Summary

The Air Force requires technical skills and expertise across the entire range of activities and processes associated with the development, fielding, and employment of air, space, and cyber operational capabilities. The growing complexity of both traditional and emerging missions is placing new demands on education, training, career development, system acquisition, platform sustainment, and development of operational systems. While in the past the Air Force’s technologically intensive mission has been highly attractive to individuals educated in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, force reductions, ongoing military operations, and budget pressures are creating new challenges for attracting and managing personnel with the needed technical skills. Assessments of recent development and acquisition-process failures have identified a loss of technical competence within the Air Force (that is, inhouse or organic competence, as opposed to contractor support) as an underlying problem. These challenges come at a time of increased competition for technical graduates who are U.S. citizens, an aging industry and government workforce, and consolidations of the industrial base that supports military systems.

STUDY APPROACH AND DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS

In response to a request and task statement (see Chapter 1) from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, the National Research Council (NRC) formed the Committee on Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce Needs in the Future and Its Strategy to Meet Those Needs. The committee conducted five fact-finding meetings at which senior Air Force commanders in the science and engineering, acquisition, test, operations, and logistics domains provided assessments of the adequacy of the current workforce in terms of quality and quantity. The committee also interviewed representatives of several Air Force major commands and commissioning sources. Air Force personnel and manpower databases were made available.

To address its tasks and report its findings and recommendations with reasonable clarity and rigor, the committee defined a number of key terms for describing Air Force personnel with STEM capabilities (Table S-1). Because an accepted and clear demarcation of the fields of study for an undergraduate major or post-baccalaureate degree that count as a STEM degree was not available either in Air Force documents or in the general literature, the committee developed a working list of STEM fields, building on work of the National Science Foundation. For purposes of this report, the committee developed a working definition of “STEM-cognizant,” recognizing that the Air Force will need to consider the optimal level of STEM education appropriate for this designation (see Recommendation 2-2 below).



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement



Below are the first 10 and last 10 pages of uncorrected machine-read text (when available) of this chapter, followed by the top 30 algorithmically extracted key phrases from the chapter as a whole.
Intended to provide our own search engines and external engines with highly rich, chapter-representative searchable text on the opening pages of each chapter. Because it is UNCORRECTED material, please consider the following text as a useful but insufficient proxy for the authoritative book pages.

Do not use for reproduction, copying, pasting, or reading; exclusively for search engines.

OCR for page 1
Summary The Air Force requires technical skills and expertise across the entire range of activities and processes associated with the development, fielding, and employment of air, space, and cyber operational capabilities. The growing complexity of both traditional and emerging missions is placing new demands on education, training, career development, system acquisition, platform sustainment, and development of operational systems. While in the past the Air Force’s technologically intensive mission has been highly attractive to individuals educated in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) disciplines, force reductions, ongoing military operations, and budget pressures are creating new challenges for attracting and managing personnel with the needed technical skills. Assessments of recent development and acquisition- process failures have identified a loss of technical competence within the Air Force (that is, in- house or organic competence, as opposed to contractor support) as an underlying problem. These challenges come at a time of increased competition for technical graduates who are U.S. citizens, an aging industry and government workforce, and consolidations of the industrial base that supports military systems. STUDY APPROACH AND DEFINITION OF KEY CONCEPTS In response to a request and task statement (see Chapter 1) from the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Science, Technology, and Engineering, the National Research Council (NRC) formed the Committee on Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce Needs in the Future and Its Strategy to Meet Those Needs. The committee conducted five fact-finding meetings at which senior Air Force commanders in the science and engineering, acquisition, test, operations, and logistics domains provided assessments of the adequacy of the current workforce in terms of quality and quantity. The committee also interviewed representatives of several Air Force major commands and commissioning sources. Air Force personnel and manpower databases were made available. To address its tasks and report its findings and recommendations with reasonable clarity and rigor, the committee defined a number of key terms for describing Air Force personnel with STEM capabilities (Table S-1). Because an accepted and clear demarcation of the fields of study for an undergraduate major or post-baccalaureate degree that count as a STEM degree was not available either in Air Force documents or in the general literature, the committee developed a working list of STEM fields, building on work of the National Science Foundation. For purposes of this report, the committee developed a working definition of “STEM-cognizant,” recognizing that the Air Force will need to consider the optimal level of STEM education appropriate for this designation (see Recommendation 2-2 below). 1

