• Is the position either militarily essential1 or inherently governmental?2 If it is, a contractor cannot be hired to fill it.

  • How much funding is available to support the position? Is the funding single or multiple year?

  • How does the position relate to the roles and missions of the Service components—i.e., the total force approach?

The choice among the personnel sources is also influenced by statutory and policy (Office of the Secretary of Defense [OSD] and Air Force policies) constraints.

In the case of positions requiring STEM expertise, a further complication occurs because STEM requirements cross multiple Air Force Specialty codes (AFSCs), major commands, and functional areas. The committee determined that the current Air Force personnel management process, which is aligned by AFSC and function, is not adequate for managing STEM personnel. The absence of a clear definition of STEM and the inability to comprehensively measure the inventory of STEM personnel make the personnel management task considerably more complex.

Management Approaches Considered and Rejected

Among the many management approaches for STEM-degreed (and STEM-cognizant) personnel considered by the committee, two extreme alternatives were rejected as inadequate.

The committee considered a “STEM Corps” to be managed separately—and within which personnel would be promoted separately—from other segments of the Air Force workforce, i. e. non-line officers. Chaplains, Judge Advocates General, and medical personnel are managed this way. Although these career fields cross major commands, they do not reside in other Air Force specialties and functions. With each career field, independent actions can be taken that do not impact other AFSCs and functions. Additional motivation for a separate corps was the false perception that it would automatically result in a higher promotion rate. This is not true, as a separate corps does not automatically mean higher rates; in fact, promotion rates have been lower in some separate corps. In addition, if promotions within a corps were vacancy-based, a hard requirement must exist to justify promotion. For STEM capabilities in general, a defined requirement does not exist and inventory detail does not exist.

“Do nothing” was also considered as an alternative. The Air Force has not managed its STEM-degreed workforce in the past and could continue to just let STEM-degreed and STEM-cognizant personnel migrate naturally among the officer career fields and civilian occupational series. The Air Force has historically commissioned large numbers of officers with STEM degrees and let the large numbers migrate on their own to various areas. Because college education leading to a STEM degree was so pervasive, requirements were filled from the excess numbers of STEM-degreed personnel at each grade and specialty. There were always enough STEM-degreed personnel to fill the needs, stated or unstated. Therefore, there was no active management of the STEM-degreed workforce as an entity. Because the committee foresees a continuing decrease in the STEM-degreed population and a decreasing percentage of STEM-degreed graduates capable of obtaining security clearances (i.e., U. S. citizens, see Chapter 5),


Militarily essential positions include those performing tasks that come under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and/or the Geneva Convention or are designated as militarily essential under the Status of Forces Agreements.


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. The Government Accountability Office has held that, in some cases, inherently governmental positions were filled by contractors under the guise of acquisition reform, in violation of statutory and/or regulatory requirements (GAO, 2008a, 2008b).

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