpit when they go to staff positions.
They said these nonflying duties are an incentive to leave the service as
soon as they complete their service obligation in order to join the airline
industry while they were still current in their flying skills.

The Army’s warrant officer community offers an example of a fly-only
career path that works well. The warrant officers are brought from the
enlisted corps and are given helicopter flight training, but they do not take
on leadership positions. The aviation leadership positions are reserved for
a small corps of commissioned officer pilots in the Army. The warrant
officer pilots have a higher retention rate than their commissioned officer
counterparts in other services.

While the Air Force does not have a fly-only career path, it is implementing
a program that allows senior pilots to volunteer to return to the cockpit.
The purpose of this program, called Phoenix Aviator 20, is to make it more
attractive for pilots to stay in the Air Force until they can retire at 20 years
of service. It is designed to ease the transition at retirement from a military
to a commercial airline career. Among the provisions, pilots who enroll in
the program will, during their last 3 years of service, be assigned a tour of
duty that guarantees them flying experience in order to keep their flight
credentials current. During this time, the Air Force will provide financial
assistance for the military pilot to obtain his or her certifications. In
addition, the military pilot will be guaranteed a job interview with private
industry. The program is relatively new, and slightly fewer than 400 military
pilots have enrolled during its first year.

In addition, we met with officials from the British Royal Air Force who
described their fly-only career path option called the Specialist Aircrew.
The Specialist Aircrew, which was introduced in the early 1970s, is
designed to be a retention measure. This option is reserved for pilots who
have been asked to remain in the service, but reach the age of 38 without
having been promoted to the rank of major. At that point, a pilot can choose
to become part of the Specialist Aircrew and remain in the cockpit. The
Royal Air Force limits the size of the Specialist Aircrew, which currently
comprises nearly 25 percent of the Royal Air Force pilot population. By
becoming a member of the Specialist Aircrew, a pilot agrees to stay in the
Royal Air Force until age 55, is given an enhanced rate of flying pay and is



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promised a flying position for the duration of his or her career. However, if
a pilot is promoted to major before the age of 45, that pilot has the option of
going back into the traditional career path. The Royal Air Force considers
its Specialist Aircrew pilots to be expert pilots.

The Navy does not support the concept of a fly-only career path because it
views this option as inconsistent with its current promotion and
assignment systems. The Air Force does not support this track because it
believes that the existence of this type of career path would take flying
opportunities away from pilots who remain on the leadership track.
Nevertheless, we found that the services are, at least on a temporary basis,
creating a fly-only career track by returning many pilots to flying duties. As
we previously stated, the Air Force is currently sending 54 percent of its
majors and lieutenant colonels to fill junior cockpit positions normally
filled by lieutenants and captains, and the Navy has extended the time that
first tour operational pilots spend at sea from 36 to 42 months. If the
services were to implement a fly-only career path, we believe that they
should put controls on it similar to the British model—such as limiting the
number of personnel who go into this system to an elite corps, limiting the
promotion potential, and requiring an extended obligation.

In order to gain a better understanding of why pilots are leaving the
military, DOD is currently conducting a comprehensive survey of more than
60,000 active duty military members that will examine the reasons
servicemembers are leaving the military. DOD anticipates that the results of
this survey, which we plan to analyze, will be available in calendar year
2000.5




5
 In addition, we have other ongoing reviews requested by Congress related to military personnel issues.
These include a survey of servicemembers in retention-critical specialties and an historical examination
of military retention rates.




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Conclusions and Recommendations                                                                  Chap6
                                                                                                     ter




Conclusions   The services currently report that no unit is deploying without 100 percent
              of its pilots, and they believe that they will continue to be able to meet their
              operational missions. Nevertheless, the Air Force and the Navy, and to a
              lesser extent the Army and the Marine Corps, are reporting pilot shortfalls,
              and they project that these shortages will continue for several years.
              However, the full extent of these reported shortages has not been identified
              because neither the Air Force nor the Navy have comprehensively assessed
              their nonflying positions to determine whether they truly need to be filled
              with active duty military pilots. Opportunities may exist to reduce pilot
              requirements and thereby reduce the reported shortages. Shortages can
              pose significant challenges because each pilot replacement costs DOD
              millions of dollars in training costs and years of investment in training time
              and experience. We believe that DOD needs to clearly determine the
              magnitude of the shortages and understand the extent to which the
              shortages are temporary or longer lasting before the services implement
              wholesale and potentially costly changes to their current aviator
              management systems.