OCR for page 1
2 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs TABLE S-1. Definitions of STEM Terms for the Air Force Workforce Term Description STEM-degreed Having an undergraduate or graduate degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics STEM-cognizant Lacking a specific degree in science, technology, engineering, or mathematics, but having a minimum of 30 hours of undergraduate course work in these subjects, training, or experience and being conversant in these subjects.a STEM-assigned Personnel assigned to a position that requires a STEM degree STEM workforce All STEM-assigned personnel in the overall Air Force workforce a The assumption is that such individuals will have a foundation in the use of the scientific method in decision making. See rationale in chapter 1. ROLE OF STEM CAPABILITIES IN ACHIEVING THE AIR FORCE VISION AND STRATEGY The Air Force uses the STEM skills and expertise of its workforce today in key mission and functional areas across the service, including emerging requirements for STEM capabilities in the newer domains and mission areas. These domains include airpower, nuclear deterrence, space operations, unmanned air systems, operations in cyberspace, and force planning and operational employment/evaluation of integrated systems combining weapons platforms and information networks. Within the Air Force, STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel are found in all major commands. They work in all 26 of the officer career fields identified by Air Force Specialty Codes (AFSCs). A particular focus of this study was the critical roles that STEM-degreed and STEM- cognizant Air Force personnel play in system acquisition. Their skills are applied across the entire acquisition life cycle of each system, from exploration of advanced technologies and definition of operational needs to the development, evaluation, and employment of tactical and strategic capabilities. Only five Air Force officer career fields currently require a STEM degree—Weather (two- digit AFSC 15W), Civil Engineer (32E), Communications and Information (33S), Scientist (61S), and Developmental Engineer (62E). Even though all other officer career fields, such as pilot, navigator, air battle manager, maintenance, space and missiles, and program management, have no stated requirements for STEM education, a significant percentage of officers in these career fields do hold STEM degrees. For example, 45 percent of pilots have science or engineering degrees, and a STEM degree is one of the preferred educational backgrounds for candidates to the Acquisition Corps, in accordance with the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) and the Air Force’s Acquisition Professional Development Program (APDP). Only three civilian occupational series in the Air Force require a STEM degree: Engineering, Physical Sciences, and Mathematics. However, as with STEM-degreed officers, STEM-degreed civilians work in many occupations that do not formally require a STEM degree. Finding 2-1a. STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel are critical to operational missions and roles across the Air Force and to the entire life cycle of Air Force weapon systems, from basic through applied research, requirements determination, definition, concept development, technology and system development, and test, production, deployment, operations, and sustainment.

OCR for page 1
Summary 3 Finding 2-1b. The ability to conceive, develop, acquire, operate, and sustain advanced weapon systems has been addressed in Air Force descriptions of its Technology-to-Warfighting core competency. However, the Air Force Strategic Plan, 2006–2008 neither references this core competency directly nor includes a priority, goal, or objective that unequivocally supports the Air Force’s current and future needs for STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel. Recommendation 2-1. The Air Force should incorporate in its Strategic Plan as an eighth goal the ability to conceive, develop, acquire, operate, and sustain advanced weapon systems. The Strategic Plan should state that this goal is essential to maintaining and advancing the existing Technology-to-Warfighting core competency and the emerging core competency in Cyber Operations. The Strategic Plan should set out recruiting, developing, employing, and retaining STEM skills and experience as key enabling objectives for this goal. Finding 2-2a. Assessments of future missions and the future operating environment suggest that Air Force missions will become more technologically intensive and will require a proportionally larger STEM workforce in many career fields across the Air Force. Finding 2-2b. Most officer career fields include STEM-degreed personnel to varying degrees. However, only five military officer career fields have stated requirements for STEM education; other officer career fields have no stated requirements for STEM-degreed or STEM-cognizant personnel. Finding 2-2c. As discussed in Chapter 1, the Air Force does not have a consistent definition of its STEM workforce. The baccalaureate majors and the fields of study for postbaccalaureate degrees that count for a STEM degree are not specified. Furthermore, there is no uniform concept corresponding to STEM cognizance as used in this report. The committee believes that it is essential that the Air Force identify those personnel with STEM degrees and those with STEM cognizance and identify what the Air Force’s requirements are for STEM-degreed and/or STEM- cognizant personnel across all career fields. Finding 2-2d. Only about 40 percent of the officers in the Acquisition Management career field have technical degrees, and fewer than 10 percent of civilians in the Business and Industry occupational series, which includes acquisition managers, have technical degrees. Recommendation 2-2. The Air Force should review and revise as appropriate its current requirements and preferences for personnel with STEM capabilities in every career field and occupational series. The Air Force need not adopt the specific list of STEM majors/disciplines used by the committee, but an explicit demarcation of what counts as a STEM degree is necessary. The Air Force should define a level of STEM capability broader than having a STEM degree, similar to (albeit not necessarily identical with) the concept of STEM-cognizant used in this report. The Air Force should review, and revise or establish as appropriate, requirements and preferences for STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel in every career field and occupational series. Particular attention should be given to supporting the needs of the acquisition community and to developing such mission areas as intelligence and the emergent domains of space and cyberspace. This review should include identifying positions requiring STEM-degreed people and setting goals for appropriate numbers of

