USAF Wants Retired Airmen to Come Back to Active Duty

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson talks to attendees at the Air Force Sergeants' Association conference in Reno, Nev., July 25, 2017. Air Force photo/Scott M. Ash

The Air Force is going after retired airmen, and increasing bonuses for those still in the service, in an attempt to bridge a manpower gap.

Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson announced Friday that USAF is standing up an Aircrew Crisis Task Force focused on “retaining and growing pilots” and addressing the personnel “shortfall.” The task force will be headed by Brig. Gen. Mike Koscheski.

In addition to the task force, Wilson announced other new personnel initiatives.

Officers and enlisted aircrew will be seeing an increase in incentive pay, effective Oct. 1. “While we call it aircrew incentive pay,” Wilson told reporters at the Pentagon, “it’s what we used to call flight pay,” adding USAF hadn’t increased its flight pay since 1999. Officer incentive pay will increase by up to $1,000 (up from $840) per month and enlisted incentive pay by up to $600 (up from $400) per month. These maximum amounts represent an increase of just under 20 percent for officers and 50 percent for enlisted.

The service included a scale for the new incentive pay program in a press release.

USAF is also planning to approach retired airmen for what Wilson called “voluntary-rated return to Active Duty.” The idea is to bring pilots back from retirement to fill non-flying, “critical-rated staff positions,” Wilson said.

“We have a number of positions around the Air Force that require the expertise of someone who’s been a military pilot and we’d like to keep our pilots, who are current in the aircraft, in the aircraft,” she said. The aim is to recruit 25 such retirees and bring them back for “basically a 12-month contract.”

The service is also expanding its aviation bonus program to include those who aren’t under a service contract and those whose contracts may have expired.

(See Rebuilding the Ranks from the July issue of Air Force Magazine for an in-depth look at how the Air Force plans to increase its end strength.)