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Research Questions

  1. To achieve and maintain required CEA end strength, is it more cost-effective to increase accessions or to use SRBs to retain more experienced CEAs?
  2. What values would recruiting and training costs need to reach before retaining experienced CEAS using SRBs becomes more cost-effective than increasing accessions?

To justify budgets for special and incentive (S&I) pays for career enlisted aviators (CEAs), the Air Force needs rigorous analyses on how to efficiently set S&I pays for CEAs to achieve and maintain required end strength.

The authors of this report develop an analytic capability to calculate the efficient amount of S&I pays for CEAs, using RAND's Dynamic Retention Model to create separate models for each CEA specialty. They use these models to estimate the per capita cost for each CEA specialty under different policies to show the trade-offs between increasing accessions versus retaining more experienced CEAs for a given force size. They also calculate tipping-point values: the values that recruiting and training costs would need to reach in order for retaining more experienced CEAs using selective reenlistment bonuses (SRBs) to become more cost-effective than increasing accessions.

Key Findings

There are trade-offs between increasing accessions and increasing SRBs to maintain end strength

  • If a more experienced CEA force is needed, then increasing SRBs is more cost-effective than increasing Critical Skills Incentive Pay (CSIP).
  • Holding force size constant, increasing SRBs causes the composition of CEAs to change by increasing the proportion of more experienced CEAs.
  • The trade-off between increasing SRBs to retain CEAs and increasing accessions to sustain a given CEA force size depends on recruiting and training costs. With the exception of a subset of Flight Engineers, increasing accessions is more efficient than increasing SRBs to sustain a given force size.
  • For Flight Engineers who are training to be part of the flight crew on CV-22 aircraft, retaining more experienced personnel using SRBs is more efficient than increasing accessions to sustain force size if SRB multipliers are below 2.5, whereas increasing accessions is more efficient if SRB multipliers are above 2.5.

Tipping-point values show that increasing accessions is generally more cost-effective

  • With the exception of Flight Engineers on CV-22 aircraft, increasing accessions is generally more cost-effective than increasing SRBs to retain more experienced CEAs, and recruiting and training costs would have to increase significantly for this not to be the case.

Tipping-point values show that increasing accessions is generally more cost-effective

  • For CV-22 Flight Engineers, estimated recruiting and training costs are sufficiently close to the estimated tipping point that the costs of either approach are approximately the same.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Dynamic Retention Model Overview, Data, Estimates, and Model Fits

  • Chapter Three

    Retaining Career Enlisted Aviators Versus Expanding the Training Pipeline

  • Chapter Four

    Concluding Thoughts

  • Appendix A

    Background on Career Enlisted Aviator Occupations and Special and Incentive Pays

  • Appendix B

    Retention Profiles of Career Enlisted Aviators

  • Appendix C

    Simulations of the Retention and Cost Effects of Alternative Special and Incentive Pay Policies

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by AF/A1P and conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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