The U.S. Air Force has asked for additional 2024 budget funding specifically for retention and recruitment bonuses. The global pilot shortage coupled with the difficulties of bringing in new airmen are driving the service to expand its financial incentives for current and future personnel.

The Air Force budget for 2024 is pegged at $185 billion, of which $648 million is earmarked for bonuses and retention incentives targeting 65 “specialty positions,” according to the information released on Monday. The overall budget is an increase of some 4 percent over that of the previous year. A partial breakdown of personnel-related funding is reported as $250 million for aviation career incentives, $45 million for initial recruitment bonuses and $12 million in retention incentives for cyber-related roles.

One week before the budget announcement, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall announced the service expected to fall short of its active-duty, Reserve and Air National Guard recruiting goals this year by about 10 percent, while in 2022, active-duty target numbers came in just above their goals, and those for the Air National Guard and Reserves fell short.

“We do have a [pilot] shortage,” said Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall. “We’re having to try to improve the efficiency of the pipeline to get more people in.” Deputy Assistant Secretary for Budget Maj. Gen. Mike Greiner told reporters, “The Air Force side increases [bonuses] by about 5.5 percent,” allowing annual pilot-retention bonuses ranging from $35,000 per year to $50,000.

Air Force budget-request documents also reveal $64 million on the table for new undergraduate and advanced pilot training.

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