Index


Military Pilots: Observations on Current Issues (Testimony, 03/04/99,
GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102).

Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO discussed its preliminary
findings and observations pertaining to pilot shortages, focusing on:
(1) the validity of pilot requirements; (2) the extent of the reported
shortages and where they exist; (3) the key factors contributing to
pilot shortages; (4) the services' plans for correcting such shortfalls;
and (5) other steps that could be taken to address the problem.

GAO noted that: (1) the extent of pilot shortages is unclear due to
questions over the validity of pilot requirements and the availability
of the data on which the shortages are based; (2) the services are
reporting that they are able to fill all of their operational flying
positions but are unable to fill all of their nonflying staff positions
that are designated for qualified pilots; (3) the seriousness of these
shortages is unclear because the services have not made comprehensive
assessments of their nonflying positions to determine how many of these
staff positions might have to be filled by pilots; (4) the services
report that 20 to 40 percent of their pilot positions are designated as
nonflying positions; (5) notwithstanding difficulties with the
requirements, the Air Force projects that its greatest shortfall,
particularly within its fighter community, will occur in fiscal year
(FY) 2007 and then taper off; (6) Navy data indicate that the Navy may
have already experienced its greatest pilot shortfall, particularly
within its helicopter community, in FY 1998, and that its pilot shortage
will gradually dissipate although not disappear; (7) two key factors
have contributed to the reported pilot shortfalls; (8) during the draw
down in the 1990's, the services reduced their pilot accessions; (9)
this action has unintentionally resulted in insufficient numbers of
pilots to support the current force and is driving the need to retain
more pilots; (10) pilots are unhappy with a number of quality-of-life
factors that are causing them to consider leaving; (11) the services are
taking steps to address the shortfalls; (12) all of the services are
filling their flying positions first and then their nonflying positions
on a priority basis; (13) the Air Force is trying to encourage pilots to
stay until retirement through a new initiative to ease the transition
from military service to civilian employment; (14) the services will
need to continue to explore a variety of innovative approaches to
alleviate any projected shortfalls; (15) among the possible solutions,
the services may wish to review the aviator bonus systems and pilot
assignments; and (16) however, before the services take additional
steps, they need to: (a) reassess whether pilots are truly needed to
fill all of the nonflying positions currently designated for pilots; and
(b) refine their data to ensure that they have a full understanding of
the scope and nature of any identified pilot shortages.

--------------------------- Indexing Terms -----------------------------

 REPORTNUM:  T-NSIAD-99-102
     TITLE:  Military Pilots: Observations on Current Issues
      DATE:  03/04/99
   SUBJECT:  Flight training
             Military pay
             Employee incentives
             Aircraft pilots
             Military aviation
             Military personnel
             Human resources utilization

             
******************************************************************
** This file contains an ASCII representation of the text of a  **
** GAO report.  This text was extracted from a PDF file.        **
** Delineations within the text indicating chapter titles,      **
** headings, and bullets have not been preserved, and in some   **
** cases heading text has been incorrectly merged into          **
** body text in the adjacent column.  Graphic images have       **
** not been reproduced, but figure captions are included.       **
** Tables are included, but column deliniations have not been   **
** preserved.                                                   **
**                                                              **
** Please see the PDF (Portable Document Format) file, when     **
** available, for a complete electronic file of the printed     **
** document's contents.                                         **
**                                                              **
** A printed copy of this report may be obtained from the GAO   **
** Document Distribution Center.  For further details, please   **
** send an e-mail message to:                                   **
**                                                              **
**                    <info@www.gao.gov>                        **
**                                                              **
** with the message 'info' in the body.                         **
******************************************************************
NS99102T.book GAO United States General Accounting Office

Testimony Before the Subcommittee on Military Personnel Committee
on Armed Services, House of Representatives

For Release on Delivery 10: 00 a. m., EST Thursday, March 4, 1999

MILITARY PILOTS Observations on Current Issues

Statement of Mark E. Gebicke, Director Military Operations and
Capabilities Issues, National Security and International Affairs
Division

GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

Page 1 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee: Thank you for the
opportunity to be here today to discuss our preliminary findings
and observations from work on pilot shortages, which we are doing
at the request of this Subcommittee. Pilot shortages pose
significant challenges because each pilot replacement, according
to service data, costs the Department of Defense (DOD) up to $6
million in training and requires years of investment in training
time and experience.