OCR for page 1
4 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs personnel in other positions to be STEM-cognizant (with appropriate education, training, and experience) throughout the officer career fields and civilian occupational series. ISSUES FOR CAREER FIELDS AND CIVILIAN OCCUPATIONS CURRENTLY REQUIRING A STEM DEGREE The committee believes that there are captain and field-grade manning issues in the STEM officer career fields, based on the committee’s analyses of assignments versus authorizations, captain-to-lieutenant ratios, and field-grade officer manning in the five career fields that require a STEM degree. The implications of these analyses are supported by the assessments of Air Force commanders and supervisors interviewed by the committee that their communities have insufficient personnel with adequate experience to perform the technically demanding aspects of jobs that require STEM capability. Civilian Air Force personnel in the occupational series that require a STEM degree are managed within three career programs, roughly paralleling the functional areas within which they are employed. An impending issue for this civilian STEM-degreed workforce is the imminent retirement of substantial numbers of employees with 20 to 30 years of experience, combined with smaller cohorts of employees with 10 to 19 years of service. Finding 3-1. In some cases, the grade structures in officer career fields that require a STEM degree are not sustainable under the current legal and policy constraints. Additionally, in some cases, career fields requiring a STEM degree may have experienced below-average retention or promotion rates. Finding 3-2. The workforce years-of-service profile (shown in Figure 3-1) indicates that a large proportion of the civilian STEM-degreed workforce will become eligible for retirement within the next 15 years. Finding 3-3. Fill rates for field-grade officers in the Scientist and Developmental Engineer career fields, in the Acquisition Management career field, and in other career fields important to the acquisition life cycle, while responsive to the Air Force’s Non-Rated Personnel Prioritization Plan, are well below 100 percent, which perpetuates the manning shortfalls in these career fields. The committee’s Recommendations 6-1 through 6-13, presented later in this summary, address the issues summarized in Findings 3-1 through 3-3. STEM PERSONNEL IN THE ACQUISITION WORKFORCE It is essential that the Air Force have a fully trained and qualified Acquisition Corps able to manage programs to deliver the complex warfighting systems needed to protect the nation. Air Force implementation of DAWIA requires that members of the Acquisition Corps have baccalaureate degrees but does not specify that they must be STEM degrees. Although specific educational requirements in STEM disciplines are not listed at the baccalaureate level, present Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) policy states that, for individuals serving in program management capacities at upper levels, a master’s degree is desirable, preferably with a major in engineering, systems management, business administration or a related field. Finding 4-1a. Although the Air Force Acquisition Managers (63AX–1101) Career Field Education and Training Plan states that a baccalaureate degree is required for Level 1 certification, neither a STEM degree nor STEM cognizance is required for that certification.

