of STEM, especially in the field of IT. Looking at the level of educational attainment, there has been a modest increase in engineering and physical sciences bachelor’s degrees. Blacks and Hispanics earn NS&E degrees in percentages well below their population shares. At the doctoral level, one-third of doctorates of NS&E are earned by temporary-visa holders.

A few questions were asked after the presentation was concluded. One participant asked about the decrease in temporary-visa holders and whether this was related to difficulties with obtaining such visas that were observed 6 or 7 years ago.

•   Lehming noted that admittances of persons with student visas dropped slightly after 2000, but the 7 years allowed for getting the degree could explain what one sees in terms of a drop.

A follow-up questioner asked if there were country data showing where the temporary-visa holders are from.

•   Lehming indicated that most were from China, India, and Japan and that, further, only a very few were from countries that might be termed “unfriendly.”

•   In response to another question that sought clarification on what specifically was included in IT, Lehming noted that this includes all hardware and system components.

Panel Discussion

Session moderator and committee member Anita Jones thanked Rolf Lehming for his presentation and noted the value of the biennial science and engineering indicators report. Then the four members of Panel 2 who had been asked to prepare brief remarks presented their comments on the panel’s topic of estimating STEM workforce needs under future scenarios.

The first panelist, committee member Leif Peterson, managing partner at Advanced HR Concepts and Solutions, LLC, was asked to provide a brief review of selected, previous Air Force studies regarding STEM workforce issues. He went back 10 years, beginning with the USAF Scientist and Engineer Future Study of 2002.6 His presentation included the National Defense University review in 20087 and the National Research Council STEM workforce study8 published in 2010. He concluded by giving an overview of Bright Horizons: The Air Force STEM Strategic Roadmap (2011) and the Senate Report to Accompany S. 1253, the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012 (Report 111-26).9

The USAF Future Study established the first-ever S&E projections of 2010, 2015, and 2025. It defined the tools used to establish the projections, derived workforce trends, and identified current and emerging technical degree profiles. It concluded that in order to manage a workforce with acceptable risk, the Air Force needed to man to authorized levels with the right skills. Peterson went on to identify future technology areas that would drive a shift toward academic degrees in the following major areas: directed energy (e.g., electrical engineering), space vehicles (e.g., astronautical engineering), information technology (e.g., computer science), and human factors (e.g., behavioral science).

In July 2008 the National Defense University review arrived at three key conclusions: (1) future S&T efforts in DOD would be in competition for funding with other federal outlays (e.g., Medicare, the national debt, and so on); (2) it is critical that the DOD S&T workforce have the ability to renew itself and develop effective leaders who can maintain advocacy for new S&T initiatives; and (3) DOD should be aware of the implications of the S&T “shadow workforce” (i.e., non-organic personnel such as contractors).


6U.S. Air Force. 2002. USAF Scientist and Engineer Future Study. Washington, D.C.

7Timothy Coffey. 2008. Building the S&E Workforce of 2040, Challenges Facing the Department of Defense. July. Washington, D.C.: Center for Technology and National Security Policy, National Defense University.

8National Research Council. 2010. 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. Washington, D.C.: The National Academies Press.

9U.S. Senate. 2011. Report to Accompany S. 1253, National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2012. Report 111-26. Washington, D.C., June 22, p. 171.

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