4
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce

In Chapter 2, the committee reviewed the contributions made by STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel, both military and civilian, to the entire acquisition life cycle. As noted there, the operational commands play crucial roles in many phases of this life cycle, in addition to the essential roles played by the acquisition workforce per se. This chapter focuses on the officers and civilians with STEM capabilities who are considered part of the acquisition workforce. Many STEM-degreed officers and civilians in positions requiring a STEM degree (the focus of Chapter 3) are in the acquisition workforce. However, as Chapter 2 noted (see Figures 2-2 and 2-3), STEM-degreed officers and civilians are also in many acquisition positions that do not require a STEM degree. In addition, the acquisition workforce includes substantial numbers of both officers and civilians who are STEM-cognizant but not STEM-degreed. All these components of STEM capability are included in the scope of this chapter, although most of the hard data are limited to STEM-degreed personnel.

DEFINING THE ACQUISITION WORKFORCE

The civilian acquisition workforce can be defined as the personnel who are managed within the Acquisition Professional Development Program (APDP). The military acquisition workforce is less easy to define because many acquisition positions are in AFSCs outside the Acquisition Management (63A) career field, which includes military program managers who come under the APDP. In particular, many 61A (Scientist) and 62E (Developmental Engineer) positions are part of the acquisition workforce.

The Air Force Director of Acquisition and Career Management (DACM),1 who is the Air Force’s acquisition workforce manager, provided the data in Table 4-1 for fiscal year (FY) 2008, noting that the Air Force acquisition workforce is considerably smaller than those of other services. A search of the Air Force Personnel Center’s Interactive Demographic Analysis System in December 2008 found 5,606 civilian personnel in the occupational series that require a STEM degree,2 or 35 percent of the civilian acquisition workforce of 16,080 shown in Table 4-1. This percentage represents a lower bound on the STEM-degreed civilians in the acquisition workforce because, as noted in Chapter 2, some employees in other occupational series have STEM degrees.

1

Patrick Hogan, Director of Acquisition and Career Management (SAF/AQXD), briefing to the committee on December 3, 2008.

2

Results of this database search are shown in Table D-2, Appendix D.



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 45
4 STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce In Chapter 2, the committee reviewed the contributions made by STEM-degreed and STEM- cognizant personnel, both military and civilian, to the entire acquisition life cycle. As noted there, the operational commands play crucial roles in many phases of this life cycle, in addition to the essential roles played by the acquisition workforce per se. This chapter focuses on the officers and civilians with STEM capabilities who are considered part of the acquisition workforce. Many STEM-degreed officers and civilians in positions requiring a STEM degree (the focus of Chapter 3) are in the acquisition workforce. However, as Chapter 2 noted (see Figures 2-2 and 2-3), STEM-degreed officers and civilians are also in many acquisition positions that do not require a STEM degree. In addition, the acquisition workforce includes substantial numbers of both officers and civilians who are STEM-cognizant but not STEM-degreed. All these components of STEM capability are included in the scope of this chapter, although most of the hard data are limited to STEM-degreed personnel. DEFINING THE ACQUISITION WORKFORCE The civilian acquisition workforce can be defined as the personnel who are managed within the Acquisition Professional Development Program (APDP). The military acquisition workforce is less easy to define because many acquisition positions are in AFSCs outside the Acquisition Management (63A) career field, which includes military program managers who come under the APDP. In particular, many 61A (Scientist) and 62E (Developmental Engineer) positions are part of the acquisition workforce. The Air Force Director of Acquisition and Career Management (DACM),1 who is the Air Force’s acquisition workforce manager, provided the data in Table 4-1 for fiscal year (FY) 2008, noting that the Air Force acquisition workforce is considerably smaller than those of other services. A search of the Air Force Personnel Center’s Interactive Demographic Analysis System in December 2008 found 5,606 civilian personnel in the occupational series that require a STEM degree,2 or 35 percent of the civilian acquisition workforce of 16,080 shown in Table 4-1. This percentage represents a lower bound on the STEM-degreed civilians in the acquisition workforce because, as noted in Chapter 2, some employees in other occupational series have STEM degrees. 1 Patrick Hogan, Director of Acquisition and Career Management (SAF/AQXD), briefing to the committee on December 3, 2008. 2 Results of this database search are shown in Table D-2, Appendix D. 45