OCR for page 1
Summary 5 Finding 4-1b. All Air Force product centers, air logistics centers, and test centers have significant shortfalls in assigned civilian STEM-degreed personnel. Finding 4-1c. Some of the shortfalls in STEM capabilities in the acquisition workforce could be addressed by establishing criteria for STEM cognizance and applying those criteria to APDP certification requirements and other position requirements. Some acquisition positions already have requirements for STEM coursework that is less than a full major, such as positions that require 24 hours of STEM coursework. Recommendation 4-1. The Air Force should lead the way in changing the OSD implementation policy of DAWIA by establishing STEM cognizance as a minimum requirement for program management certification. If OSD support for such a change is not forthcoming, the Air Force should unilaterally change its own implementing directives by specifying that STEM cognizance is a minimum requirement for acquisition program management certification. Finding 4-2. DAWIA seeks to ensure that experienced personnel are engaged in running major programs. However, the experience criteria in DAWIA and Air Force directives are often waived for the senior ranks of the Air Force acquisition community. For example, general officers have often been placed in important acquisition positions—although not designated as critical acquisition positions (CAPs)—in Air Force Acquisition (SAF/AQ), the Air Force Materiel Command, and the Air Force Space Command, even when these officers have had little or no acquisition experience. Waiving these requirements runs counter to the basic intent of the legislation. Recommendation 4-2. The Air Force should objectively review all general officer positions in the Air Force Materiel Command, Air Force Space Command, and SAF/AQ to determine which should be coded as CAPs. The Air Force should ensure that officers filling these positions meet the certification requirements. Finding 4-3. While no specific “quality force” or retention-related data were provided for the committee’s review, the presenters seemed to agree that, as a practical matter, STEM-degreed personnel in the acquisition, test, and logistics workforces should be given significant hands-on experience to develop their technical skills during the first five years of their careers. This experience would enhance their “smart buyer” capabilities and their ability to provide meaningful oversight of the contractor workforce. Air Force DAWIA requirements should be appropriately modified. Recommendation 4-3. The Air Force should review its training and career development plan for the acquisition management career field/occupational series to strengthen the opportunities for STEM-degreed personnel to acquire hands-on experience to develop their technical skills during the first five years of their Air Force careers. THE CURRENT AND FUTURE U.S. STEM-DEGREED WORKFORCE To prepare for the Air Force’s current and future STEM needs with realistic and effective actions, trends in STEM education and the STEM-degreed workforce in the United States must be considered, as well as issues that reflect policies, conditions, and trends internal to the Air Force. The challenges facing the Air Force as it seeks to acquire and retain STEM-degreed personnel include uncertainty about the adequacy of the future supply of STEM-degreed U.S.

OCR for page 1
6 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs citizens, due to changing U.S. demographics and a more competitive career environment for U.S. citizens with STEM degrees. In this context, women, Blacks, and Hispanics represent segments of the future U.S. workforce to which the Air Force must give attention, not just in its general commitment to diversity but also for its future STEM personnel needs. However, these three groups continue to be significantly underrepresented in STEM career fields. So there will be challenges in making the most of the resource they offer. While there is uncertainty about the adequacy of future supply of STEM-degreed workers, there is also a wealth of documented programs that have been created to aid in increasing that supply. They range from programs focused on the kindergarten-through-secondary school (K-12) years to industry- or company-unique initiatives such as faculty and student internships and fellowships. Finding 5-1a. There is reason for concern as to whether the supply of scientists and engineers who can obtain a security clearance will be adequate to meet the future needs of the Air Force. As an example, while the total of all S&E doctoral degrees awarded annually increased 8 percent from 2000 to 2005, the number of S&E doctoral degrees awarded to U.S. citizens and permanent residents decreased 5.5 percent over the same period. From 2002 to 2005, the number of U.S. citizens earning S&E doctoral degrees increased slowly but not enough to regain earlier levels. Finding 5-1b. In light of the continuing substantial change in U.S. demographics, with women and minority groups constituting a growing segment of the target group for potential recruits, the Air Force is well positioned to take a proactive role in addressing the national shortfalls among middle and high school youth in math and science and, as a result, to work to create a more competitive U.S. workforce from which the Air Force can select its future STEM-degreed personnel. Recommendation 5-1. The Air Force should create a vehicle to coordinate and evaluate existing STEM-related outreach, education, and training activities. Current activities of this type include Project STARBASE, the Falcon Foundation, Civil Air Patrol, and Junior Reserved Officer Training Corps, as well as its partnerships in such activities with the Air Force Association, American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, and others. The charter for this group should include creating connectivity between such activities so that promising participants from across the entire demographic makeup of our nation have ready access to the next academic level or program that builds on the experience gained from interacting with the Air Force STEM-related outreach efforts. It seems suitable for the office having these responsibilities to be at the Air Staff level. MANAGING STEM PERSONNEL TO MEET FUTURE STEM NEEDS ACROSS THE AIR FORCE A key personnel management goal for the Air Force should be a process and a set of tools to ensure that its future STEM requirements can be filled by trained and ready personnel. Finding 6-1. The Air Force does an excellent job of recruiting, managing, and developing officers and civilians in career fields that it values and considers mission essential. A paradigm example is the Air Force’s training, management, and development of rated personnel. In the past, the Air Force had a robust supply of STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel and thus did not devote special attention to managing them. Because of the changing demographics of the American population and the increasing technical complexity of the Air Force mission, this