Today, I will discuss (1) the validity of pilot requirements, (2)
the extent of the reported shortages and where they exist, (3) the
key factors contributing to pilot shortages, (4) the services'
plans for correcting such shortfalls, and (5) other steps that
could be taken to address the problem.

My focus will be on pilots in the Air Force and the Navy, because
these two services are reporting the most critical shortages. Let
me emphasize that this information is preliminary in nature in
that we are continuing to explore these issues. Summary The extent
of pilot shortages is unclear due to questions over the validity
of

pilot requirements and the availability of the data on which the
shortages are based. Currently, the services are reporting that
they are able to fill all of their operational flying positions
but are unable to fill all of their nonflying staff positions that
are designated for qualified pilots. The seriousness of these
shortages is unclear because the services have not made
comprehensive assessments of their nonflying positions to
determine

how many of these staff positions might not have to be filled by
pilots. The services report that 20 to 40 percent of their pilot
positions are designated as nonflying positions. Notwithstanding
difficulties with the requirements,

the Air Force projects that its greatest shortfall, particularly
within its fighter community, will occur in fiscal year 2007 and
then taper off. Navy data indicate that the Navy may have already
experienced its greatest pilot shortfall, particularly within its
helicopter community, in fiscal year 1998, and that its pilot
shortage will gradually dissipate although not disappear. Two key
factors have contributed to the reported pilot shortfalls. First,
during the drawdown in the 1990s, the services reduced their pilot
accessions. This action has unintentionally resulted in
insufficient numbers of pilots to support the current force and is
driving the need to

retain more pilots. Second, pilots are unhappy with a number of
quality- oflife factors that are causing them to consider leaving.

Page 2 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

The issue of pilot shortfalls is multi- faceted, and no single
step will solve the problem. The services are taking steps to
address the shortfalls. For example, all of the services are
filling their flying positions first and then their nonflying
positions on a priority basis. The Air Force is trying to
encourage pilots to stay until retirement through a new initiative
to ease

the transition from military service to civilian employment. The
Army has recently begun to offer a bonus to its Apache helicopter
pilots. The services will need to continue to explore a variety of
innovative approaches to alleviate any projected shortfalls. Among
the possible solutions, the services may wish to review the
aviator bonus system and pilot

assignments. However, before the services take additional steps,
they need to (1) reassess whether pilots are truly needed to fill
all of the nonflying positions currently designated for pilots and
(2) refine their data to ensure that they have a full
understanding of the scope and nature of any identified pilot
shortages.

Before I discuss each of these issues, let me first provide you
with some additional background about military aviators and their
career paths.

Background DOD's aviator community consists of pilots, who
actually fly the aircraft, and navigators, whose responsibilities
include tracking an aircraft's position along an intended flight
path. (The Navy and the Marine Corps

refer to their navigators as naval flight officers.) At the
beginning of fiscal year 1999, DOD had about 28,000 active duty
commissioned and warrant officer pilots. 1 These include
approximately 13,300 pilots in the Air Force, 6,600 pilots in the
Navy, 4,800 warrant officer pilots in the Army, and 3,400 pilots
in the Marine Corps. The Army is the only service that uses
warrant officers. In addition, there are approximately 5,000
navigators in the Air Force, 3,400 navigators in the Navy, and 300
navigators in the Marine Corps.

All pilot candidates must complete basic flight training to earn
their initial qualifications, or wings. This course of instruction
typically lasts 1 year, and upon graduation, each new pilot
currently incurs a commitment to serve an additional 6 to 8 years
of aviation service (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

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.

Page 3 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

military careers, usually for shorter periods of time, for such
things as accepting orders to new assignments or attending
particular schools. Upon earning their wings, pilots begin to
receive aviation career incentive pay, commonly referred to as
flight pay, which was designed to attract and retain officers in a
military aviation career. The amount of flight pay starts at $125
a month and peaks at $840 a month for a pilot with 14 to 22 years
of aviation service. After 22 years, the amount gradually
decreases to $250 a month.

Once pilots complete their initial aviation commitment, the
services are authorized to offer bonuses, called aviation
continuation pay, 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. 2 Until September 30, 1999, current law
authorizes the services to pay aviation continuation bonuses of up
to $25,000 to pilots for each year of additional commitment if
they have

completed between 6 and 13 years of active duty and agree to
remain on active duty to complete 14 years of commissioned
service. Currently, the Air Force offers $22,000 per year to all
pilots with the required years of aviation service who sign a
commitment for 5 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. The Navy targeted its aviation continuation pay
bonuses 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.

