In response to recent increases in aviator attrition, the Service has implemented several workforce management tools to preserve operational readiness, including reinstating Aviation Career Continuation Pay (ACCP), better known as “aviation bonus pay.” While we are not in extremis, there are several data points indicating action is required, including:
- Rising attrition in the officer aviation specialty
- A global surge in aviation hiring
- Challenges filling operational aviation billets
- Current and projected pilot shortages for all DoD Services; every Service is either paying bonuses or plans to pay bonuses in FY18.
Aviation Career Continuation Pay (ACCP) targets Fixed Wing and Rotary Wing aircraft commanders with critical skill sets. ACN077/17 was released with additional information outlining the application process, and defining the parameters for eligibility, with the primary goal of incentivizing a sufficient number of aviators to complete a third aviation tour. Following graduation from flight school, OCS and CGA accessions typically have 11 and 13 years obligated service respectively taking them through their first two aviations tours. At the O-5 and O-6 level, aviation remains extremely competitive, therefore bonuses primarily target O-3 and O-4 aircraft commanders without obligated service.
It is also important to note that paying bonuses was not the first initiative attempted in FY17. There have been several traditional and unique workforce management tools already implemented, including:
- Increased Flight School Accessions. The Coast Guard increased the number of Flight School selections to 82, the maximum authorized. While these candidates will aid in the shortages the Service is experiencing, it takes approximately 5 years to go from selection to Aircraft Commander.
- Increased Direct Commission Aviator (DCA) Accessions. DoD remains an excellent source of aviators willing to transition to the Coast Guard; however, the candidates are disproportionally Rotary Wing aviators. Due to the expansion of the program, and DoD’s own struggles with aviation retention, this candidate pool is largely exhausted year to year.
- Implementation of a Rotary to Fixed Transition Panel. The Coast Guard held a Rotary to Fixed transition panel that required those selected to obligate 6 years of service. Because of the shortages within the Rotary Wing community as well, this panel was only able to select 5 primary candidates without adversely affecting the Rotary Wing fleet.
- Increased number of O-5 Duty Standing Aviators. O-5 pilots are normally assigned to command cadre positions at operational aviation units (CO, XO, Dept Head) and duty standing positions are normally filled by O-2 to O-4 pilots. In AY17 O-5s who would typically fill staff positions were sent to the fleet to fill duty standing positions.
- Retired Recall Contracts. OPM issued retired recall contracts to aviators ranging from 1 to 4 years. The majority of these contracts were issued for Flight School Instructor positions with the Navy. Additional contracts were provided on a case by case basis to field units for members already qualified in the aircraft.
- Creation of an O-4 to O-4 lateral DCA program. In addition to the normal DCA accessions, this program will allow five additional aviators not eligible under existing DCA policy to transition to the Coast Guard. Due to their aviation experience, it is expected that they will be a quick upgrade to Aircraft Commander and greatly assist the short term needs of the Coast Guard. Once selected, these members will be assigned to large Air Stations which should help them in their transition to the Coast Guard.
Postgraduate school options are also going to be adjusted to ensure opportunities exist for officers to attend Postgraduate schools in aviation related programs, as well as programs that align with service needs. An upcoming ALCGPSC will contain additional information outlining the details and extended deadlines for aviators who may have applied to programs for which opportunities have changed. Communicating these adjustments for AY18 will be critical and I ask for your support. We have analyzed the historical graduate school opportunities and have worked to ensure we provide access to programs both within aviation and outside that have traditionally supported the members’ goals and the Service’s needs.
The final critical piece to aviator retention is the Service’s legislative requirement to transition from Aviation Career Incentive Pay (ACIP) to Aviation Incentive Pay (AvIP). PSC-OPM and CG-133 are developing the policy guiding the Coast Guard through this mandatory change. We expect to publish the new AvIP policy in early Fall of 2017.
PSC-opm is also conducting outreach efforts with individual commands as well as providing critical information updates on the opm portal pages. Commands are encouraged to contact PSC-opm-2 with questions. The POC for this effort is LCDR Ryan Matson PSC-OPM-2.
I recognize the need for these actions to ensure we retain officers within the aviation specialty. As we become more specialized the challenge to recruit, train, and retain talent across the Service will increase. As we continue to implement the Human Capital Strategy, your insights and inputs will prove critical to ensuring our success. I welcome and appreciate your feedback.
RDML William G. Kelly
RDML WILLIAM G. KELLY
Assistant Commandant for Human Resources
Enclosure: Aviation Bonus FAQs
Issue date: 7/5/17