OCR for page 45
46 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs Table 4-1 Service Acquisition Workforce Numbers at End of FY 2008 Civilians Military Total Workforce fraction Air Force 16,080 8,762 24,842 19.7% Army 43,553 1,519 45,072 35.7% Navy 36,467 4,218 40,685 32.2% Other DoD 15,763 n/a 15,763 12.5% THE ACQUISITION CORPS AND THE DEFENSE ACQUISITION WORKFORCE IMPROVEMENT ACT The Acquisition Corps is intended to be a pool of highly qualified members of the acquisition workforce who are able to fill critical acquisition positions (CAPs). These individuals have met the grade, education, training, and experience standards prescribed by the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) and the implementing regulations promulgated by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). They are admitted to the Acquisition Corps by the Service’s designated Director of Acquisition Career Management, which for the Air Force is SAF/AQXD (USAF, 2008, pg. 20). 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. These programs must meet requirements and be completed on time and within budget. Congress passed the DAWIA to ensure that all the military Services had a fully trained and experienced acquisition workforce to competently acquire the complex war fighting equipment needed for national security. DAWIA covers several career fields beyond Program Manager (63A for officers) and includes positions for scientists and developmental engineers (61S and 62E, for officers). The qualifications of the military officers selected for the Acquisition Corps are expected to be sufficiently high that the promotion rate for this group should, on average, match the rate for all Air Force line officers. This statutory requirement does not mean that members of the Acquisition Corps will be given special treatment but rather that the quality of their records must meet or exceed that of other line officers (USAF, 2008, pg. 20). In addition to meeting all other Acquisition Corps requirements, new entrants must have achieved the rank of lieutenant colonel (select), GS-14 (or NSPS pay band equivalent), NSPS pay band 3, or above. Supervisory NSPS3 pay band 2 personnel who meet Acquisition Corps requirements and are selected for assignment to a CAP will automatically be admitted to the corps. These individuals are eligible for Acquisition Corps membership after they have reached Level II APDP certification in any functional discipline (including acquisition management), accumulated four years of acquisition experience, and met all educational requirements. Civilians assigned to GS-13 (or pay band equivalent) and above APDP coded positions must request a review and update for Acquisition Corps data elements once they have met eligibility requirements to enter the Acquisition Corps at the proper level. 3 For more information see in Chapter 3 footnote 5 on NSPS.

OCR for page 45
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce 47 DAWIA Implementation Through the APDP DAWIA was signed into law in November 1990 and updated in 2004. It requires the Secretary of Defense, acting through the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics, to establish education and training standards, requirements, and courses for both the military and civilian members of the acquisition workforce. The Defense AT&L Workforce Education, Training, and Career Development Program has implemented the objectives of DAWIA across the DoD components, mandated certification requirements for acquisition management positions, and established statutorily mandated assignment-specific education, training, and experience requirements for program managers, deputy program managers, and program executive officers. In the Air Force, DAWIA is implemented through the APDP. The Air Force APDP certification process reflects the education, training, and duty experience needed by the acquisition, technology, and logistics career fields through formal programs (USAF, 2008, pg. 19). DAWIA and APDP Educational Requirements for the Acquisition Corps 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) in order to become an Acquisition Corps member (USAF, 2008, pg. 21). DAWIA specifies 24 semester credit hours (or the equivalent) from among the following disciplines: accounting, business finance, law, contracts, purchasing, economics, industrial management, marketing, organization and management, and quantitative methods.4 An alternative is “24 semester credit hours (or the equivalent) in the person's acquisition career field and 12 semester hours from among accounting, business finance, law, contracts, purchasing, economics, industrial management, marketing, organization and management, and quantitative methods” (USAF, 2008, pg. 21). Although specific educational requirements in STEM disciplines are not listed at the baccalaureate level, present OSD policy states that, for individuals serving in program management capacities at Level II, a master’s degree is desirable, preferably with a major in engineering, systems management, business administration, or a related field (USAF, 2008, pg. 21, emphasis added).5 However, DAWIA does require that program executive officers, program directors, and deputy program directors of major defense programs and significant nonmajor programs complete the Defense System Management College’s program management course. DAWIA further directs that general officers in a CAP have 10 years of acquisition experience APDP Level I Certification APDP Level I certification in program management is granted after completion of mandatory training and accrual of one year of acquisition experience. In the Air Force, typical entry level (years 1–3) grades are GS-7/9/11 (or pay band equivalent) for civilians and O1/O2 for officers. However, a substantial number of civilians and officers with more seniority cross over to program management from other Air Force occupational series and specialties or from outside the Air Force, some with more acquisition experience (USAF, 2008, pg. 19). In the U.S. military services other than the Air Force, the vast majority of acquisition officers transfer into program management from a variety of operational or support backgrounds at O3/O4 levels. 4 U.S. Air Force Academy graduates meet these criteria by completing the core educational curriculum. 5 Acquisition Managers (63AX – 1101) Career Field Education and Training Plan, CFETP 63AX & 1101, Parts I and II, 2008 Edition, March 17, 2008, Department of the Air Force, Headquarters US Air Force, Washington DC 20330-1030, p. 21. .

