for STEM management actions/decisions is whether they will improve combat capability, retention, and sustainment today and tomorrow.


This is one of the most important and difficult factors in finding present sustainability balance for long-term health of STEM. The ability to retain quality STEM personnel depends on finding the right balance between short-term and long-term manning especially for the military component of STEM.

Absorption is the process of accessing new STEM accessions or cross-trained STEM personnel from other operational assignment by educational degree field (i.e., Electrical Engineer, Mechanical Engineer, Operations Research, Scientist etc) into STEM-required positions.

The Air Force’s absorption goal is to balance the long-term need to sustain an inventory that meets requirements with the near-term goal of maintaining capability; i.e., to absorb the required number of new STEM personnel while maintaining at least the minimum capability (experience mix, average time on station, manning levels) required to meet taskings/commitments.

The primary absorption factors are:

  • Total active duty requirements (i.e., force, training, staff, students, AFIT/PME and Transient)

  • Active STEM prioritized requirement

  • Programmed training (initial and continuation) to meet DAWIA, instructor, and advanced requirements

  • Capability parameters (manning level, experience mix, and average time on station)

  • Positions new STEM personnel can be assigned to become experienced (“absorbable billets”).

Absorption calculations not only determine the number of inexperienced STEM to be assigned to organizations, they also provide the number of experienced and limited experience (LIMEX) STEM required

Additionally, the objective is to “experience” individuals during their first few STEM tours. Attempting to set absorption levels based on inventory overages or shortfalls is problematic and results in insufficient numbers of STEM and/or reduced capability. Regardless of retention/inventory levels, organizations can only effectively absorb a set number of new STEM personnel.


  • Optimize Absorption to sustain requirements within readiness parameters (Manning Level, Experience Mix, Average Time on Station)

  • Size Accessions/Training (Production) based on operational needs

  • Improve Retention through credible, congruent, long-term-focused policies and actions that facilitate force sustainability

  • Set Manpower Requirements to provide sufficient line force positions to meet operational taskings and efficiently support (Training/Staff/Test/Other) operations Manage the STEM-degreed Force

    • Take actions that reflect Air Force priorities to include preservation of institutional culture

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