OCR for page 1
Summary 7 approach will no longer work. To maintain the technical competency of the Air Force, active management of the STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant workforce is essential. Recommendation 6-1a. To manage the critical STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel assets for the future Air Force, two actions should be taken. First, the Air Force should establish a STEM Council to review policies and implementation and make recommendations on STEM accessions, utilization, and competencies across all Air Force missions, organizations, and career fields. This group should also determine what the minimum science, engineering, and mathematics educational requirements should be for STEM cognizance and determine which positions require STEM cognizance. This STEM Council should be a subcouncil to the Force Management & Development Council (FMDC). Recommendation 6-1b. The Air Force should develop a decision support model, analogous to the Rated Management Decision Support System, to predict future requirements, inventory, and impacts of personnel policies and decisions, not only for specific career specialties but also for the aggregate needs of maintaining the technical competency of the overall Air Force. Finding 6-2. Most Air Force functions have a designated advocate at the Air Force Headquarters level. This is an important step in managing a workforce. Since the Air Force has never managed STEM capability/functions as a distinctive entity across AFSCs and across major commands, STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel do not have a functional advocate.  The Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition is the one officer on the Air Staff who both sits on the FMDC and, through the Requirements Process, is close to both the acquisition workforce and the major commands. In the committee’s view, this position is particularly appropriate as the designated advocate for STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel across the entire service.  Currently, the Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel (AF/A1) is responsible for sustainment and use of career-force models for all current AFSCs. While many of these models were originally not developed in-house (i.e., the developer may have been a contractor or federally funded research and development center), the AF/A1 now has responsibility for their oversight and use. Thus, it is reasonable for oversight and use of a newly developed STEM decision support model to be under this official. Recommendation 6-2. Overall functional management of STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel should be accomplished in a manner similar to management of flight-qualified officers through the Rated Management system. The Military Deputy to the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Acquisition should be the functional advocate for all STEM personnel, and the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel (AF/A1) should oversee STEM decision support modeling, as well as recommending and implementing STEM personnel policies. Issues in Retaining and Promoting STEM-Degreed Officers Finding 6-3a. Multiple reductions in STEM-degreed authorizations and STEM-degreed personnel have had a negative impact on manning levels and morale and may be affecting the ability to recruit. Finding 6-3b. Both promotion and experience are required for growing future acquisition leaders. As discussed in chapter 4, in recent history many senior acquisition leaders required waivers from DAWIA requirements for prior acquisition experience.