OCR for page 45
48 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs Initial acquisition management assignments should establish and build depth of knowledge and technical expertise within the career field. Commanders/supervisors are directed to provide ample opportunities to gain this experience while exposing new acquisition managers to the entire mission of the unit. Unit training tasks are focused on acquiring knowledge and beginning to demonstrate competency in a host of acquisition and program management areas. The Acquisition Managers (63AX–1101) Career Field Education and Training Program states that individuals should complete the initial assignment core requirements within their first acquisition assignment or 36 months (USAF, 2008, pg. 19). APDP Level II Certification APDP Level II certification in program management is granted after completion of mandatory training and accrual of two years of acquisition experience, at least one of which is in program management. At this intermediate level (years of service 4–10), acquisition managers should seek to gain additional depth in their field but may also begin to broaden their breadth of knowledge, experience, and expertise. Career-broadening opportunities should be considered to increase an acquisition manager’s overall professional development and career progression through assignments in operational exchange tours (e.g., space, intelligence, maintenance) or related acquisition functional fields (e.g., test, systems engineering, financial management, contracting, logistics). Opportunities are also given each year to officers and civilians for the Education with Industry program, a 10-month competitively selected nondegree program with industry-leading companies. In some cases, an acquisition manager may be placed in an operational capacity as a first assignment. Supervisors have input into whether additional career broadening is right. Two out of the first three assignments normally should be acquisition management assignments. Back- to-back career broadening assignments are strongly discouraged due to loss of currency and expertise (USAF, 2008, pp. 19–20). APDP Level III Certification APDP Level III certification in program management is granted after completion of mandatory training and accrual of four years of acquisition experience, two of which are in a program office and one in a position with cost, schedule, and performance responsibilities. At this level (beyond 10 years of acquisition experience), the acquisition manager is encouraged to continue broadening expertise through leadership and staff assignments. For CAPs available to lieutenant colonels or pay band 2 (or GS-14) civilians and above, there are additional statutory requirements in order to manage Acquisition Category (ACAT) I/II programs (USAF, 2008, pg. 19). Acquisition Management Career Path and Training Flow The Acquisition Managers (63AX–1101) Career Field Education and Training Plan outlines career path opportunities for acquisition managers and indicates when training is required for career progression within this specialty (see Figure D-12 in Appendix D). The plan also includes an extensive checklist of training requirements (USAF, 2008, pp. 24, 33–40). Officer Manning Issues in the Acquisition Workforce This section extends the discussion of manning issues, begun in Chapter 3, from the five officer career fields that require a STEM degree to the acquisition workforce. A key difference is

OCR for page 45
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce 49 that, as detailed in the preceding sections, the APDP certification levels do not require a STEM degree, although OSD policy includes a preference for a program manager’s required baccalaureate degree to have “a major in engineering, systems management, business administration or a related field” (USAF, 2008, 21). Thus, an open question, which the committee addresses in Chapter 6, is whether some manning shortages of STEM capability in the acquisition workforce could be met by formal consideration of STEM cognizance as a position requirement or preference, in addition to evaluating which positions should require (or state a strong preference for) a STEM degree. The discussion here includes the 61S Scientist and 62E Developmental Engineer career fields, as well as the 63A Acquisition Management field, for two reasons. First, as discussed at length in Chapter 2, a great many 61S and 62E officers have positions in the acquisition workforce, and the technical fields reflected in their STEM degrees are essential to the activities in the acquisition life cycle. Second, there is considerable crossflow from the 61S and 62E career fields into 63A, which helps in meeting 63A authorizations for field-grade officers but appears to exacerbate the shortages in the 61S and 62E grades from captain and above. The data on 61S, 62E, and 63A authorizations and assignments presented in this section are the same as in Tables 3-3 and 3-4. They are restated here for ease in following the committee’s analyses. Manning Ratio Issues Table 4-2 contains the data on captain-to-lieutenant ratios from Table 3-3 for just the Scientist, Developmental Engineer, and Acquisition Management career fields. Whereas the assigned captain-to-lieutenant ratios for 61 S and 62E, at 1.0:1 and 0.8:1, are substantially less than the 2.1:1 average for Air Force line officers in aggregate (calculated from Table 3-1), the ratio for the 63A career field is just above the average at 2.4:1. TABLE 4-2 Captain-to-Lieutenant Ratios, Scientist, Developmental Engineer, and Acquisition Management Career Fields Lt. Capt. Ratio, Capt./Lt. 61S Assigned 260 249 1.0:1 Scientist Authorized 105 367 3.5 62E Assigned 947 794 0.8:1 Dev. Eng. Authorized 427 1,177 2.8:1 63A Assigned 275 670 2.4:1 Acq. Mgt. Authorized 206 759 3.7:1 SOURCE: Air Force Personnel Center, Directorate of Assignments. Table 4-3 contains the data on field-grade-to-total officer ratios from Table 3-4 for these three key career fields in the acquisition workforce. As noted in Chapter 3, the 61S and 62E career fields have below-average proportions of field-grade strengths, as well as below-average proportions of field-grade authorizations. Their below-average field grade strength probably reflects some combination of low retention, low promotion rates, or migration of more experienced and/or tenured officers to the 63A career field. The 63A career field, by contrast, has