              An important first step is to determine whether or not pilot requirements
              are valid. If an assessment determines that not all positions now designated
              for pilots are needed to (1) meet operational flying and support positions;
              (2) provide career advancement opportunities; or (3) enable the pace of
              operations for pilots to remain within acceptable limits, then pilot
              requirements could be reduced. Exploring how some positions might be
              filled by personnel other than active duty military pilots offers the biggest
              payoff because this would make available more active duty pilots to fill
              requirements in the cockpit. Moreover, filling positions with personnel
              other than pilots can provide the services with increased flexibility because
              these other populations do not require as much time and money to train as
              pilots require.

              Both the Air Force and the Navy maintain requirements for pilots to fill
              flying and nonflying positions and, to a certain degree, have developed job
              descriptions for these positions. However, the job descriptions do not
              clearly state why the positions have been reserved for active duty pilots.
              Thus, we believe it is difficult for anyone in the chain of command to
              validate the established requirements. We further believe it would be
              beneficial for the services to classify their pilot positions according to their
              operational nature and include specific statements in the job descriptions
              to show whether the positions are operational flying, operational nonflying,
              nonoperational flying, or nonoperational nonflying. Where positions are




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designated to provide pilots with opportunities for career development and
relief from tours of duty where pilots are likely to be away from home, this
should be clearly noted. By revising their databases to account for pilot
positions according to their flying and operational status, service officials
could more uniformly report shortages, more easily evaluate which
positions they must fill on a priority basis, and better assess whether some
positions could be filled by other personnel in times of shortages. These
personnel could include retired military personnel, reservists, active duty
military officers who are not pilots, DOD civilians, and contractors. We also
believe that it would be beneficial for the services to reconstruct their
databases to reflect this type of analysis and capture the extent to which
their pilot requirements have an operational and flying aspect. Doing so
would enable all of the services to report future pilot requirements and
inventories in a uniform manner and identify any future imbalances in their
operational and nonoperational flying and nonflying positions.

An important second step to clarifying the extent of shortages is to
separate out those contributing factors that are temporary in nature and
are not attributable to retention. Doing so will more accurately identify the
degree and type of corrective action that is required. Some of the reported
shortages, for example, can be attributed to the fact that the Air Force and
the Navy reduced their accessions during the reductions in force in the
mid-1990s to avoid the involuntary separation of pilots already in the force.
The unintended consequence of the reduced accessions is that aviation
personnel managers are now challenged to find ways to fill current
requirements from year groups of pilots that are insufficient in size to fill
those requirements. However, this condition will resolve itself as this
population matures through the workforce. Other shortages can be
attributed to the fact that two of the services have experienced significant
delays in their pilot training pipelines that have left entry-level positions
empty. Although these delays create the illusion that additional shortages
exist, this condition will be resolved as the services reduce their training
delays.

Finally, we believe that some of the reported shortages can be defined in
terms of retention, and DOD needs to understand what pilots consider
when they make their decisions to stay in or leave the service. Although
many of the pilots’ concerns may be shared by military members in other
specialties and are not unique, we identified two concerns that have
particular relevance to pilots.




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One factor that clearly needs to be addressed is the pilot assignment
system. Currently, the Air Force is sending approximately 3,100 majors and
lieutenant colonels back to the cockpit to fill positions normally filled by
lieutenants and captains, and the Navy has increased the length of time that
first tour operational pilots spend on sea tours from 36 months to
42 months. By increasing the time pilots serve in cockpit positions, the
services have taken pilots away from traditional career tracks, which has
led pilots to become concerned that they will not be competitive for
promotion within the military in the future. Such concerns, if unaddressed,
could fuel retention problems. In contrast, other pilots are pleased to be
able to spend more time in the cockpit and have, in fact, expressed their
dissatisfaction with assignments that take them away from flying. These
disparate views about the merits of flying more suggest that no single
solution will address the concerns of all pilots and that a variety of
approaches may be needed. In light of these disparate views and the
current stresses that are being placed on the personnel management
systems, it would be beneficial if the services could identify pilots desiring
additional flying duty and assign them according to their preferences. In
the longer term, the services might wish to make this process more formal
by establishing a fly-only career path for a segment of their pilot
communities.

A second factor that needs attention is the bonus system. Many pilots do
not view the current bonus system as a viable retention tool, and a pilot’s
decision to accept a bonus no longer provides assurance that the pilot will
stay in the military until the pilot is eligible to retire. The Air Force, for
example, has seen increasing numbers of pilots resign after 14 years of
service during the past 4 years. Chief complaints voiced by pilots are that
the ACP eligibility dates are based on outdated assumptions and pilots see
the end of the bonus payment—at year 14—as a cut in pay. These
complaints are occurring at the same time that pilots see potentially
lucrative career opportunities in private industry.

