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).
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.
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.