OCR for page 45
50 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs a high proportion of its assigned strength (55.7 percent) in the field grades. However, it also has a very high proportion of field-grade authorizations (61.2 percent), resulting in below-average field-grade manning because of the disconnect between the “required” strength and the available qualified inventory. Due to inadequate promotion rates from the company grades and/or migration to other AFSCs, sustainment of field-grade 63A officers has required migration from other career fields. It has benefited from high retention, better promotion rates, and/or crossflow from other career fields. TABLE 4-3 Field Grade as a Percentage of Total Officer Strength Field Grade Total Field Grade, % 61S Assigned 246 755 32.6% Scientist Authorized 305 777 39.3% 62E Assigned 639 2,380 26.8% Dev. Eng. Authorized 826 2,430 34.0% 63A Assigned 1,187 2,132 55.7% Acq. Mgt. Authorized 1,521 2,486 61.2% SOURCE: Air Force Personnel Center, Directorate of Assignments Senior Officer Preparation for Acquisition Leadership In the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC), Air Force Space Command (AFSPC) and Air Force Acquisition (SAF/AQ), general officers are sometimes assigned to important acquisition positions not designated as CAPs. Some of these individuals must be granted waivers from DAWIA requirements, but despite their lack of experience, they have far-reaching influence over the Acquisition Corps and over the acquisition process. Moreover, experience criteria for other leadership positions within the Air Force acquisition community are often waived. The central purpose of DAWIA is to ensure that major acquisition programs are managed by experienced personnel. Thus, granting such waivers runs counter to the basic intent of the legislation. The committee concluded that waivers could be decreased by creating a larger pool of trained and experienced senior leaders and by providing earlier identification of potential candidates to allow pipeline training that would better fit with DAWIA and APDP intent. CONTRACT LABOR FOR SYSTEM ENGINEERING, TECHNICAL ASSISTANCE, AND FFRDC SUPPORT One of the recurring themes the committee heard from multiple Air Force leaders interviewed for this study was that the balance between organic workforce capabilities and contractors has tilted too far toward the latter. These leaders perceive this tilt as leading to an undesirable atrophy of necessary in-house technical skills. As one commander described it, insufficient in-house technical expertise makes the Air Force a “blind” buyer in the acquisition arena. He stressed that technical knowledge is key to understanding system limitations, defects, and lack of robustness in a planned operating environment. Technical knowledge of the system and broad experience is critical to challenging overly optimistic program assumptions. Two