The services take several factors into account when they determine
their flying and nonflying pilot requirements. For example,
Defense guidance defines the missions upon which the services 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

2 We previously reported on the aviation continuation pay bonus in
our report entitled Aviation Continuation Pay: Some Bonuses Are
Inappropriate Because of Prior Service Obligations (GAO/NSIAD-95-
30, Oct. 14, 1994).

Page 4 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

services consider a number of other factors to determine their
nonflying requirements. These factors include requirements to send
pilots to joint duty assignments, assignments to the Office of the
Secretary of Defense, staff positions for career enhancement, and
pilot instructor positions. In addition, the services calculate
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

assignments. Generally, DOD pilots follow career paths that
require them to serve in both cockpit and staff positions. DOD's
pilots, whether assigned to flying or nonflying positions, are
eligible to receive both aviation career incentive pay and
aviation continuation pay, provided they meet the other
eligibility criteria.

Pilot Requirements Have Not Been Fully Validated

Two factors must be kept in mind in considering the extent of the
reported pilot shortages. First, the services have not fully
validated their requirements, and second, service data to document
the extent of the shortages is in many instances not readily
available. Pilot requirements, which include both flying and
nonflying positions, may not be accurately stated. The services
report that they can fill their flying positions and that, as a
result, their shortages are occurring almost exclusively in their
nonflying staff positions. However, the services have

not comprehensively assessed all of these nonflying positions to
determine whether they truly need to be filled with military
pilots. Currently, the services report that about 20 to 40 percent
of all pilots, depending on the

service, serve in nonflying positions. 3 If some of these
positions could be filled with other personnel such as retired
military personnel, DOD civilians, and contractors with the
required aviation expertise, the services' pilot requirements, and
thus the shortages, could be reduced. It is also

possible that aviation expertise, while desirable, might not be
absolutely necessary for some positions. In such cases, other non-
aviator military 3 One of the reasons for the variance is that the
services report their nonflying positions differently. According
to Air Force data, the percentage of pilots in nonflying positions
has been less than 22 percent for the past 7 years, and is
projected to stay relatively constant at slightly more than 20
percent in the future. Navy data for fiscal year 1998 show that
approximately 27 percent of its pilots and naval flight officers
are serving in nonflying positions, both in shore billets and in
ships. Although

the Marine Corps has the smallest number of pilots, its data show
that it has the highest ratio of pilots in nonflying positions, at
40 percent. Nonflying positions are not as great a factor for the
Army because it relies heavily on warrant officer pilots who
mostly serve in fly- only careers.

Page 5 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

personnel could replace the pilots holding the positions. The Air
Force, for example, told us that it currently prepares
justifications to demonstrate why pilots should fill these
positions. However, when pilots are in short supply, it might be
more appropriate to justify why such positions cannot be filled by
personnel other than pilots. In 1997, we recommended that the

services review their requirements for pilots to serve in all of
these nonflying positions. 4 During the course of our work, the
Air Force told us that it has prioritized its staff positions and
filled those with the highest

priority. However, the remaining vacant positions are still
included as pilot requirements. We have found no evidence that any
of the services have reassessed their nonflying positions, as we
previously recommended.

We are not implying that only flying positions should be
considered in determining total pilot requirements. Nonflying
positions serve several purposes. First, nonflying positions can
serve to broaden aviators professionally and prepare them for
leadership positions. Second, these positions can also serve to
combat cyclical drops in retention. The Air Force, in particular,
has used this pool of personnel to compensate for periods of
reduced retention. Last, more military pilots increase the pool
available to fly more missions and alleviate the operating tempo
problems.

In addition to our concerns about pilot requirements, we are not
sure that the services have based their reported shortages on
reliable data. The Air Force has routinely provided us with data.
However, officials in the Army and the Navy told us that they did
not have readily available data on requirements and pilot
inventory. For example, the Navy produced different sets of data
showing fiscal year 1998 shortages ranging from 321 to 1,153
pilots. We are working closely with Navy officials to resolve
these discrepancies. In this statement, we are relying on the most
recent data provided. We will continue to work with the services
to resolve our

data concerns. Furthermore, with the exception of the Air Force,
the services were unable to provide us with historical and
projected data on flying and nonflying positions.

