The workshop was structured around five key questions related to the STEM workforce of the Department of Defense and the U.S. defense industrial base (see Chapter 1). Some key points from the workshop sessions on those five questions are discussed below.
Many workshop participants noted that the traditional path for research and development (R&D) and technology development entails end-to-end ownership by DOD, governed by acquisition policy and rules. Important trends and findings in science and technology (S&T) are as likely as not to emerge outside the DOD classified environment, or even overseas. The challenge for DOD will be to stay abreast of such developments, occurring as they do outside the firewall of the classified DOD environment, and to apply these to meet its own needs. In an era of increased cost-consciousness, such technologies available in the global marketplace may indeed be cheaper than many developed within the confines of DOD end-to-end ownership. A further shift is that, currently, relatively few very significant advances in science leading to new technology are initiated outside the academic sector, whereas in the past such advances might originate in settings such as Bell Labs, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center. The role of industry has increasingly become one of integrating systems and applying rather than initiating new knowledge.
In the closing, summary session of the workshop, a committee member noted that a few of the key trends in S&T that can be identified now include the following:
• Computers with simple, human-oriented interfaces, including capabilities for design, modeling, communications, and data mining;
• Systems engineering, including social behavior modeling, human-machine interface, and data-to-decision capabilities; and
• Autonomous systems, including multifunctional materials, robust chemistries, and self-sustaining power.
Other participants identified other trends in S&T: for example, engineered materials, including metamaterials, plasmonics, and new dielectrics; synthetic biology; and modeling of human behavior. Some participants predicted that, overall, DOD will increasingly be in the position of having to fund the basic research performed at universities
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2 Summary of Key Points from the Workshop The workshop was structured around five key questions related to the STEM workforce of the Department of Defense and the U.S. defense industrial base (see Chapter 1). Some key points from the workshop sessions on those five questions are discussed below. EMERGING SCIENCE AND TECHNOLOGY Many workshop participants noted that the traditional path for research and development (R&D) and technol - ogy development entails end-to-end ownership by DOD, governed by acquisition policy and rules. Important trends and findings in science and technology (S&T) are as likely as not to emerge outside the DOD classified environ - ment, or even overseas. The challenge for DOD will be to stay abreast of such developments, occurring as they do outside the firewall of the classified DOD environment, and to apply these to meet its own needs. In an era of increased cost-consciousness, such technologies available in the global marketplace may indeed be cheaper than many developed within the confines of DOD end-to-end ownership. A further shift is that, currently, relatively few very significant advances in science leading to new technology are initiated outside the academic sector, whereas in the past such advances might originate in settings such as Bell Labs, Xerox Palo Alto Research Center (PARC), and IBM’s Thomas J. Watson Research Center. The role of industry has increasingly become one of integrating systems and applying rather than initiating new knowledge. In the closing, summary session of the workshop, a committee member noted that a few of the key trends in S&T that can be identified now include the following: • Computers with simple, human-oriented interfaces, including capabilities for design, modeling, commu- nications, and data mining; • Systems engineering, including social behavior modeling, human-machine interface, and data-to-decision capabilities; and • Autonomous systems, including multifunctional materials, robust chemistries, and self-sustaining power. Other participants identified other trends in S&T: for example, engineered materials, including metamaterials, plasmonics, and new dielectrics; synthetic biology; and modeling of human behavior. Some participants predicted that, overall, DOD will increasingly be in the position of having to fund the basic research performed at universities 3
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4 STEM WORKFORCE NEEDS FOR THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND THE U.S. DEFENSE INDUSTRIAL BASE and to take advantage of the global customer and supplier bases. At the same time, some participants expressed the belief that DOD should judge project success to include not only the delivery of hardware but also the knowledge gained in the course of project performance. ESTIMATING STEM WORKFORCE NEEDS UNDER FUTURE SCENARIOS Panelists discussing the STEM workforce noted that the definition of “STEM” is itself at issue with respect to the occupational fields that should be included. One panelist explained that the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) collects data and makes projections based on its definition of STEM employment, which consists of 97 Standard Occupational Classifications (SOCs). In addition to including engineers, mathematicians, computer scientists, and life and physical scientists, its definition includes technicians in the life and physical sciences, architects, postsecondary teachers in STEM fields, STEM managers, and STEM-related sales positions. These SOCs do not include positions in social sciences and health-related S&T. Another participant presented information on the National Science Foundation’s (NSF’s) science and engineering indicators. The widely cited surveys conducted by NSF define natural science and engineering (NS&E) as including biological and agricultural sciences; Earth, atmospheric, and ocean sciences; engineering; mathematics and computer sciences; and physical sciences—but NSF also presents data for “scientists and engineers,” a construct that, in addition, includes psychology and the social sciences. At the workshop, NSF presented data for a possible construct of “STEM” composed of NS&E and the social sciences. Another participant presented information from DOD on its scientist and engineer workforce, a definition aggregated from 83 of the Office of Personnel Management’s (OPM’s) occupational series. 1 Several participants noted the incompatibilities of these various ways of parsing the STEM-like workforce. One participant described the results of the triennial surveys of businesses collected by BLS, which show that there were 7.8 million persons employed in STEM in the U.S. civilian sector in May 2009, with the largest number employed in computer-related jobs. BLS projections of the national workforce to the year 2018, with 2008 as the base year (and hence missing the global recession), predict increasing demand in areas that are of importance to DOD such as computer sciences and life sciences. This prediction implies that there may be recruiting competi - tion in these fields and to a lesser extent in other engineering fields as well. Another participant referred to studies indicating that the growth in the demand for a STEM workforce by industry alone will outpace the supply by about 1 million additional STEM workers by 2020, although the gap might be as high as 2.5 million workers. 