The United States Department of Defense has recently reported on a "national aircrew crises" regarding pilots in the Air Force. They are evidently having problems retaining and/or turning over pilot positions, and in order to fix the problem they're mulling some financial incentives that can add up to some pretty impressive figures. Last month, Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso told the House Armed Services subcommittee for military personnel that up to $455,000 in annual bonuses (over a period of 13 years, but still!) could theoretically be taken home by an Air Force pilot for staying with the team.
Last year, Congress approved an increase of the limit on Air Force bonuses to entice pilots to stay on from $25,000 to $35,000, but even that was well short of what the Air Force requested: $48,000. If a pilot collects $35,000 for 13 years of his or her career, voila, they just earned $455,000 on top of their Air Force salary. And they'll also have the satisfaction of knowing they're not part of an increasingly worrisome problem for the Air Force – also according to Grosso, the entire branch of service is suffering from a shortage of personnel to the tune of 1,555 professionals, and over 1,200 of the needed positions are for fighter pilots. Here's part of how Grosso characterized the problem in her statements:
"Being 'always there' comes at a cost to equipment, infrastructure and most importantly, our airmen. And we are now at a decision point: sustained global commitments and recent funding cuts affect capacity and capability for a full-spectrum fight against a near-peer adversary."
Some practical relaxations of hiring standards are also on the table, as well as more flexible extension contracts in one- and two-year increments in addition to the current five- and nine-year deals. Expansion of medical waivers and loosening up restrictions on past marijuana use (the phrase "need for weed" comes to mind) are also being considered. Some or all of these measures will need to be considered in the near future, as the private sector currently has the jump on the Air Force in terms of pay (17 percent higher on average) and more flexible lifestyle – Delta doesn't let you do barrel rolls with their airplanes, though.