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

Page 6 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

The Reported Shortages Are Most Critical in the Air Force and the
Navy Of all the services, 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. Air Force Shortage In
fiscal year 1998, the Air Force reported that of a requirement for
13, 986

pilots, it had a shortage of 648, or 5 percent. It anticipates
that its most critical shortages will occur during fiscal years
2002- 2007, when it projects shortages of between 1,900 and 2,155
pilots, or up to about 16 percent of its overall pilot
requirements. The Air Force has recently implemented personnel
actions that it believes will cause the pilot shortages to decline
after 2007. For example, the Air Force is now bringing in larger
classes of new pilots who will incur obligations that will take
them through fiscal year 2007 or beyond. Although reporting that
it is currently filling all of its cockpits, the Air Force will
soon reevaluate whether it will be able to continue to do so in
the fiscal year 2002- 2007 time frame. The Air Force projects that
its greatest shortages in fiscal year 2007 will occur among its
fighter, tactical airlift, and bomber pilots. Fighter pilot
shortages are projected to reach 820 pilots, out of a requirement
of 4,715 fighter pilots, or 17 percent of its fighter
requirements. Tactical airlift pilot shortages are projected to
reach 311 pilots, out of a requirement of

2,015 pilots, or 15 percent of the tactical airlift requirements.
Likewise, in fiscal year 2007, the Air Force projects a shortage
of 294 bomber pilots out of a requirement of 1,049 pilots,
representing 28 percent of the bomber force requirements. Figure 1
displays the actual Air Force pilot requirements and inventory for
fiscal years 1992- 1998 and projected requirements and inventory
for fiscal years 1999- 2009.

Page 7 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

Figure 1: U. S. Air Force Pilot Requirements Versus Inventory
(fiscal years 1992- 2009)

Note: Air Force data include both flying and nonflying positions.

Navy Shortage According to the most recent data provided to us, as
of February 4, 1999, the Navy has already experienced its greatest
shortage of pilots. These data indicate that the Navy, whose pilot
population is about half that of the

Air Force, experienced a shortage in fiscal year 1998 that was
nearly two times greater than the Air Force shortage. Navy
officials told us that they have filled all of their cockpits by
extending sea tours. The Navy's shortage of 1,153 pilots, of a
requirement of 7,712 pilots, represented about 15 percent of its
pilot requirements. Navy data also show that the greatest
shortages occurred among those pilots who fly helicopters,
followed by

those who fly propeller aircraft and jets. In fiscal year 1998,
the Navy was short 536 helicopter pilots, or 17 percent of its
helicopter requirements of 3,195 pilots. In the case of propeller
aircraft, the Navy required 1,845 pilots, but was short 311, or 17
percent. In the jet community, the Navy had a requirement for
2,221 pilots and was short 216, representing about 10 percent of
its jet pilot requirements. Over the next 5 years, the Navy
projects that its aviator shortages will gradually dissipate, but
not

disappear. Figure 2 displays the Navy's pilot requirements and
inventory

11, 500 12, 000

12, 500 13, 000

13, 500 14, 000

14, 500 15, 000

15, 500 16, 000

16, 500 17, 000

17, 500 FY92 FY93 FY94 FY95 FY96 FY97 FY98 FY99 FY00 FY01 FY02
FY03 FY04 FY05 FY06 FY07 FY08 FY09

Fiscal Year

Requirements Inventory

Page 8 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

for fiscal years 1992- 1998 and projected requirements and
inventory for fiscal years 1999- 2009.

Figure 2: U. S. Navy Pilot Requirements Versus Inventory (fiscal
years 1992- 2009)

Note: Navy data include both flying and nonflying positions. Army
Shortage According to Army data, in fiscal year 1998, the Army had
an overall requirement of 4,745 warrant officer pilots and an
inventory of 4, 799, for a surplus of 54 warrant officer pilots,
or 1 percent. As of February 1999, the Army reported that it had a
shortage of 104 Apache helicopter pilots, out of a requirement of
1,059, or about 10 percent of its Apache pilot force. The Army
plans to compensate for this shortfall by offering the
continuation

pay bonus, by allowing certain pilots who were not promoted to
stay on active duty, and by allowing others who left the service
to return to active duty.

