HomeNaval AviatorsOne of the ‘hidden’ penalties of sequestration…

One of the ‘hidden’ penalties of sequestration…

When in doubt, follow the money…

This is a long article, but well researched and with footnoted links. Pilot retention is an issue service wide, and becoming MORE of an issue in the Navy as deployments lengthen, with less time between deployments, due to carrier force shrinkage.

Military aviation has always been on a seven year cycle, either leading or lagging the curve, based on various progressions. There have been a number of discussions in a couple of groups I’m in, and this article gives probably the best ‘overview’, if you will, of the issue.

Without qualified and experienced Tac­Air pilots (strike fighter/electronic attack), global air superiority is in jeopardy, regardless of the aircraft technology. Today, the main competitor for those pilots is the airline industry. It is the easiest adversary the Navy has ever faced, yet it is losing the battle. Why are people doing a job most have dreamed about their whole lives so willing to walk away?

The full article is HERE, from the January issue of Proceedings.

One of the better comments, in one thread was this one, bold is mine- The fact of the matter is this: Being a Naval Aviator (and NFO) is a tough job. Long hours, plenty of sea time and little, if any, real family life. And, if everything goes swimmingly well you’re still done at 20 or 25 years. And then what? You start over in civil life – at the bottom or mid-ranks. 

I look at some of my former squadron mates… some have gone to the airlines and they like it. Several others have started their own businesses, or become very successful executives OUTSIDE of aviation and done very well… think seven figures per year kinda well. They learned a lot as a JO!

For many, the fun of flying an F-18 goes away after a few years… The “One mistake Navy” is risky, too. No guarantees of a long career... Finally, there are other things to achieve in life which makes it hard for the Navy to compete with just money alone.

Stay or go? Same conversation we’ve been having for 20+ years. 

The biggest change from ‘my’ service days is the “One mistake Navy”… THAT wasn’t something we had to deal with. As more pushes occur for ‘UAVs’ off the carrier and in other military endeavours, there is less support for funding. Manpower has always been expensive, and always will be, but as a percentage of the military budget, it’s stayed fairly stable. I don’t have a good answer, other than to say updated the damn compensation, otherwise, all those millions/billions of dollars of acft aren’t worth a pot to piss in, if there are no pilots to fly them, or leaders to lead them…

Kicking the soapbox back in the corner… Sigh.


One of the ‘hidden’ penalties of sequestration… — 15 Comments

  1. Disagree. Most of the guys I know (USAF) are more concerned about the organization’s decidedly non-mission focus and the amount of time spent on such than they are about pay.

  2. Hey Old NFO;

    Jeremiah Weed is correct, My brother retired a couple of years ago, he had 29 years in and didn’t want to wait for 30. he was so disgusted by the PC nonsense going on. He commented that “we will get our ass handed to us by someone that knows what the hell they are doing because we have forgotten basic warfighting skills because the troops are focused on the latest “feel good crap” being pushed by certain people in the command staff that are more concerned about their career rather than taking care of the troops.

    As far as the pilot thing goes, there is an acute shortage of pilots in the Commercial Aviation industry, my employer is concerned because we are looking at a shortage of experienced pilots. My employer is looking at giving regional airline pilots spots on flying Mad Dogs to bootstrap their career.

  3. Lots of good comments all, but let’s talk about the gorilla in the corner. What good is the navy doing? They have two jobs – sea lanes and shore projection. They haven’t been doing either one of those. They’ve got sailors working in Afghanistan and Iraq, trying to stay relevant. (I will say that the brown water gunboats were a nice touch, but there simply weren’t enough of them. It seemed to be a token effort.) They couldn’t stop Somali pirates in small fishing boats armed with rifles and RPGs – that was done by the Indians and Chinese. When the service is concerned about PC BS, and can’t accomplish their core mission, why stay in and ride the decline?

  4. Salary is nice and all that, but I would think a big factor would be how well is the equipment being maintained might also be a factor. If I had a spouse/child/sibling currently in the Navy, I would be worried about that. You might have a great skill set, but if the equipment you are putting your life into hasn’t been maintained to a top notch degree because there is no $$$ in the budget…how long does someone want to play THAT roulette wheel?

