Addressing the Gaps

Overall, the Air Force continues to do extremely well in recruiting, but there remain nine career fields with high operational demand where critical manning shortages remain, said Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones, the service’s manpower and personnel chief. They include linguist, special operations, and explosive-ordnance-disposal specialties, he said in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee’s military personnel panel. To attract those skills, the Air Force has budgeted $14.5 million in initial enlistment bonuses in Fiscal 2013, he said. Similarly, while retention rates “remain at an all-time high” across the service as a whole, “retention is still problematic for some skills and year groups,” said Jones. For example, retaining senior non-commissioned officers in high-demand specialties such as combat control and pararescue “is challenging,” said Jones. So is retaining officers who are special operations pilots, remotely piloted aircraft operators, and special operations control and recovery operators, he said. Bonuses have proven to be “the most effective, responsive and measurable tool,” for retention and for convincing airmen to retrain into career fields where there are shortages, he told the lawmakers last week. (Jones’ prepared statement)