[Defense in Brief] U.S. Air Force ‘hemorrhaging’ pilots as shortage grows

The U.S. Air Force has a big problem in fulfilling its primary mission in that it is “hemorrhaging” pilots faster than it can obtain and train new ones, according to a House defense leader.  House Armed Services Committee chairman and U.S. Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, said the shortage of Air Force pilots could exceed 1,900 based on what he was briefed just last week. That’s up hundreds from the 1,600 pilots the air service was short at the end of fiscal year 2016. Like other lawmakers, “Mac” is blaming sequestration and the lack of Congress’ ability to pass real budgets from year-to-year rather than continuing resolutions. “This is an example of where cutting the defense budget by 20 percent since 2010 has real consequences,” Thornberry said at a press conference Monday at the Miami Valley base with U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, chairman of the House Tactical Air and Land Forces subcommittee. Turner added that the sequestration-mandated automatic cuts to defense have had a “devastating impact across the board” to the Department of Defense. “This is all about we need an adequately funded budget with consistency so that the Department of Defense can plan,” he said. Added Thornberry: “We are short (aircraft) maintainers in the thousands and even if we are able to pass the ideal defense budget next week, you can’t just flip a switch and have a competent fighter pilot or a competent maintainer appear out of thin air. It takes time to develop the expertise, it takes money to go through the training.” And it takes money to retain pilots and maintainers.

Jon E. Dougherty is a political, foreign policy and national security analyst and reporter with nearly 30 years of experience in both fields. A U.S. Army veteran of Operation Enduring Freedom, he holds BA in Political Science from Ashford University and an MA in National Security Studies/Intelligence Analysis from American Military University.

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