US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter discussed the fact that they are short hundreds aviators during a stop at Randolph Air Force Base in Texas on Wednesday.
The Air Force currently has roughly 1,600 combat aircraft, but they are short almost 700 pilots, and 4,000 maintenance crew members.
"The lack of ability to fly and maintain [aircraft], especially in a high-tempo/threat combat environment, means that its usable inventory of such aircraft is actually much smaller," the 2017 Index of US Military Power, released on Wednesday, states.
Carter addressed the issue, saying that, “it is something we have to be concerned about.”
“Military pilots are so highly trained, they're sought after, which is a compliment to their training and experience,” Military.com reported Carter saying. “They know that this is going to be a hard life. They know they're going to be away from their families. They know there could be danger. They know they're not going to be paid as well if they were working outside the Defense Department.”
To address the issue, Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James and Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein have previously called for higher bonuses and more family leave time, in an effort to lure pilots to the military.
Currently, the Air Force has a $25,000 cap on the Aviator Retention Pay, and the two have been lobbying Congress to nearly double that amount, by raising it to $48,000.