The Air Force now has the power to recall up to 1000 retired pilots to address its personnel crisis – Business Insider
The Air Force’s protracted personnel shortage has been
called a “quiet crisis.”
The service has pursued a number of policy changes to
keep pilots in uniform.
The Defense Department now has the authority to recall
President Donald Trump amended an executive order on Friday to
allow the Defense Department to recall up to 1,000 retired pilots
in order to address the Air Force’s shortage of qualified fliers.
Defense Secretary Jim Mattis reportedly requested the move, and
he now has “additional authorities to recall retired
aviation officers,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross
said in a
“We anticipate that the Secretary of Defense will delegate the
authority to the Secretary of the Air Force to recall up to 1,000
retired pilots for up to three years,” Ross said.
Executive order 13223 declared a
temporary state of emergency after the September 11 attacks and
allowed the president to call up the National Guard, hire and
fire officers, and delay retirements. It has been renewed by
every president since, including Trump, but under the previous
version only 25 retired officers could to be called back to
active duty. Trump’s amendment expands that authority.
“The authorities available for use during a national
emergency … are also invoked and made available, according to
their terms, to the Secretary concerned, subject in the case of
the Secretaries of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, to the
direction of the Secretary of Defense,” the amended order
The Air Force has played a central role in the US-led
campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq, flying most of the
combat sorties during the three-year-old effort. The intensity of the
operations has placed additional demands on the Air Force’s
pilots and aircraft, which are also seeing more duties in Europe
Air Force officials have pointed to commercial airlines,
which pay more, as the main draw for fliers; budget cuts, longer
deployments, and long-term personnel drawdowns have also contributed to
more pilots leaving. (The service is also dealing with a shortage of
The service is pursuing a bevy of changes to retain pilots
and airmen, including more flexible assignment policies,
increased pay and bonuses, and reshuffling of administrative
is also looking to change its training
programs, potentially outsourcing some elements in order to
resolve a personnel bottleneck and free up Air Force aircraft for
In August, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson announced the
Voluntary Rated Return to Active Duty, or VRRAD, program, which
allowed up to 25 retired qualified pilots to return to fill
“critical-rated staff positions” so active-duty pilots could stay
with units where they are needed to meet mission
A general officer was picked to lead to
the Air Force’s aircrew crisis task force, which is focused on
training and retaining pilots and resolving the shortage.
The service’s budget request for 2018 also sought to balance
“readiness recovery, strategy-based modernization, and
At least one Air Force officer has mentioned “stop-loss” policies
as a way to keep fliers in uniform.
The executive order the president signed on Friday is not
limited ot the Air Force, and it could allow other branches to
call up officers in the future.
Already the Air Force looks poised to take a greater role in
Afghanistan as part of Trump’s intensified campaign against
the Taliban and other insurgents there.
After the killing of four US soldiers in Niger, US
counterterror efforts look likely to expand around the
“The war is headed to Africa,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said on Friday.
“It’s beginning to morph.” Graham added that US targeting of
terrorism suspects would become more aggressive and rules of
engagement would be changed. “As we suppress the enemy in the Mid
East, they’re going to move,” he said. “They’re not going to