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The 2013 National Defense Authorization Act requires the Air Force to tell Congress why unmanned aircraft pilots get promoted less often than pilots of manned aircraft and what the Air Force can do to fix the problem.
The Air Force has 180 days from when the legislation is signed to report on the disparity.
Congress also wants the Air Force to submit a plan to increase promotion rates for unmanned aircraft pilots that includes near- and long-term actions needed.
In August, Air Force Times reported that promotion data since 2007 shows that unmanned aircraft pilots are less likely to advance than fighter, bomber and mobility pilots. Through five promotion cycles, only two officer boards promoted pilots of unmanned aircraft at a higher rate than their counterparts in manned aircraft.
One reason for the disparity is that unmanned aircraft pilots miss out on activities that enhance chances for promotion, one pilot told Air Force Times.
"The sacrifices demanded by the brutal and unending shift work, the common six-day work week which often includes upwards of 40 flying hours alone (daily briefings, training and administrative responsibilities must be accomplished on top of this), and the minimal chances at leadership responsibilities … are not rewarded by [promotion] boards," said the unmanned aircraft pilot, who did not want to be identified.
On Sept. 27, two Senate leaders asked the Government Accountability Office to review promotion rates, mental health and working conditions for airmen in the unmanned community.