DOD has reviewed the current bonus system and developed a proposal to
address the shortcomings. Congress is considering legislation with
provisions substantially similar to DOD’s proposal that would expand the
current bonus authority by allowing the services to offer up to $25,000 per
year to aviators through their 25th year of aviation service. Pilots could
perceive this new program as an entitlement if the program is not properly
implemented. On the other hand, the Navy has developed a model to
implement the pending legislative changes that we believe has merit. Under
this plan, the Navy would offer bonuses to individuals at major career



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                  decision points and provide the Navy with the capability to reward pilots
                  who make an affirmative decision to make the Navy a career. Doing so
                  would make the ACP a true bonus rather than an entitlement.

                  DOD is currently conducting a comprehensive survey of more than
                  60,000 active duty military members that will examine the reasons
                  servicemembers are leaving the military. DOD anticipates that the results of
                  this survey, which will be shared with us, will be available sometime next
                  year.



Recommendations   We recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the services to take the
                  following actions:

                  • Develop criteria and detailed job descriptions for designating positions
                    to be filled with pilots, classify the positions according to their
                    operational and flying status, and specify the types of duties that make
                    pilots essential. Moreover, for jobs that are held for pilots based on
                    reasons of career development and rotation, descriptions should
                    contain a clear justification.
                  • Using the newly developed criteria, analyze each pilot position to
                    identify those positions where active duty pilots are not required and
                    take the necessary actions to fill those positions with other personnel
                    possessing appropriate expertise, such as warrant officers, retired
                    military, contractors, DOD civilians, reservists, or navigators.
                  • Revise their databases so that the services can (1) uniformly report data
                    on future pilot requirements and inventories and (2) identify any
                    imbalances in their operational and nonoperational flying and nonflying
                    positions.

                  To the extent that shortages exist after these recommendations are
                  implemented, we recommend that the Secretary of Defense direct the
                  services to take the following actions:

                  • More fully evaluate the merits of a fly-only career path for a segment of
                    the pilot community. In the short term, identify those pilots desiring
                    additional flying duty and match them to this extra duty to the extent
                    possible.
                  • If the pending legislation to extend the ACP is enacted, only offer
                    bonuses to those pilots who make affirmative decisions to continue
                    their career rather than to all pilots reaching specified gates. This would
                    preclude the bonus program from being interpreted as an entitlement.



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Agency Comments and   In written comments on a draft of this report, DOD partially agreed with
                      four of our five recommendations, disagreed with one recommendation,
Our Evaluation        and stated that our executive summary did not represent the sum and
                      substance of the report as a whole in that it did not reflect the positive
                      steps DOD had taken to address pilot issues. DOD also commented that our
                      recommendations were actually refinements to the DOD’s own initiatives.
                      We have added information to our executive summary to acknowledge
                      DOD’s actions and to better explain how our recommendations differ from
                      ongoing efforts.

                      With respect to developing criteria and detailed justifications for pilot
                      positions, DOD said that, while it partially agreed with our
                      recommendation, it had long-standing procedures to review billet
                      requirements against operational mission requirements, including pilot
                      requirements. DOD further stated that these procedures provide data
                      sufficiently detailed and accurate to support legislative language
                      addressing a broad spectrum of pilot initiatives. DOD noted that the
                      services have procedures for reviews of rated officer requirements. We
                      note, however, that despite these procedures the Air Force and the Navy
                      found it necessary to conduct special meetings in April and June 1999,
                      respectively, to review their own requirements for pilots in nonflying
                      positions. In addition, while we agree that DOD has procedures to review
                      pilot requirements, the procedures do not provide the criteria used to
                      justify a pilot filling a particular position. Our recommendation would have
                      DOD establish criteria and detailed job descriptions, classify the positions
                      according to their operational and flying status, and specify the types of
                      duties that make pilots essential. This would enable the services to possibly
                      reduce their pilot requirements and enable them to better decide which
                      positions should be filled on a priority basis in times of shortages.

                      DOD also partially agreed with the intent of our recommendation to
                      identify those active duty pilot positions that could be filled with other
                      personnel. It noted that it has filled pilot positions with recalled active duty
                      pilots, warrant officers, reserve officers, and limited duty officers. Although
                      it is true that the services have filled some positions with personnel other
                      than pilots, there has been no systematic means of analyzing pilot positions
                      to determine what other types of personnel might be used to fill the
                      positions. Our recommendation is intended to encourage systematic
                      consideration of all possible alternative means of filling pilot positions
                      during periods of shortages.




