An Initial Look at the U.S. Air Force Aviation Professional Pay Proposal

by Michael G. Mattock, Beth J. Asch

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The U.S. Air Force (USAF) has proposed Aviation Professional Pay (APP) as a replacement for Aviation Bonus (AvB) and Aviator Incentive Pay (AvIP). After an aviator completes the undergraduate pilot training active-duty service commitment, APP would be paid as long as the aviator is committed to a three-year service contract. A pilot would receive a single APP bonus, instead of AvIP and annual AvB, on top of monthly regular military compensation. APP would be tied to years of aviator service (YASs), starting in YAS 1 and continuing throughout the end of the career, with the monthly amount increasing with YAS through year 16 and decreasing slightly beginning in year 21. The USAF has proposed this alternative in part as a response to recent survey results that indicate that USAF aviators desire compensation without long-term commitments, and in part to treat aviation as a profession that recognizes the value of aviation experience.

Simulations using RAND's dynamic retention model show that APP would increase overall force size relative to the current system with AvB capped at $35,000 if accessions are held constant but that the same increase in overall force size could be realized at less than one-quarter of the cost by raising the AvB cap to $43,000. APP is less efficient than the combination of AvB and AvIP. Thus, policymakers will need to carefully balance the appealing features of APP with the reduced cost-effectiveness and reduced ability to lock pilots into long-term contracts.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Directorate of Force Management Policy, Office of the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters, U.S. Air Force, and conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE as part of a fiscal year 2018 project Cost–Benefit Analysis of Special and Incentive Pays for Aviators.

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