2 A member of the NRC committee opined that industry is increasingly turning offshore to resolve this shortfall, just as it did with manufacturing for cost reasons. One participant presented information showing that the current civilian DOD workforce includes 108,703 individuals classified as scientists and engineers. No unified picture emerged of the future workforce needs of DOD, though some insight might be culled from individuals’ recent experience. One participant described how in its system of labs, which comprise one-third of its current STEM workforce, DOD currently does not have a sig - nificant set of unfilled positions, but predicted that retirement-induced gaps could emerge to disrupt this. Another participant presented information on the workforce of the contractor base and noted that retirements are being delayed, perhaps owing to underperforming retirement funds, and are occurring at a rate of 10 percent per year of those who are eligible for retirement. The participant further suggested that this delay points to the possibility that the problem may have been postponed but not avoided. The workforce in the contractor base experiences dislocations when a program priority shifts—for example, when the space shuttle program or the F-22 fighter program is terminated. There is evidence that current contractor workforce needs in some specific areas are not being met, with more than 800 open requisitions3—an open requisition is defined as a funded position that remains unfilled for 90 days or more—for systems engineers and other STEM workers. Opportunities for cybersecurity professionals currently remain open. 1J.M. Seng and P.E. Flattau. 2009. Assessment of the DOD Laboratory Civilian Science and Engineering Workforce. IDA Paper P-4469. Alexandria, Va.: Institute for Defense Analyses. 2A.P. Carnevale and S.J. Rose. 2011. The Undereducated American. Available at http://www9.georgetown.edu/grad/gppi/hpi/cew/pdfs/ undereducatedamerican.pdf. Accessed October 1, 2011. 3C.R. Hedden. 2010. Aviation Week Workforce Study. Arlington, Va.: Aviation Week.
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5 SUMMARY OF KEY POINTS FROM THE WORKSHOP LIMITATIONS TO MEETING WORKFORCE NEEDS OF DOD AND THE INDUSTRIAL BASE No evidence emerged from the workshop to indicate that there is currently a STEM workforce crisis. One participant did, however, describe how past DOD budget decreases naturally correlate with reduced demand and workforce drawdowns. This condition is, however, largely a self-fulfilling prophecy: if the DOD budget for R&D is reduced far enough, a point will inevitably be reached at which there is no unfilled demand. Particular needs, however, may not be fulfilled. One participant presented information from the Aviation Week Workforce Study 2011 pointing to mismatches between supply and demand for particular skills in the contractor base in terms of numbers of open job requisitions. Another participant presented a case study of petroleum engineering in the 2000s show - ing that markets will respond to demand signals for STEM jobs when such needs are not met. Some participants nonetheless made the point that whether or not there are quantitative mismatches, problems related to workforce quality can arise. Engineering skills can obsolesce given rapid changes in technology, and hence there may be need for more continuing education and training than in the past when change was slower. Some participants presented data showing that, for the STEM pipeline, there has been a modest increase in bachelor’s degrees earned in engineering and the physical sciences. However, blacks and Hispanics earn natural science and engineering degrees in percentages well below their population shares, which are the fastest-growing segments of the U.S. population. Participants also presented data on the numbers of persons remaining in STEM fields after graduation—the retention rates—which have been increasing in recent years, although the numbers graduating with degrees in engineering have been flat, at 72,000, for the past 6 years. One participant expressed the view that although gov - ernment can intervene to stimulate supply, the creation of an oversupply of engineers is not a desirable outcome and may be more detrimental than lags arising from the demand-driven supply. One participant presented results of his study on another portion of the STEM supply: the doctoral degrees awarded to temporary-visa holders. At the doctoral level, the so-called stay rates of such graduates up to 2007 have not been in historical decline. On the one hand, China, India, and other countries in particular have a high percent - age of PhDs staying in the United States, notwithstanding the very high growth rates in their home economies. On the other hand, there is substantial anecdotal observation of particularly highly qualified individuals returning to their home countries. INSTITUTIONAL CAPACITY IN EDUCATION AND THE DOD INVESTMENTS NEEDED TO ENSURE A SUFFICIENT WORKFORCE Workshop participants from academia stated the view that there is sufficient capacity to educate the STEM workforce, but there are aspects that could be improved with DOD assistance. In general, universities are best able to respond to a stable signal in DOD funding without year-to-year fluctuation; providing $100 million evenly over 10 years for example is preferable to a short burst of very high funding. Major research universities are the primary recipients of DOD basic research (6.1) funding. Several participants stressed that other, non-R-1 universities and colleges4 are an important component of education for the STEM workforce. A large percentage of science and technology is based at all levels of postsecondary education: approximately 57 percent of those who ultimately pursue doctorates will have obtained their undergraduate degrees at institutions other than major research universi - ties. Programs that focus solely on major research universities would miss these important elements of the STEM workforce pipeline. One participant suggested that engaging undergraduates in research would be an effective way to reduce attrition in the STEM pipeline. The same participant further expressed the view that the quality of U.S. education in kindergarten through 12th grade (K-12), particularly in mathematics and science, does not lend itself to major increases in the number of highly qualified STEM workers, and that this factor is exacerbated by the perceived unattractiveness of many STEM careers as seen by young people. 4That is, classified as “Research Universities I” by the Carnegie Foundation. The classification underwent a major update in 2005 such that RU/VH is the equivalent of R-1. A.C. McCormack and C. Zhao. 2005. “Rethinking and Reframing the Carnegie Classification.” Change 37(5):50-57.
