(April 18, 2017) The Air Force will not force pilots to stay in uniform as it deals with a current and looming shortage of pilots. Gen. David L. Goldfein, the Air Force chief of staff, made that clear last week soon after another four-star general put the stop-loss option on the table.
“I want to make it as clear as I possibly can: I am not considering stop-loss,” Goldfein said last week. “It’s a tool in the [defense secretary’s] tool bag to use when we’re in a state of emergency, and we’re not in a state of emergency.”
Goldfein was forced to address the issue days after Gen. Carlton D. Everhart, the commander of Air Mobility Command, told CQ Roll Call that forcing pilots to stay in the service was an option being considered. A story about Everhart’s comments appeared last week in Washington Report.
The service is facing a shortfall of more than 1,500 pilots, most of them in the fighter fleet. Many are jumping to the commercial airline industry where openings are many and frequent as its pilots retire. Officials from the service and the airline industry are meeting next month to discuss how to resolve the issue.
The Air Force is offering bonuses up to $35,000 for pilots to extend, but not enough are taking it. Also, pilots face a high operations tempo when they deploy, but are often unable to fly at home because of a lack of training funds.
The service is also losing maintainers, causing aircraft to remain grounded while waiting repairs.
But stop-loss is too drastic for the service to think about. It has been called a “backdoor draft” and harmful to morale.
“The reason I say I am not considering stop-loss is because I’m looking at working with the force right now,” Goldfein said at an event sponsored by the Heritage Foundation. “I’m looking at all the different options that I can use to incentivize the force to stay with us.”