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.


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 competition 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 significant 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 Accessed October 1, 2011.

3C.R. Hedden. 2010. Aviation Week Workforce Study. Arlington, Va.: Aviation Week.

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