not in the developed countries as in the past,4 making it all the more attractive to conduct manufacturing and engineering outside the United States. A principal outcome of this scenario is that there will not be enough jobs in the United States for U.S. workers as a whole, and unemployment will remain high.

Another complication related to the security of our nation is that DOD and its contractors cannot simply export their work to overseas firms—although DOD will need to do a much better job of defining exactly which jobs truly demand U.S. citizenship as a condition of employment. The maintenance of a cadre of highly capable, dedicated, innovative, entrepreneurial U.S. scientists and engineers is thus critical to the health of the U.S. economy as well as that of DOD.

In this context, DOD’s demand for scientists and engineers is sufficiently modest that fulfilling its need for numbers should be achievable. DOD’s challenge in the foreseeable future is filling its ranks with a suitable share of the best and brightest talent—particularly given the current perception of many young graduates, in particular PhD candidates in the sciences, that working in government is less compelling, though still attractive, than careers in academic teaching and research or industry (Sauermann and Roach, 2012).

The highly regarded Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Scholarship for Service Program is a DOD STEM workforce development program that addresses recruiting and retaining top talent for the department. It is a civilian scholarship-for-service program that provides full undergraduate or graduate tuition, living and book allowances, summer internships, health insurance, and other benefits in exchange for postgraduate employment at DOD; the scholarship is paid back by service on a one-year-for-one-year basis. The qualification of the students is high—the 2009 cohort of 262 students had a GPA of 3.7. This 6-year program is attractive, expandable, and well-targeted to the nation’s national security needs.

There are a number of constructive goals DOD could set to help assure that the needed cadre of highly qualified STEM workers will be available to support U.S. national security needs. These include (1) making the DOD a more attractive place for highly capable STEM employees to work; (2) creating more pathways for high-quality scientists and engineers to work in DOD; (3) enhancing early warning of new developments being achieved globally in science and engineering by increasing the involvement of DOD’s workforce in global activities in core fields; (4) managing the careers of high-quality civilian government scientists and engineers and giving them educational opportunities, as is already done for the most capable uniformed personnel; and (5) establishing and ensuring adaptable human resource development and management mechanisms that can respond to abrupt changes in STEM opportunities and needs that are fully competitive with the responsiveness found in industry.


Science and technology and the DOD STEM workforce are increasingly critical to U.S. military capability. Technological surprise has proved to be decisive in past conflicts and will likely be so in the future. The ongoing globalization of STEM requires that DOD readdress its workforce policies and practices to ensure that it retains access to a significant share of the best and brightest STEM talent available. DOD is a microcosm of the larger and growing global STEM enterprise, where talent is in high demand. Access to highly qualified STEM talent should be a primary consideration in DOD workforce recruitment and retention policies, guidelines, and practices.

Finding 1: Quantity of STEM Workforce

Because of the relatively small and declining size of the DOD STEM workforce there is no current or projected shortage of STEM workers for DOD and its industrial contractor base except in specialized, but important, areas— such as cybersecurity and selected intelligence fields. As a means of addressing any future shortages, experience has shown that students will respond to the demand signal of higher salaries in a STEM field5 (Figure S-4), sug-

4 Asia’s spending on defense is projected to surpass that of Europe in 2012. For more information see International Institute for Strategic Studies (2012).

5 The committee was made aware of a further instance in which students’ choice of a STEM major was made in response to the offer of higher salaries, though it was for the case of petroleum engineers, a field for which DOD has little if any need. See NRC (2012a), p. 26.

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