Dec. 1 (UPI) -- The Air Force reported Tuesday that it is seeing its highest retention levels in nearly 20 years, second only to rates recorded in 2002.
Hundreds of members who had been planning to retire or leave the Air Force in 2020 withdrew or delayed their departures due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the service said.
"Congress delivered immense help, increased our numbers and helped us make real readiness improvements after sequestration reductions," Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services, said in a press release.
"Increased recruiting and retention efforts helped restore the size of the force by nearly 23,000 over the last five years. We also closed a 4,000-person maintainer gap and increased the manning levels of many career fields," Kelly said.
Now, the Air Force is considering waiving some active duty commitments in order to allow more flexibility as Airmen consider long-term career choices in order to keep the force's numbers high.
Kelly also said the service is not considering involuntary programs in FY21.
Last year, the Air Force reported that it had met its recruitment goals, swearing in 34,000 new Airmen, but more recently the federal government has found staffing problems within the service.
In June, a Government Accountability Office report said the Air Force did not have enough pilots and operators to meet its staffing targets for unmanned aircraft, causing mental and physical and mental health problems for existing personnel.