OCR for page 45
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce 51 examples presented during the Air Force Flight Test Center (AFFTC) presentation6 underscore this point: Contractor personnel proposed testing the Global Air Traffic Management (GATM) system only in Texas. However, because of their experience, the government engineers on the project were concerned about the risks of such limited testing. Their concerns led to an alternative integrated test in GATM airspace that resulted in the development of more than 40 changes, many of which addressed interoperability deficiencies. Following the contractor proposal might have meant denial of the ability to operate in GATM airspace, which would have severe negative effects critical to warfighter support. In the second instance cited by the AFFTC Commander, the contractor proposed a software upgrade to a fighter weapon system via a software change to the heads-up display. The contractor validated the software upgrade in a systems integration lab. Air Force engineers conducted an independent analysis in the AFFTC’s Integrated Facility for Avionics Systems Test. This test revealed a host of errors, turning the proposed upgrade into a flight-safety issue requiring modification before the upgrade could be installed on the weapon system. The government engineers’ action reduced the risk of an air-to-ground mishap. From the AFFTC perspective, one overriding concern is the growing dependence on contractors for executing core mission requirements and longer-term sustainment functions. The AFFTC leadership also clearly perceives a direct connection between early identification of design and technology shortfalls in development programs, rigorous test and evaluation processes, and the government’s inherent interest in early and effective discovery. AFFTC’s leaders believe this early identification can yield cost avoidance factors as high as a 30-to-1 ratio (Figure D-13 in Appendix D). In their experience, the earlier any problems in design or technology are discovered and addressed, the less the changes cost over the long run. Accordingly, they believe a technically qualified organic workforce is vital in this discovery process. The AFFTC commander stated that the test center has a good balance of civilian scientists and engineers in both numbers and education levels. He sees three major challenges: (1) building experience in development, test, and evaluation planning through repeated practice; (2) convincing Air Force customers of the value of government weapon system evaluations; and (3) recruiting, hiring, and developing the workforce. In the third challenge, the issues are in transferring knowledge skills, the lengthy delays in the hiring process, and the remote work location of the test center in an area with a high cost of living. Another concern expressed by leaders in the acquisition community about the growth of the contractor workforce was the cost of the contracts themselves and the permanence of those costs. For example, an AFSPC representative stated that his center spends $55 million annually (and growing) on contract personnel, excluding federally funded research and development centers (FFRDCs), with the cost of contract labor averaging $250,000 for each full-time equivalent. 7 The contractor workforce is used to address workload increases. Within the Space and Missile Systems Center (SMC), 33 percent of acquisition resources are FFRDC; system engineering and technical assistance accounts for 15 percent; military, 25 percent; and civilian, 27 percent.8 According to the presenter, the SMC needs approximately 300 additional organic personnel, evenly split between military officers and civilians, to support the center’s known acquisition 6 Maj Gen David J. Eichhorn, Commander, Air Force Flight Test Center, Edwards Air Force Base, briefing to the committee on December 3, 2008. 7 Douglas Bell, Deputy Director, Manpower, Personnel, and Services, AFSPC, briefing to the committee on September 30, 2008. 8 Pat Robey, Director, Manpower and Personnel, SMC, briefing to the committee on September 30, 2008.

OCR for page 45
52 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs requirements.9 Given the nature of the SMC’s mission, a large portion of the additional personnel would need to be STEM-degreed. Other AFMC activities reported the need for more personnel, including personnel with STEM capabilities. The Electronic Systems Center (ESC) estimates an authorized-to-assigned labor shortfall of 924 people, of which the contractor shortfall is 376 full-time equivalents (see Figure D-14 in Appendix D).10 Contracted advisory and assistance services (from Jacobs Corp) and FFRDC support (from MITRE) make up 70 percent (evenly split between advisory and assistance services and FFRDC) of the ESC workforce. From the ESC commander’s perspective, the key to optimizing the engineering team lies in clarity of roles between the various components of the workforce in their respective workforce components. Voicing similar concerns, the commander of the Arnold Engineering and Development Center (AEDC), stated that AEDC’s overall mix and numbers are adequate for today’s mission but the government workforce is at an absolute minimum. Providing adequate oversight challenges its ability.11 He shares the concern about the technical skill balance between its organic and much larger contractor workforce and told the committee that a stronger organic technical staff provides more-effective contractor oversight and makes AEDC a “smart buyer” when procuring contract services. This assessment was based on his observations of declining experience within the in-house workforce, with insufficient technical knowledge among the remaining civilian scientists and engineers. Figure D-15 in Appendix D presents an AEDC perspective on how technical excellence has been lost because of changes in the nature of the mission. Figure D-16 in Appendix D makes the argument that, over the years, there have been fewer opportunities to hone the technical skills of civilian scientists and engineers because the test base has gotten smaller. The AEDC commander added that these technical experts have also had to spend more time on program and contract management. Furthermore, thrusting new hires directly into program and contract management erodes their technical abilities by denying them a period of “apprenticeship,” which should last perhaps five years. The AEDC commander believes three changes are needed: rebuild technical excellence (help build “smart buyers”), utilize their science and engineering talent better, and find new sources for this STEM talent (government and contractor). ADDITIONAL LEADERSHIP ASSESSMENTS OF CURRENT ACQUISITION WORKFORCE ADEQUACY The previous section summarized perspectives provided to the committee by leaders in the acquisition community who spoke specifically on the balance of military and in-house civilian scientists and engineers with contracted STEM support. This section summarizes key points from these and other leaders in the acquisition community concerning the general level of adequacy of STEM capability in the acquisition workforce. The committee carefully considered and evaluated these leadership perspectives in arriving at the findings and recommendations presented at the end of this chapter and in Chapter 6. An Overview from the Director of Acquisition and Career Management During the briefing in which the acquisition workforce statistics in Table 4-1 were presented to the committee, the DACM noted shortages in captain and field-grade officers as manning 9 Note added in proof: The SMC need for 300 additional people was accomplished in CY2010. 10 Lt. Gen. Ted F. Bowlds, Commander, Electronic Systems Center, AFMC, briefing to the committee on October 30, 2008. 11 Col. Art Huber, Commander, AEDC, briefing to the committee on December 3, 2008.

