Air Force Addresses Fighter Pilot Shortage. Again.

With a click-bait headline and the renewed vigor of a new Chief of Staff, the US Air Force is once again trying to deal with its “fighter pilot shortage.” In an article entitled “The US Air Force Is Short 700 Fighter Pilots. Here’s Our Plan to Fix That,” Secretary of the Air Force Deborah Lee James and new CSAF General Dave Goldfein said:

That [fighter pilot] shortfall is expected to grow from 500 to more than 700 pilots by the end of this fiscal year, a 21-percent gap between what we have and what we need to meet the requirements of our commanders around the world.

As in times past, the AF identified airline hiring and quality of life as issues — as well as reduced flying hours.

The Air Force leaders admitted that even with the substantial pilot bonus, not everyone is taking it:

Right now, too few of our pilots are taking the bonus money and the “take rate” is especially low for those men and women who fly fighter aircraft.

Unfortunately, the proposed solution to the low take rate is to raise the bonus — without seeming to acknowledge that turning down that much money to begin with may reveal there are other more pressing issues than finances.

To their credit, the Air Force recognized that not letting fighter pilots be fighter pilots is one reason they won’t stay in the Air Force:

We know from experience that military members are happiest when they have got the resources, funding and support they need to perform their missions at very high levels…We are…robustly funding a flying-hour program that will get our people back in the air for the training hours they need to progress in their careers.

For a large percentage of military members (not just fighter pilots), their desire to remain in the service is strongly influenced by the feeling of worth and value they can attribute to the work they perform. If fighter pilots are grounded by a lack of money and are forced to do menial non-fighter pilot jobs, they will be easily enticed to take jobs in the civilian sector where they can perform jobs (even if equally-valueless) at much higher pay and with greater freedom. By contrast, give US troops the funding, support, and ability to do their mission, and you’ll create an engaged, loyal following that will very likely stay in the service even if there are financial incentives for getting out.

As an aside, a supportive environment for the mission probably isn’t created by prioritizing the celebration of sexual behavior and/or creating the perception of a culture hostile to the religious liberty of a majority of troops.

Will the Air Force solve its fighter pilot shortage? If so, it would be the first time in a very long time.