OCR for page 1
8 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs Recommendation 6-3a. Promotion rates should be monitored to ensure that qualified acquisition officers are available at lower ranks to meet DAWIA requirements and experience needs for accessions to higher ranks. Recommendation 6-3b. The Air Force should use a STEM management decision support model (see Recommendation 6-1) to understand long-term impacts of cuts in authorization or manning for career fields requiring a STEM degree and to ensure that the leadership understands all the likely impacts of such cuts. Options for Meeting STEM Needs with the Existing STEM-Degreed Officer Workforce Finding 6-4. The Air Force does not currently have a process in place to systematically review its allocation and utilization of STEM-degreed officers in light of changing requirements and priorities. Recommendation 6-4. Under the direction and oversight of a STEM subcouncil of the FMDC (see Recommendation 6-1), the Air Force should establish a process to review systematically and (at least) annually the utilization of all of its STEM-degreed officers, with the goal of assigning these officers to the Air Force's highest-priority STEM and non-STEM requirements. This should be done in conjunction with a similar review of STEM-degreed civilians (see Recommendation 6- 11). Note that this recommendation cannot be implemented without a clear definition of STEM requirements for each career field. Finding 6-5. The Air Force has not assessed the potential for STEM-degreed officers in the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard to help meet the Air Force’s requirements for STEM- degreed personnel. Recommendation 6-5. Under the direction and oversight of a STEM subcouncil to the FMDC (see Recommendation 6-1), the Air Force, in collaboration with the National Guard Bureau and the Commander of the Air Force Reserve Command, should conduct an in-depth assessment of the potential for the Air Force Reserve and the Air National Guard to contribute to meeting the STEM capability needs of the Air Force, through either existing programs or new initiatives. Finding 6-6. The Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) currently offers a number of degree, certificate, and short-course programs (and could potentially offer additional programs) that would increase the number of STEM-degreed officers available to meet Air Force STEM needs. In particular, the AFIT resident school offers graduate STEM education programs that address problems of unique importance to the Air Force; comparable programs are not available at civilian institutions. Recommendation 6-6a. The Air Force should periodically access the capability of AFIT to help meet projected future requirements for STEM-degreed personnel by providing selected officers and civilians with educational opportunities leading to an award of a STEM degree. In addition, the STEM personnel decision support model (see Recommendation 6-1) should include a sufficient number of military and civilian AFIT student positions to enable use of these AFIT opportunities, in addition to modeling the STEM personnel required for direct mission support. Consideration should be given to the following educational options:

OCR for page 1
Summary 9 Graduate-level STEM education (both degree and certificate programs) at the resident school, through civilian institutions, or through on-line or other decentralized education modes; and Continuing education in STEM disciplines, to help STEM-degreed personnel remain current with changing science and technology. Again, these courses can be offered at the resident school, through civilian institutions, or through on-line or other decentralized education modes. Recommendation 6-6b. The Air Force should consider directing AFIT to develop modules of instruction to help increase the STEM cognizance of Air Force officers and civilians who are not STEM-degreed. These STEM-cognizance instruction modules can be delivered through various mechanisms such as professional military education, Acquisition Corps certification courses, base education offices, on-line courses, and other means. Such educational opportunities could significantly increase STEM cognizance across all officer career fields and civilian occupations. Acquiring Additional Officer Assets Finding 6-7. The U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) is a major source of new officers that are either STEM-degreed or STEM-cognizant. Recommendation 6-7a. The USAFA should periodically review the core curriculum to ensure that graduates with non-STEM majors nonetheless are STEM-cognizant—that is, that they have an adequate appreciation of the impact of science and technology on the Air Force’s ability to organize, train, and equip the forces required by combatant commanders in their respective areas of responsibility. Recommendation 6-7b. The Air Force Chief of Staff should establish a goal for the minimum percentage of USAFA graduates with a STEM major, based on an assessment of requirements by the FMDC and recommendations from the Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower and Personnel (AF/A1) and the USAFA leadership. The USAFA leadership, in collaboration with the faculty and staff, should identify and implement policies, procedures, and incentives to ensure that this goal is met. Finding 6-8. The Air Force Reserve Officer Training Corps (AFROTC) is the source of the largest number of new commissioned officers. This program offers considerable potential for helping the Air Force to meet its requirements for STEM-degreed officers. Recommendation 6-8. The Air Force should make full use of scholarships and other incentives to encourage AFROTC students to pursue degrees in STEM disciplines or, if they are not enrolled in a STEM-degree program, at least to take sufficient STEM courses to qualify as STEM- cognizant. In addition, Air Force officials should encourage the provost and faculty at institutions with AFROTC programs to include courses in the institution’s undergraduate core curriculum that promote STEM cognizance. Finding 6-9. The Officer Training School (OTS) gives the Air Force an important avenue to selectively access new officers who already possess specific STEM degrees. Recommendation 6-9. The Air Force should establish annual goals for accessing STEM-degreed officers through OTS. These goals should be projected for the future 5-year period and reviewed and adjusted annually as appropriate. In recruiting candidates for OTS, the Air Force should