OCR for page 45
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce 53 issues for the 62E and 63A officer career fields.12 He also noted that the civilian workforce is not entirely able to compensate for these shortages, since there are a large number of open civilian positions. This contributes to shortages in STEM capability in the civilian component of the acquisition workforce and highlights the need to accelerate and/or improve hiring processes. The DACM pointed out that, just as the flow of officers from the 62E to the 63A career field is beneficial to acquisition program management, he would like to see a similar flow of civil servants from engineering to higher-grade positions in the program management occupational series. However, it is difficult to convince engineers to make the move because the program management positions are filled using an occupational series that does not require a STEM degree, which many engineers consider a step down in status. The Air Force has led efforts to set defined certification requirements for the program management occupational series and fill such positions in accordance with the requirements. However, for several reasons, it has encountered resistance from the other Services. The reasons, he suggested, include competition for key technical talent, perceived grade creep, and the anticipation of other possible workforce inequities between the Services. The issue of grade creep arises because many acquisition positions require a higher grade than other line career fields. Workforce inequities among the Services arise because the Services have implemented DAWIA and the Goldwater-Nichols Act in different ways. In some of the Services, acquisition fields are rotational assignments that require little specific experience. The DACM noted an ongoing effort to recore (i.e., change their permanent career field, as opposed to a duty assignment) many military engineers (62Es) into the acquisition management (63A) career field. He saw the need for a better definition of future scientist and engineer requirements, by discipline, in both the military and civilian workforces. He believes the Air Force needs a reliable and credible predictive manpower model for sizing acquisition staffs, mentioned past efforts to develop such a model, and indicated that the Air Force Manpower Agency is working to develop such a model. He noted that he would like to increase the proportion of project managers with technical degrees. An appropriate benchmark, in his opinion, would be about 50 percent of field-grade officers with technical degrees. Headquarters AFMC From the headquarters perspective,13 AFMC recognizes that it is home to large numbers of requirements for which STEM capability is needed. Accordingly, it has developed a deliberate approach and methodology, reflected in Figure 4-1, as to where AFMC leaders envision placement and utilization of STEM-related specialties. In applying this approach, and in recognizing the heavy concentration of civilian employees in its workforce, AFMC sees a potential shortfall in seasoned STEM-degreed workforce at the mid-senior level (Figure D-17 in Appendix D). These are the technically competent and experienced technical leaders who provide the oversight and management of key processes and programs, while also providing the mentoring and guidance perspective for the next generations of technical personnel. 12 Patrick Hogan, Director of Acquisition and Career Management (SAF/AQXD), briefing to the committee on December 3, 2008. 13 Jon Ogg, Headquarters AFMC, Engineering, briefing to the committee on August 27, 2008.

