Oct. 22 (UPI) — The Air Force has the authority to recall 1,000 retired pilots to active duty to address a shortage in combat fliers, the White House and Pentagon announced.
President Donald Trump signed an executive order Friday that amends “a national emergency by reason of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001” that gives the Secretary of Defense additional authority to manage personnel requirements.
“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,” Navy Cmdr. Gary Ross, a Pentagon spokesman, said in a statement obtained by USA Today.
The executive order could be used to call up more officers and in other branches.
Air Force officials have said the service was 1,500 pilots short.
“We are in a crisis,” Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein said in a meeting last month of more than 60 leaders at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland. “We’re 1,500 pilots short, and if we don’t find a way to turn this around, our ability to defend the nation is compromised.”
The order is strictly voluntary for pilots under the age of 60 who retired within the last five years in the rank of captain, major or lieutenant colonel. The Air Force wants to fill 25 positions for an active-duty tour of one year.
“This is an amendment to an existing authority we already had,” an Air Force official told Military.com. “We have authorities for a whole bunch of things — doesn’t mean we use them.”
This summer, the Air Force announced it is increasing its flight incentive pay and aviation bonus programs. That includes bonuses of up to $455,000 over 13 years for some fighter pilots.
Richard Aboulafia, an aviation analyst and vice president of the Teal Group, told USA Today the shortage stemmed from competition from commercial airlines as well as delays and funding shortfalls in training.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the chairman of the Armed Services Committee, said in June “this is a full-blown crisis, and if left unresolved, it will call into question the Air Force’s ability to accomplish its mission.”