5000 5500

6000 6500

7000 7500

8000 8500

9000 9500

10000 FY92 FY93 FY94 FY95 FY96 FY97 FY98 FY99 FY00 FY01 FY02 FY03
FY04 FY05 FY06 FY07 FY08 FY09

Requirements Inventory

Page 9 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

Marine Corps Shortage The Marine Corps reported an overall
shortage of 46 pilots in fiscal year 1998, representing a shortage
of about 1 percent of its overall requirements of 3,435 pilots.
According to the most recent data provided to us, the Marine Corps
does project an increased shortfall beginning in fiscal year 2001.
However, the projected overall shortage is 211 pilots, or about

6 percent of its requirement of 3,624 pilots. Two Key Factors Are
Contributing to the Reported Shortfalls

Two factors are contributing to the pilot shortfalls. First, the
services reduced pilot accessions during the drawdown in the
1990s. This contributed to an insufficient number of pilots to
fill the overall current pilot requirement. 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. Second,

pilots report that they are unhappy with a number of quality- of-
life factors that are causing them to consider leaving. Pilots
state that at the same time certain factors are making a career
within the military less attractive, other factors, such as a good
job market, are making a career within private industry more
attractive.

Reduced Accessions During the Drawdown Are Creating Unintended
Consequences

Air Force and Navy reductions in the number of new pilot
accessions during the drawdown in the mid- 1990s had the
unintended result of leaving the services with an insufficient
number of pilots to support the current

force. 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- 96.
Recognizing that it needed to increase

accessions, the Air Force has steadily increased its pilot
production since that time. The service accessed approximately 900
pilots in fiscal year 1998 and expects to meet its capacity of
1,100 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 3 shows Air Force pilot actual accessions and

goals for fiscal years 1988 through 1998 and projected goals for
fiscal years 1999 through 2004.

Page 10 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

Figure 3: U. S. Air Force Pilot Accessions and Goals (fiscal years
1988 to 2004)

The Navy experienced a similar pattern. In fiscal year 1990, the
Navy accessed 1,039 pilots; in fiscal year 1994 the Navy accessed
471 pilots. In fiscal years 1999 through 2005, the Navy plans to
access 820 pilots each

year. Figure 4 shows Navy pilot actual accessions and goals for
fiscal years 1988 through 1998 and projected goals for fiscal
years 1999 through 2004.

0 200

400 600

800 1000

1200 1400

1600 1800

FY88 FY89 FY90 FY91 FY92 FY93 FY94 FY95 FY96 FY97 FY98 FY99 FY00
FY01 FY02 FY03 FY04 Actual Goal

Page 11 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

Figure 4: U. S. Navy Pilot Actual Accessions and Goals (fiscal
years 1988 to 2004)

Aviators Are Leaving the Service for a Number of Reasons

During our work to date, we have reviewed a number of retention
studies and surveys and administered our own questionnaire to more
than 180 pilots and 50 navigators in the Air Force and the Navy.
In addition, we conducted follow- up group discussions with more
than 120 of the aviators who responded to our questionnaire.
Although we cannot make projections from the limited number of
questionnaires and interviews, their

comments are instructive. The aviators who responded to our
questionnaire reported that the three most important reasons for
wanting to stay in the military are their love of flying, the
ability to serve their country, and the camaraderie they enjoy

among their peers. The three most significant reasons for wanting
to leave the military are better financial opportunities outside
of the military, improved family life, and frustrations with
leadership. When we asked aviators to provide us with the single
change that would encourage them to stay in the military, Navy
aviators requested funding for aircraft and parts and increased
pay and benefits, and Air Force aviators requested a

relaxation of their deployment schedules followed closely by
better pay and more choice in assignments.

0 200

400 600

800 1000

1200 1400

FY88 FY89 FY90 FY91 FY92 FY93 FY94 FY95 FY96 FY97 FY98 FY99 FY00
FY01 FY02 FY03 FY04 FY05 Actual Goal

Page 12 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

In addition to these responses to our questionnaire, we would like
to elaborate on these and other themes we heard with some
regularity during our group discussions. Pilots expressed their
frustrations with the current bonuses and stated that they are not
working effectively, for a number of reasons. 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 likely, or very likely to leave the military.
Some aviators complained about the perceived cut in pay that
occurs when a pilot reaches 14 years of commissioned service and
is no longer eligible to receive bonus money. Others complained
that the services postponed or extended their flight training,
which in turn reduced the number of years in which they can