OCR for page 45
54 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs AFMC STEM jobs are in • Science & Engineering • Civil Engineering • Information Technology Technology Acquisition Testing Sustainment STEM positions are spread across AFMC mission areas and centers AF Research Lab Product Centers Specialized Units Test Centers Air Logistics Centers FIGURE 4-1 AFMC Approach to STEM Placement and Utilization. SOURCE: Jon Ogg, Headquarters AFMC, Engineering, briefing to the committee on August 27, 2008. This shortfall in the more senior civilian cadre becomes of more concern, the AFMC presenter said, when compared to the comparable grades and structure in the military workforce. As Figure D-18 in Appendix D shows, the STEM-degreed military workforce shares a similar deficit in the more experienced, more senior field grades (major to colonel), with significant manning shortfalls present from the grade of captain up. The large numbers of lieutenants and accessions are the only available backfills to lessen these shortfalls. Consequently, the military and civilian STEM-degreed workforces do not have the capability to offset each other’s manning and experience shortfalls. Besides the relative dearth in the more senior civilian cadre, AFMC tracks the retirement- eligible population. As shown in Figure 4-2, AFMC has a potential bow wave of STEM-degreed civilians approaching retirement-eligible age in 6 to 15 years. This high proportion of personnel in older cohorts of the civilian STEM-degreed workforce is of even more concern given the “bathtub” (relatively smaller cohorts) that immediately follows. AFMC Product Centers The representatives from the AFMC product centers who were interviewed by the committee shared similar concerns. According to the commander of the Aeronautical Systems Center (ASC), his center uses multiple indicators to access the adequacy of the workforce, both in terms of quantity and skills type.14 He recognizes that merely measuring overall manning is not sufficient, as he envisions a significant long-term drawdown caused by decreased manpower allocations and/or funding availability. In support of this perspective, he observed that ASC’s STEM workforce has decreased by approximately two-thirds over the past 16 years, while the acquisition dollars at ASC have increased by about two-thirds in the same period (in inflation- adjusted dollars). As further evidence of this continuing decrease in STEM workforce, ASC has concluded that the increased number of support contractors to provide STEM capability means that ASC lacks sufficient organic STEM-degreed (or STEM-cognizant) workforce to perform 14 Lt. Gen. John L. Hudson, Commander, ASC, AFMC, briefing to the committee during videoteleconference on October 30, 2008.

OCR for page 45
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce 55 current and future mission requirements. The number of contractors has increased almost 200 percent; they now comprise 15-20 percent of the ASC workforce with STEM degrees. 2494 IT 441 CE 1105 Civilian Personnel S&E 7752 TOT 9298 2263 FIGURE 4-2 Retirement eligibility of AFMC STEM-degreed civilian personnel. IT = information technology, CE = civil engineering, S&E = science and engineering, TOT = total of IT, CE, and S&E. Elig = Eligible. SOURCE: Jon Ogg, Headquarters AFMC, Engineering, briefing to the committee on August 27, 2008. As a result of these ongoing reviews, the ASC commander concluded that recent drawdowns have decreased mission capability and resulted in a long-term loss of experienced employees. Specifically, ASC authorized organic workforce strength has gone from nearly 12,000 in FY 1993 to under 7,000 in FY 2009, while the portion of the workforce in acquisition positions has dropped from 6,133 to 3,086 – literally cut in half. In the past four years, while the acquisition workforce authorized numbers dropped about 200, ASC estimates its requirements actually rose by 377. The ASC commander further predicted that shortages and imbalances will continue to increase as ASC’s aging workforce gains eligibility to retire, with concomitant years of knowledge, skill, and talent quickly draining. Besides decreasing population strength, the ASC leadership further expects a bathtub of reduced experience in their force profile—generated in part by years of hiring freezes—to result in a significant experience shortfall in the future. The ASC commander already sees a clear loss of program-specific knowledge, creating lengthy talent gaps while new hires learn program areas. He also identifies numerous specific shortage areas, depending upon current workloads and priorities. Some examples are electromagnetics (including low observables, communications, and electromagnetic compatibility), structures, software, reliability and maintainability, and manufacturing engineers. Yet another problem is the loss of senior mentors or trainers of the less-experienced workforce, which can be seen as detrimental to the long-term success of ASC in performing its mission. The commander of the Electronic Systems Center (ESC) expressed similar concerns, reporting that ESC sees the ability to reestablish an engineering leadership cadre of government