OCR for page 1
10 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs consider those undergraduate and graduate students pursuing a STEM field of study who were (or are) involved in research projects funded by the Air Force Office of Scientific Research or Air Force Research Laboratory. Officers accessed through OTS who do not possess a STEM degree should be afforded the opportunity to attend one or more short (continuing education) courses developed and offered through AFIT (or other institutions) to qualify these individuals as STEM- cognizant. Managing and Retaining Existing Civilian Personnel Assets Finding 6-10. Fill rates are an important indicator to the civilian workforce that their jobs are valued. Based on assessments from several Air Force leaders who briefed the committee (Chapter 4) and civilian vacancy rates in program management (Chapter 6), the hiring process for STEM- degreed civilians is not timely. In the committee’s judgment, this contributes to a perception in the civilian workforce that the unfilled positions are not valued. Recommendation 6-10. The Air Force should develop policies and devote resources to recruit STEM-degreed civilian personnel in a timely manner. Finding 6-11. The Air Force does not currently have a process in place to systematically review its allocation and utilization of STEM-degreed civilians in light of changing requirements and priorities. Recommendation 6-11. The Air Force should establish a process to assess systematically and (at least) annually the utilization of its STEM-degreed civilian workforce. This review should include accessing the need to offer additional incentives to encourage STEM-degreed personnel to compete for assignment to the Air Force’s highest-priority STEM positions. This assessment should be done in conjunction with a similar review of assignments for STEM-degreed officers (see Recommendation 6-4). Acquiring Additional Civilian Personnel Assets Finding 6-12. At the Headquarters, Air Force organizational level, civilian pay is currently managed in a manner that hinders the employment and retention of STEM-degreed civilian personnel. Use of the operations and maintenance account (funding line 3400) for civilian pay, rather than the research, development, testing, and evaluation (RDT&E) account (funding line 3600), increases the variability and uncertainty in funding these positions from year to year. Consequently, employment planning is tenuous, and filling of positions that require a STEM degree is more difficult. In the committee’s view, the funding uncertainty and variability also increase the difficulty of retaining valued STEM-degreed civilian personnel. Recommendation 6-12. To address uncertainties in civilian workforce funding, and thereby improve employment and workforce stability, the Air Force should consider moving the acquisition workforce from the operations and maintenance funding line (Account 3400) to the RDT&E funding line (Account 3600). Finding 6-13. It takes the Air Force far too long to fill civilian STEM positions. The Air Force cannot compete effectively with other government and nongovernment organizations that can recruit and hire the best-qualified STEM candidates much more quickly. This disadvantage negatively impacts both fill rates and the quality of the Air Force’s STEM-degreed workforce.

OCR for page 1
Summary 11 Recommendation 6-13. The Air Force should continue to look for ways to improve both the process of filling civilian positions (enabling legislation may be required) and the organizational issues that hinder the process. In particular, a means should be sought to make permanent the funding for civilian positions that require a STEM degree at the installations where these positions are located (or within the respective major commands). Issues and Options for Contract STEM Support Finding 6-14. Based on the personal experience of committee members who served in the acquisition workforce, the committee believes that contracting out inherently governmental tasks1 can diminish the perceived value of the officers and government employees who perform similar tasks or who are assigned to oversee contractors. This negative effect on personnel morale and retention is in addition to the regulatory concerns when inherently governmental tasks are contracted out. Recommendation 6-14a. The Air Force should reevaluate its contracting procedures and ensure that all inherently governmental tasks are performed by Air Force personnel. Recommendation 6-14b. Significant portions of the STEM-degreed workforce now consist of contract personnel. The Air Force should consider converting contract dollars currently being used to pay for contracted engineering talent into funds that can be used to support additional civilian engineering authorizations to bring more of the required expertise in house. Senior Air Force leadership must, however, ensure that the dollars thus saved flow from the contracting accounts directly into the various civilian pay accounts. If adequate funds are not available in these accounts and if the authorizations are not forthcoming to support the previously contracted functions with governmental personnel, the potential consequences are risks to the capabilities of commanders and directors to carry out their missions. THE NEED FOR ACTION Over the past 20 years, the Air Force has elevated its capabilities and competencies in the development and employment of air and space power to an unrivaled level. It is essential that the Air Force maintain and enhance its technical competency—a competency provided by the Air Force’s STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel. As the challenges to the future security environment grow, the Air Force must prepare to address these challenges fully and rapidly. This will require a wider range of technical skills and a technically competent workforce. 1 Inherently governmental tasks are certain roles defined as such within the Federal Acquisition Regulations, including tasks covered by the Uniform Code of Military Justice or the Civilian Code of Ethics for government employees.