                      Page 61                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 6
Conclusions and Recommendations




While DOD partially concurred with the intent of our recommendation on
uniformly reporting data, it believed that its current databases were
sufficient to respond to DOD’s requirements. DOD saw no advantage to a
single cross-service database that would track pilots given each service’s
unique culture and mission. We did not, however, recommend a single
database, but rather that the services revise their databases so that they
can uniformly report data. During our review, we encountered several
instances of inconsistent reporting. For example, in March 1999 hearings
before the Subcommittee on Military Personnel, House Committee on
Armed Services, the Air Force reported shortages of 648 pilots at the end of
fiscal year 1998, and the Navy reported shortages of approximately 500
pilots as of March 1999. These reported shortages were not comparable
since the as-of dates were different, and the Navy’s data did not include
those pilots whose training had been delayed. Comparable data that we
obtained showed that, as of the end of fiscal year 1998, the Navy had a
shortage (including those pilots whose training had been delayed) of
1,153 pilots. Consistent data presentations, as our recommendation
suggests, would assist DOD and Congress in deciding how best to address
pilot shortages.

DOD also partially agreed with our recommendation that the services
consider the merits of a fly-only career path, but said that such a track has
been studied by each service, and in some cases tested. It further
commented that these tests have found that instituting a fly-only career
track created a different set of problems for the services. In addition, DOD
noted that the challenge currently facing the services is a staff shortage, not
a cockpit shortage. DOD also acknowledged that a percentage of pilots just
want to fly and have little desire for nonflying assignments. DOD agreed
that a fly-only career path could be considered at a later date, when it
would be addressed within a broad context that considers areas such as
compensation, retirement, and advancement of individuals in this type of
career progression path. We agree with DOD that this option would need to
be considered within the broad context outlined by DOD.

In disagreeing with our fifth recommendation about the proposed bonus
system, DOD said that its current bonus systems are tied precisely to key
career decision points and do not occur at arbitrary points in time, as we
had originally suggested. We agree that arbitrary is not a fair
characterization of these points in time and have deleted this reference. We
have also revised our recommendation to better reflect our intent that the
bonus system be offered to pilots as a reward for affirmative career
decisions rather than being interpreted as an entitlement. In addition, we



Page 62                                       GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Chapter 6
Conclusions and Recommendations




have clarified our report to emphasize that some assumptions about the
success of bonuses in encouraging pilots to stay until retirement may be
outdated and should be revisited.




Page 63                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Appendix I

Pilot Retention Measurements                                                                        Appenx
                                                                                                         Idi




                    The services use two statistical measures to monitor pilot retention.



Cumulative          The cumulative continuation rate, commonly referred to as a “retention
                    rate,” measures the tendency of pilots who start pilot training together to
Continuation Rate   remain on active duty beyond their minimum service commitment. The
                    services measure the propensity of a cohort of pilots in a particular year
                    group to stay in the military for a specified additional number of years. The
                    Air Force measures the propensity of an aviator in the 6th year of service to
                    stay through the 11th year of service while the Navy measures the
                    propensity of an aviator in the 7th year of service to stay through the
                    12th year of service. For example, the Navy uses two data points to monitor
                    pilots who entered pilot training in 1986. The first measure would be
                    7 years after their accession, in 1993, while the second would be 12 years
                    after their accession, in 1998. In this case, for every hundred pilots who
                    were still on active duty in 1993 (7 years after accession), 32 remained on
                    active duty in 1998 (12 years after accession). This represents a pilot
                    cumulative continuation rate for fiscal year 1998 of 32 percent.

                    The cumulative continuation rate varies depending on the years selected,
                    and anomalies may not carry into the future. For example, several times in
                    the late 1980s and early 1990s, the services (except for the Army) changed
                    the minimum service obligation—which created artificially high cumulative
                    continuation rates since not all individuals in the cohort were eligible to
                    leave active duty when it was measured. These variations make it difficult
                    to identify a normal loss rate. Other factors, such as differences in the
                    populations in specific cohorts, further stress its limitations. When the
                    services quote changes in the retention rates of pilots, they are not quoting
                    the actual number of pilot losses, but rather an estimate based on an entire
                    cohort’s behavior. Figure I.1 shows the Navy and the Air Force’s cumulative
                    continuation rates from 1989 to 1998.




