Here’s my 2 cents... during exit surveys and during talks with the CSAF (saw this with my very own eyes), pilots who get out/want to get out state that extra pay wouldn’t have changed their mind and that it’s about QoL.
With that said I’m not sure if money not being a factor really is completely true. First the exit interview I saw back in 2016 asked if an extra $10k/yr would have changed your mind on a scale of 1-10 ie 35k/yr. They never asked if a $50k/yr or 100k/yr bonus would have changed their mind. But even if they asked the question I believe the data would be skewed as i believe it’s human nature especially for most pilots to say this is the decision I made and I’m not gonna change my mind based on a survey question. They say to themselves I invested time, money, and energy prepping for interviews, getting my ATP, etc and I wouldn’t have changed my mind for anything in the world. This is their new goal and path and nothing’s gonna change my mind. Just human nature.
IMO people see the bonuses offered a year or two a head of time and start making a decision to pursue the airline option and by the time the bonus comes out they are pretty well invested in their new path. So to break the cycle they need to put out a substantial bonus to increase retention and WAIT 3 years. But senators and USAF leadership also have made up their mind based on poorly made surveys that money won’t help and just like the pilots who get out and say it’s not about the money they are firm in their convictions.
The other issue I see is that in the heavy community QoL equals a slower ops tempo. Correct me if I’m wrong but I don’t see the CSAF specifically mentioned to Congress/Senate that we must reduce ops tempo.
So if extra money and lower ops tempo are off the table. What’s left qeep? I can’t see retention increasing until airlines slow down hiring. But even if we have a recession, mandatory retirements will be happening.
So all the USAF has left is increasing pilot production, try to recall to AD, stop loss (hopefully off the table), pray for a massive recession and reduce qeep.
As more and more people get out, if I were them I’d try a $70/yr bonus and see what happens before it’s too late... if it’s not too late already.