receive an aviation continuation bonus. The extent to which
today's pilots are motivated by dollars is up for debate. The
pilots who responded to our written questionnaire said that they
have the potential to pursue financially attractive careers with
private industry. However, some pilots and officials we met said
that the irritants within the military that are pushing them out
are greater than the allure of potentially large salaries within
private industry. Low retention may also be related to current
deployment schedules. Pilots identified the frequency and the
length of deployments, and the lack of clear mission objectives as
primary concerns. 5 Some pilots referred to

their deployments as non value- added deployments. The Air Force
pilots we met expressed their specific concerns 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 they would be better off training in U. S. air
space and deploying on an as needed basis. The Air Force is
reorganizing itself into an expeditionary force with the explicit
intent of providing greater stability and predictability in

deployments. However, pilots expressed their concerns that the
length of the deployments will increase from 45 to 90 days under
this concept. The Navy pilots we met understandably had a
different expectation about the length of deployments since naval
deployments are typically 6 months in

5 Other work we are doing supports these concerns. For example,
the Air Force reports 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.

Page 13 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

length. However, Navy and Air Force pilots alike raised concerns
about the pace of operations between deployments. Several naval
pilots told us that the schedule between deployments is often more
frustrating 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- 12 hour days
between deployments.

Aging fleets, a lack of spare parts, and increased demands on
aircraft maintainers are also 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. Our work has
shown that the shortage of spare parts within the Air Force may be
due to deficiencies in forecasting requirements, inventory
management, and

repair problems, as well as budgeting problems. Nevertheless, the
perception of the pilots we interviewed, clearly, 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 in order to repair another. The pilots also
expressed their concerns for the

enlisted mechanics, adding that it is difficult for them to
motivate their enlisted personnel in such a difficult work
environment.

Pilots told us they are also frustrated by the lack of
opportunities 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. Air Force pilots, in particular,
raised concerns that they are being sent back to junior flying
positions and not getting assignments to the traditional military
leadership positions. They believe that the personnel assignment
and promotion systems are no longer synchronized. On the one hand,
the Air Force is reassigning pilots to cockpit positions; on the
other hand, the promotion boards still expect the pilots to gain
staff and education experiences to be competitive for

promotion. Some of the pilots we spoke with said that, in essence,
the Air Force is creating a fly- only career path and suggested
that the services do this formally. Finally, pilots raised
concerns about leadership above their immediate chain of command.
They perceived a reluctance on the part of leadership to stand up
and say no to expanded work under decreasing budgets and reduced
manpower. They cited changes to the retirement system and

Page 14 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

medical care, and stated that no one is willing to fight for the
military member. They suggested that military leaders are holding
pilots to new missions within old structures. The pilots said that
DOD needs to be able to cut back on its commitments to match the
drawdown of the force. Finally, several pilots commented that they
do not wish to stay in the military to rise to the senior
positions themselves because they do not see their superior
officers enjoying their jobs or being given the proper tools to do
their jobs.

The Services Are Taking Steps to Address the Shortfalls

The issue of pilot shortfalls is multi- faceted, and no single
step will solve the problem. The services have implemented a
number of changes to help address the situation.

All of the services told us they have made cockpit positions a
staffing priority, making a concerted effort to fill these
positions before filling nonflying positions. We concur that the
services should fill their priority positions first. However,
longer- term implications may be associated with this decision.
For example, the Air Force and the Navy told us they are

presently limiting the number of mid- grade pilots they would
otherwise send to assignments such as staff positions and formal
education programs and reassigning them in junior flying positions
or extending them in their current assignments. While this
practice helps to fill the cockpits, it also creates some
unintended consequences and poses leadership implications. Air
Force and Navy officials have raised concerns about the future,
stating that some pilots who have missed some of these career-
enhancing opportunities and leadership experiences may not be as
qualified to be promoted to senior paygrades. The Air Force is
implementing a program called Phoenix Aviator 20. The purpose of
this program is to make it more attractive for pilots to stay in
the Air Force until they can retire at 20 years of service by
creating a

seamless transition between military service and civilian
employment. Among the provisions, Air Force pilots who enroll in
this program will be assigned to a tour of duty that guarantees
them flying experience, to keep their flight credentials current,
during their last 3 years of service. During this time period, the
Air Force will provide financial assistance for the

military pilot to obtain his or her civilian certifications. In
addition, the military pilot will be guaranteed a job interview
with private industry. The program is new, and few pilots have
enrolled to date.

Page 15 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

In an attempt to provide greater stability and predictability
regarding overseas deployments, the Air Force is reorganizing
itself into an expeditionary force. 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 one 90- day deployment
every 15 months. This reorganization is also still in development.