                    Page 64                                      GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                                          Appendix I
                                          Pilot Retention Measurements




Figure I.1: Navy and Air Force Cumulative Continuation Rates, Fiscal Years 1989-98
                       Percent
                100


                  90


                  80


                  70


                  60


                  50


                  40


                  30


                  20


                  10


                   0
                        1989      1990      1991         1992        1993         1994        1995         1996         1997        1998
      Navy CCR            38        41        33          33           42           40          35           52          39           32
      Air Force CCR       36        37        35          34           62           82          87           77          71           46

                                          Note: The Air Force spike between fiscal year 1993 and 1995 and the Navy spike in fiscal year 1996
                                          are due to multiple minimum service obligation extensions that reduced the number of pilots eligible to
                                          leave active duty during those years.
                                          Source: GAO from DOD data.




Aviator Continuation                      The ACP take-rate measures the percentage of aviators, of those who are
                                          eligible in a particular year, who take a bonus in exchange for an agreement
Pay Take-Rates                            to extend their service commitment through 14 years of service. By law,
                                          ACP is only offered to those aviators in critical aviation specialties who



                                          Page 65                                                     GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Appendix I
Pilot Retention Measurements




have completed their minimum service obligation, but have completed less
than 13 years of aviation service. With the exception of the Army, the
services have offered the bonuses for time frames as short as 1, 2, or
3 years. The bonus take-rate is considered the leading indicator of
near-term aviator retention because service experience has shown that
90 percent of pilots separate within a year of declining a bonus.

It is important to note that not all pilots are eligible for the bonus at any
given point in time and that the bonus take-rate only measures the
percentage of pilots who take the ACP out of those who are eligible in a
given year. Because the services simply measure the number of aviators out
of the number eligible, a high bonus take-rate could signal that a service
has given bonuses to too many aviators. For example, if a service had a
community of 100 pilots, and 30 pilots took the bonus, this would represent
a 30-percent take-rate. Since the take-rate represents the number of pilots
who accepted a bonus, rather than the number of pilots that the service
wanted or needed to take it, the take-rate could be 30-percent and still
fulfill the needs of the service. The services could fill 100 percent of their
goals and still report a 30-percent take-rate. The Navy and the Marine Corps
currently do not tie their goals or desired take-rates to requirements.
Instead, they base their take-rate projections on historical patterns and
educated guesses of how many pilots are likely to take the bonus in the
future. Additionally, since the ACP is offered to different aviation
specialties in different years, for differing periods of time, and the take-rate
for communities that have not been offered the ACP in the past is usually
higher, the variations in take-rates can stem from many different causes.
Figure I.2 shows the ACP take-rates for the Navy and the Air Force for
fiscal years 1989 to 1998.




Page 66                                        GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                                           Appendix I
                                           Pilot Retention Measurements




Figure I.2: Navy and Air Force Pilot ACP Take-Rates, Fiscal Years 1989-98
                 Percent
            90


            80


            70


            60


            50


            40


            30


            20


            10


             0
                   1989       1990      1991         1992       1993        1994            1995     1996      1997       1998
     Navy           33         54         22          22          28          50            39        28         21        21
     Air Force      67         38         40          69          79          81            77        59         46        42

                                           Source: GAO from U.S. Navy and Air Force data.




                                           Page 67                                                 GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Appendix II

Comments From the Department of Defense                          Appe
                                                                    nIx
                                                                      Idi




See pp. 10 and 61.




                     Page 68   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                       Appendix II
                       Comments From the Department of Defense




Now on pp. 9 and 60.




Now on pp. 9 and 60.




                       Page 69                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                       Appendix II
                       Comments From the Department of Defense




New on pp. 33-34.




Now on pp. 9 and 60.




Now on pp. 9 and 60.




                       Page 70                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
                       Appendix II
                       Comments From the Department of Defense




Now on pp. 9 and 60.




See pp. 10 and 62.




                       Page 71                                   GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
Appendix III

GAO Contacts and Staff Acknowledgments                                                             AppeInx
                                                                                                         Idi




GAO Contacts          Mark E. Gebicke, (202) 512-5140
                      Brenda S. Farrell, (202) 512-5140



Acknowledgments       In addition to those named above, Carol R. Schuster, David E. Moser,
                      Harry E. Taylor, Jane D. Trahan, and Tracy A. McCaffery made key
                      contributions to this report.




(703255)       Lte
                 rt   Page 72                                    GAO/NSIAD-99-211 Military Personnel
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