OCR for page 45
56 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs personnel at the center as a strategic priority.15 He pointed out that there is a lack of government engineers to fill 80 critical engineering positions (CEPs), and appropriate CEPs are needed to do inherently government work, as well as operational safety, suitability, and effectiveness studies. As noted in the discussion above of balancing the contract labor force and the organic workforce, the contractor workforce at ESC is 70 percent of the total, with 35 percent in advisory and assistance services and 35 percent in a FFRDC. The commander said that ESC desires to increase the government workforce, which currently is composed of 63 percent civilian and 37 percent military, above the current 30 percent of the total workforce. He observed that the outlook for military entitlements continues to be bleak, that one-third of the civilian workforce will become eligible for retirement in the next two years, and that the center had 40 civilian vacancies at the time of his presentation to the committee. To address these workforce-related issues, simply in terms of numbers, the commander believes ESC needs an increase of approximately 300 additional authorizations. Air Force Research Laboratory and Arnold Engineering and Development Center The Air Force Research Laboratory (AFRL) is predominately civilian; only13 percent of the science and engineering workforce is drawn from the military, while 46 percent are contractors and the remaining 41 percent are organic civilian personnel (Figure D-19 in Appendix D).16 According to the Executive Director, AFRL like other AFMC organizations is facing an unprecedented loss of experience and expertise. Forty percent of the civilian scientist and engineering workforce are nearing the age of retirement eligibility (Figure D-20 in Appendix D). Compounding the challenge for AFRL, the Executive Director continued, is the Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) move of its directorates from San Antonio, Texas; Hanscom AFB, Massachusetts; and Mesa, Arizona; to Dayton, Ohio. He anticipates that only 10 percent of civilian personnel will move when their positions are moved, and that this will drive a need to recruit 400 civilian scientists and engineers. He cited the cumbersome hiring process, the conundrum between reactive and proactive planning, and the continuing loss of experienced talent through retirement as factors further compounding the challenge. On the positive side, he noted that AFRL does have some extensive and aggressive training and educational outreach programs (secondary schools and colleges) for its existing and planned workforce. AFRL is also using Section 85217 funding for interns, co-ops,18 skill- and competency-based occupation workforce planning, career broadening, rental allowances, and branding. As threats to AFRL’s recruiting efforts, the Executive Director cited this unprecedented loss of experience and expertise, a projected surge in hiring needs of 680 civilian personnel related to BRAC activities, competition from the private sector and other government agencies competing for limited pool of candidates, and fewer hiring flexibilities for seasoned candidates. 15 Lt. Gen. Ted F. Bowlds, Commander, ESC, AFMC, briefing to the committee on October 30, 2008. 16 Joe Sciabica, Executive Director, AFRL, AFMC, briefing to the committee on October 30, 2008. 17 Section 852 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 directed the Secretary of Defense to establish a “Department of Defense Acquisition Workforce Fund” to “provide funds, in addition to other funds that may be available, for the recruitment, training, and retention of acquisition personnel of the Department of Defense.” The stated purpose of the fund was “to ensure that the Department of Defense acquisition workforce has the capacity, in both personnel and skills, needed to properly perform its mission, provide appropriate oversight of contractor performance, and ensure that the Department receives the best value for the expenditure of public resources.” Section 852 defined “acquisition workforce” to mean personnel in positions designated as acquisition positions under U.S. Code Title 10, Chapter 87, Section 1721. To the extent that the Air Force’s acquisition and STEM workforces overlap, the Section 852 Department of Defense Acquisition Workforce Fund can potentially help rebuild the base of the STEM workforce. 18 A co-op is a university student who works part time at AFRL.

OCR for page 45
STEM Personnel in the Acquisition Workforce 57 As noted earlier in the section on balancing contractor and organic workforces, the AEDC commander stressed problems of declining experience and an insufficient technical base among AEDC’s remaining civilian scientists and engineers.19 Figure D-15 in Appendix D illustrates how, from the commander’s perspective, technical excellence at AEDC has been lost because of changes in the nature of the mission. Figure D-16 shows that, over the years, there have been fewer opportunities for personnel to hone their science and engineering expertise and test their technical excellence because the test base (programs in development) has progressively declined. The commander said that one key source of talent is noncommissioned officers separating from the military. They offer a near-term and viable source of experienced technical talent with the potential to partially fill the shortage of scientists, engineers, and science and math educators. He sees a need to build skill requirements in experimental design, integrating math and science with test techniques, integrating ground and flight tests, and more cross-disciplinary expertise. FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS Finding 4-1a. Although the Acquisition Managers (63AX–1101) Career Field Education and Training Plan states that a baccalaureate degree is required for Level 1 certification (USAF 2008, pg. 21), neither a STEM degree nor STEM cognizance is required for that certification. 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 AFMC, AFSPC, 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. 19 Col Art Huber, Commander, AEDC, briefing to the committee on December 3, 2008.

OCR for page 45
58 Examination of the U.S. Air Force’s STEM Workforce Needs 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. REFERENCE USAF. 2008. Acquisition Managers (63AX – 1101) Career Field Education and Training Plan, CFETP 63AX & 1101, Parts I and II. 2008 Edition, March 17, 2008. Washington, D.C.: Department of the Air Force, Headquarters US Air Force.