Warrant Officers Cure for Pilot Shortage?

NGAUS Washington Report
April 10, 2018

The Air Force is studying a report on the feasibility of returning warrant officers to the service and will provide its findings to Congress this month, Air Force Times reports. Nothing has been decided, but the service’s personnel chief was looking ahead when she spoke to the publication in late March.

“This idea of warrant officers is not new,” said Lt. Gen. Gina Grosso. “The Air Force . . . deliberately chose not to have warrant officers. When we talk to [Capitol] Hill, they believe some sort of warrant officer program might help with the pilot shortage. And then there’s other career fields that also are interested in having a technical track.”

The Air Force started phasing out warrant officers after grades E-8 and E-9 were created in 1958, according to Air Force Times. The last active-duty warrant officer retired in 1980.

Military.com addressed the idea in a story about enlisted airmen becoming pilots. Will Stafford, a former staff sergeant who flew civilian aircraft while serving, said, “If the Air Force is so concerned about the pilot shortage, they should consider warrant officers in . . . the transport pilot, flight engineer, boom operator and drone pilot fields.”

He once addressed the issue with Gen. Norton A. Schwartz, who was then the Air Force chief of staff, and was told the idea was not in the service’s plans.

But the report that the Air Force is studying could potentially change that attitude. Chief Master Sgt. of the Air Force Kaleth Wright told Air Force Times in September that he was “agnostic” on the idea, but asked the service’s manpower and readiness department to determine if warrant officers would make the Air Force more lethal and efficient.

“If so, I’d be OK with implementing that program,” he said. “If the research proves that, in today’s Air Force, if we had warrant officers in cyber, if our enlisted pilots someday become warrant officers, in space, in contracting? I can see a couple of areas where it would be beneficial to us.”