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6 STEM WORKFORCE NEEDS FOR THE U.S. DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE AND THE U.S. DEFENSE INDUSTRIAL BASE One participant described how, within DOD, “learning by doing” is essential for those measured by their ability to perform in their jobs. One participant noted that systems engineers cannot be graduated but must be “grown” (i.e., must learn on the job), a point on which many participants concurred. Nonetheless, this learning can be expedited with formal training, particularly at the graduate level. The practice of science and engineering, including manage - ment, is important for DOD. Lifelong technical training is important, and not only in university education. The pace of change in the STEM fields is sufficiently great that individuals’ critical skills can obsolesce in the absence of continued learning. Participants suggested that DOD might address this perceived problem. One participant described another tool available to DOD in its system of schools operated on military bases, which could become more oriented toward STEM and innovation. This system might provide a testbed experience that could help serve DOD STEM workforce needs by leading to changes in education in feeder schools and universities. ENSURING AN ADEQUATE WORKFORCE CAPABILITY IN AN UNCERTAIN FUTURE Past attempts to predict the state of the world that will drive DOD’s demand for STEM talent have been unsuccessful, as noted by several participants. The same has been true of the ability to predict major new tech - nological advancements. Rather than depending on prognostication, a number of participants opined that DOD might instead emphasize a strategy that incorporates uncertainty. One committee member suggested that this inability to forecast points to a need for a workforce composed of people who are current in their field but also prepared academically and psychologically to change the course of their careers relatively rapidly when likely future changes in demand and technologies occur. In view of the latter, and the uncertainties about future budgets, some participants suggested that the best responses are in the realm of flexibility and adaptation rather than in the creation of new degree programs or the expansion of existing ones. One participant expressed the view that DOD has the tools that it needs to make its recruitment and retention of STEM personnel more aggressive and competitive. DOD laboratories and the acquisition workforce have dem - onstration authority to set pay scales, and the current personnel system will allow the payment of recruitment and retention bonuses when these are indicated. Timeliness is a very serious issue both in hiring and in the granting of clearances. The former can be addressed by direct-hire authority. The latter seems to be in a world of its own. Several participants discussed tools available to DOD on the supply side, where DOD has been able to offer summer employment in its laboratories to young people who might be inspired to return later—a tool often used in industry—and which affords the laboratories a low-risk opportunity to identify high-quality candidates for future employment. DOD might consider making its work more attractive to budding engineers: the fast track for acquisition—described by one of the keynote presenters—greatly increases the chances that a project engineer will see his or her work to fruition. No one wants to work on a project that takes 20 years to finish and incurs the tangible risk of cancellation. One participant expressed skepticism about the efficacy of supply-side measures, observing that defense is today too small a fraction of the nation’s output—4.5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP)—to have a significant impact on supply. Several participants observed that DOD does an admirable job of providing career management for the uni - formed military but does little in this domain for the civilian side. If career management could be enhanced on the civilian side, the attractiveness of government careers would likely increase greatly. Major “Tier 1” suppliers, including Lockheed Martin, Northrop Grumman, and the Boeing Company, all keep a focus on recruiting and main- taining their STEM workforces. Boeing, for example, is able to move personnel between its civilian and military businesses to mitigate the impact of a downturn in one sector. The DOD does not appear to have the same focus and priority for the continuity of its STEM workforce. Several participants expressed concern over a further obstacle that limits the pool of applicants—the exclusion of foreign-born people—owing to the need for cleared personnel to be citizens. The comparison is made to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory system, which allows non-citizens to perform certain work. Clearances are required for critical security positions; nonetheless, there is scope within the current DOD system of controls for reducing the number of positions requiring clearances, depending on security threats.