Still faced with low retention among aviators, Navy officials are sweetening the pot financially for the second year in a row, announcing new incentives and bonus pay for aviators who opt for a career track.

“Strike fighter, electronic attack, and helicopter mine countermeasure communities – each did not retain sufficient numbers of O-4 pilots to meet all operational department head requirements in our aviation squadrons,” Vice Adm. Robert P. Burke told Congress in February.

But now, pilots in these communities and others who sign on for five years can now qualify for up to $35,000 per year for a total bonus payout of $175,000. For some, this amounts to a $75,000 increase in their total payout.

Navy officials have also added the option of only obligating for three years, which would bring in $5,000 less per year than the five-year offer.

The new levels, announced by Burke in a March 20 NAVADMIN, raises the active duty FY18 aviation department head retention bonus and the aviation command retention bonus. The message also expands aviation incentive pay across both active and reserve components for some aviators.

“These programs have remained essentially unchanged for well over a decade, and are beginning to lose their effectiveness in the face of growing competition for talent,” Capt. Michael Baze, head of aviation career management at Navy Personnel Command, said in a Navy release.

“Aviators reported they wanted our programs to be more flexible, merit-based, and competitive with civilian opportunities – we took that feedback seriously, incorporating each of these elements in the program changes you see here today.”

Also getting an overhaul was the active duty aviation command retention bonus, which is designed to keep aviators with command experience in the service. The deal nets qualified aviators $100,000 total contract, paid with an initial payment of $34,000 and two anniversary payments of $33,000.

Aviation incentive pay, a monthly stipend for aviators, will now have separate levels as well, as the Navy is establishing expanded rates for aviators who screen and serve in career milestone billets, such as department head, commander command and major command tours.

The big change here comes at the 10-year mark, when aviators who have screened and are serving will get $1,000 per month for each month they remain qualified to fly. This would be good up to their 22nd year of service.

Those not in a milestone billet will max out at $840 per month at their 14th year.

Mark D. Faram is a former reporter for Navy Times. He was a senior writer covering personnel, cultural and historical issues. A nine-year active duty Navy veteran, Faram served from 1978 to 1987 as a Navy Diver and photographer.

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