    Training and practice are vital to learning/maintaining any skill set. So is maintenance of the equipment you are learning on. There is no substitute for experience, and I pray we are not past the tipping point where we can not pull back from the edge of losing the cream of our armed services folks. And that most of them have not been watered down by all the PC crap.

    Keep the soapbox going Old NFO…squeaky wheels get the grease, and there are a bunch of folks in DC that have never gotten any grease under their nails who need to know what the consequences are for cutting military budgets.

  5. Salary is nice. But pilots for the majors fly 85 hrs a month on a biddable schedule. Sure, they may work holidays, especially when they have high seniority numbers. But they’re not gone from home for 6-9 months.

    (On the other hand, a decent economic downturn and they’re on furlough, sometimes for years.)

  6. First a couple of disclaimers, I wasn’t in the military and it has been several years since I worked with veterans. That being said, I spent roughly 30 years in the the nuclear industry, and worked with many former Navy nukes. Most of them were enlisted, and a large portion of these got out after 10 to 15 years. This is a time frame, considering the ongoing training requirements, that you want to retain these senior NCOs to pass on their knowledge to the next generation. The reasons why they left were varied, family disruption, Navy bureaucratic BS, Rickover’s policy of zero personnel errors, Non-Nuke superior NCOs/ Officers being assholes, etc. Salary disparity between military and civilian sectors was a factor, but not the sole reason. The salary issue was more along the lines of: “OK I’m fed up, at least I can make a good living on civvy street.”

    While the challenges to retaining trained personnel have been exacerbated in recent years, and some issues are endemic to military service, I think that a total revamp of military personnel practices is needed. As McChuck stated, the military in general, and the Navy in particular needs to get back to doing what they do best, and get out of being poster boys (and girls) for social change.

  7. All- Good comments and perspectives. One point, this IS Navy centric, not about the USAF retention issue. Thanks!

    Posted from my iPhone.

    • Wow.. snarky much? Was reading your books and checked out your website and just happened to find this post interesting and to see a dissing comment like this just because you got a USAF comment is a bit off putting.

      Though it didn’t agree with you it was politely stated.

      I have been out for a long time but still know a lot of people that are in or just recently out of all the services and from comments made by them all the services are dealing with the exact same political bullshit that has twisted their mission and attitudes. Lot of people leaving just a few years before 20 because they can’t/don’t want to hang with the bullshit or are being driven out so that they don’t retire and cost the service more. Wasn’t as bad when I was in but I do remember a lot of people being pushed out 3 years to 6 months prior to being eligible for retirement in the army for nitpicking stupid stuff that didn’t affect their ability at all in doing their jobs. It wasn’t as bad as a one mistake policy though.

      10th Mountain

  8. “The “One mistake Navy” is risky, too. No guarantees of a long career… ”

    You draw ONE giant sky dick, and it’s ninja punches all around and kiss your next promotion board goodbye…

  9. My apologies for the intrusion. I didn’t realize Naval avaition’s problems were drastically different than the AF’s.

  10. It’s a problem across the services. It doesn’t matter what kinda neat, gee-whiz equipment you have, the most important asset is people! You run out of people, that fancy machinery is gonna sit and collect dust!

    You have to GET good people, and KEEP them, otherwise you’re just going through the motions, and at some point it’s gonna bite you on the ass!

  11. Yeh but, the perfumed princes over at the fumble factory don’t think they need humans all that badly. Why not just replace that pesky and willful aviator with an AI that will follow any order and not complain about deployment’s. You SHOULD think “seven years ahead”. Then look at the new carriers. All set up as floating drone shops. The perfumed princes are getting ready to replace ALL aviation with AI’s. That IS the “vision” for the “21st century warfighter”. An all robotic military. Coming much sooner than y’all think.

  12. Heath- Yeah…

    Jeremiah- This is the ‘intercene warfare’ inside Naval Aviation. Fighter pilots vs. attack vs. EW/Spook vs. non-boat flyers vs. helo bubbas and who gets what… sigh…

    RS- Agreed!

    Ray- Sadly true…

  13. I’ve been out of the AF for 30+ years, and wasn’t a flyer or associated with them, but some years back I ran across https://www.jqpublicblog.com/
    and it seems the AF is messed up pretty much in the same ways as the Navy. Hurts pilot retention.