The Air Force will increase the period of obligated service for
pilots after receiving their wings from 8 to 10 years beginning in
fiscal year 2000. While this step will have a positive effect on
shortages, the effect will not

be realized for a decade. The Army began offering the aviation
continuation pay bonus to its Apache helicopter pilots in fiscal
year 1999. In addition, the Army has allowed some pilots who left
the service to return to active duty, and in other cases, has
allowed pilots who were not promoted to remain on active duty.

Finally, the Air Force and the Navy have increased the number of
new pilots they bring in each year. The Air Force is still
increasing its pilot accessions until fiscal year 2000.
Opportunities Exist to Implement New Solutions

You asked us to provide some options for the Subcommittee and the
services to consider in addressing the pilot shortage issue.
Indeed, our analysis of service data, interviews with service
officials, and surveys with aviators have generated a number of
ideas that merit further exploration. We have not yet evaluated
the potential or limitation of these options. Before I mention
these options, I will discuss two steps the services need to

initiate now. Initial Steps to Be Taken DOD must develop reliable
and consistent data to identify, with precision,

the year groups and aircraft types in which the shortages
currently exist. DOD must also be able to measure the magnitude of
the current problem and project with some accuracy and consistency
into the future. For example, certain long- term corrective
actions might be appropriate if DOD determines that the primary
reason for the shortages is low retention among pilots who are
eligible to leave the military. If, on the other hand, DOD
determines that the primary reason for the shortages is due to
personnel actions that were made in the past, other short- term
corrective actions might be more in order.

Page 16 GAO/T-NSIAD-99-102

The services should also reexamine their pilot requirements, from
two perspectives, with the intent of reducing them. First, the
services should scrutinize all non- cockpit positions, identify
those that could be filled by other personnel, and convert the
positions. Second, the services should study the current length
and frequency of deployments, as well as the operational demands
between deployments. Other Options to Explore Options identified
to us, that we will continue to explore during the course

of our review, include the following:  The services could review
the aviator bonus system and specifically

consider aviation continuation bonuses that do not terminate at 14
years of service but continue through 20 years and possibly
beyond. Such a bonus system may encourage some pilots to remain in
the service beyond 14 years.  To the extent that the services are
constrained by the number of new

pilots they can train each year due to limited training capacity,
DOD could explore additional opportunities to consolidate their
pilot training programs and increase training flexibility among
the services.  To the extent that pilot shortages are not
occurring uniformly throughout the services, DOD could consider
cross- service assignments

and assigning pilots in overstrength year groups in one service to
staff positions in another service where shortages exist. In
summary, the services must first reevaluate their requirements and
refine their data to better identify their problem areas. The
services have begun to take steps to address their reported pilot
shortages, and we

believe that opportunities exist to explore additional solutions.
We expect to complete our work on pilot shortages and issue a
final report later this summer. We will continue to work with the
services to explore solutions. Mr. Chairman, this concludes my
prepared statement. I would be happy to respond to any questions
that you or the other Members of the

Subcommittee may have.

(703281) Lett er

Ordering Information The first copy of each GAO report and
testimony is free. Additional copies are $2 each. Orders should be
sent to the following address, accompanied by a check or money
order made out to the Superintendent of Documents, when necessary,
VISA and MasterCard credit cards are accepted, also.

Orders for 100 or more copies to be mailed to a single address are
discounted 25 percent.

Orders by mail: U. S. General Accounting Office P. O. Box 37050
Washington, DC 20013

or visit: Room 1100 700 4th St. NW (corner of 4th and G Sts. NW)
U. S. General Accounting Office Washington, DC

Orders may also be placed by calling (202) 512- 6000 or by using
fax number (202) 512- 6061, or TDD (202) 512- 2537.

Each day, GAO issues a list of newly available reports and
testimony. To receive facsimile copies of the daily list or any
list from the past 30 days, please call (202) 512- 6000 using a
touchtone phone. A recorded menu will provide information on how
to obtain these lists.

For information on how to access GAO reports on the INTERNET, send
an e- mail message with info in the body to: info@ www. gao. gov
or visit GAO's World Wide Web Home Page at: http:// www. gao. gov

United States General Accounting Office Washington, D. C. 20548-
0001

Official Business Penalty for Private Use $300

Address Correction Requested Bulk Rate

Postage & Fees Paid GAO Permit No. GI00

*** End of document. ***