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Looking for new ways to cut costs, the Air Force may allow senior noncommissioned officers to fill jobs that are currently open only to officers, said Chief of Staff Gen. Mark Welsh.
“We have not started the study yet; we haven’t looked at in detail; and I don’t know whether it would be wise to do it, but it’s certainly worth looking at,” Welsh said Sept. 18.
To remain as operationally capable as possible under budget pressure, the Air Force needs to find ways to adjust cost, Welsh explained. One way to do that would be to change the officer-enlisted force mix.
“The life-cycle cost of an NCO is much different than the life-cycle cost of an officer,” he said.“Our enlisted force, especially our senior NCO force, is unbelievably better trained and educated than they were 40 years ago. Their job descriptions are exactly the same. I think we would be at fault if we didn’t go back and look at this.”
During World War II, enlisted airmen served as aviators and the Army allows enlisted soldiers to fly remotely piloted aircraft, but when asked if the Air Force would allow NCOs to fly manned or unmanned aircraft, Welsh was noncommittal.
“I have no idea if that’s a smart thing to do or not, but it’s something to look at,” he said. “We should look at all of this. What we can’t do is for near-term benefit make a quick decision on something and not understand the long-term effect.”