The capacity of educational institutions to educate and maintain the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) workforce of the Department of Defense (DOD) is addressed in this chapter, including some of the impediments these institutions are facing. As in other portions of this report, this chapter focuses on three basic priorities: quality, skills mix, and flexibility. This chapter also discusses the investments that DOD is making in its current STEM workforce related to education and offers some recommendations for focusing these investments in the future.
With respect to the priority of achieving the right skills mix, DOD should focus its education and personnel efforts on the specific skill sets critical to its ongoing and anticipated needs. With this in mind, DOD support for education activities should emphasize fields that underpin its ongoing assessment of security needs, and encourage appropriate continuing education for its STEM personnel. Initially, it must be clarified what the meaning of institutional capacity is. DOD operates a substantial kindergarten through twelfth grade (K-12) school system for its overseas employees. It has a variety of postsecondary educational institutions,1 including the military service academies, in addition to many training institutions and research facilities, all of which contribute to educating and training the DOD STEM workforce. Beyond the infrastructure that it owns, DOD maintains many relationships at all levels of civilian educational and research institutions, public and private, in the United States and beyond, that are also part of DOD’s network of institutional capacity. These include the gamut of educational institutions from K-12 through universities, along with life-long learning programs that contribute to continuous workforce refreshment.
Although there are STEM workers in DOD at all educational levels, the preponderance are scientists and engineers at the bachelors’ degree level and above, as discussed in Chapter 3. As of 2011, approximately 48 per-
1 Examples of these educational institutions include the Defense Acquisition University, the Air Force Institute of Technology, the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences, and the Naval Postgraduate School.
cent have a bachelor’s degree, close to a quarter have a master’s degree, and roughly 5 percent have a doctoral degree.2 The time required to attain this level of education must be considered when projecting how readily DOD can expect to grow, or renew, its cadre of STEM employees.
In the U.S. school system, students who ultimately join the STEM educated workforce typically begin to diverge from the rest of the population by taking college preparatory mathematics and science in about the eighth grade. This is generally at least 8 years before baccalaureate graduation and 10 years before earning a master’s degree. Further, the United States average for attainment of a PhD in science and engineering is 7 years from entrance into graduate school, implying substantial amounts of earnings foregone while in student status. Something to consider is that the reforms related to the Bologna Declaration of 1999 in Europe aim for a 5-year process (2-year master’s plus 3-year PhD) (Kehm, 2006).
The prediction of future supply is complicated by attrition rates. The Beginning Postsecondary Students Longitudinal Study found that only 35 percent of eighth grade public school students subsequently enroll in an accredited 4-year college and 22 percent in a 2-year college, for a total of 57 percent entering a 2-year or 4-year institution (National Center for Education Statistics, 2010). Among postsecondary students entering 4-year colleges in 2003-2004, 24 percent had obtained degrees or persisted (i.e., were still enrolled) in STEM fields as of 2009 (National Science Board, 2012; Table 2-8). These same data underscore, however, that not all college freshmen who declare STEM majors graduate with such degrees. Among students entering 4-year colleges in 2004 and subsequently declaring STEM majors, the longitudinal study found roughly 80 percent still enrolled or having attained degrees (bachelor’s, associate’s, or certificates) in STEM fields as of 2009 (Figure 5-1). These figures are substantially lower in some STEM fields such as engineering.
Next considering all postsecondary institutions (and widening the scope to include 2-year and less-than-2-year colleges), the data show similarities in the percentage of entrants in STEM fields (Figure 5-2). The number who persisted in STEM fields or attained degrees 6 years later was, however, smaller than that for 4-year colleges alone, with 56 percent having received a degree and 14 percent still enrolled.
As discussed in Chapter 4, persons who initially enter the United States on temporary visas (work or study) related to STEM fields can become citizens and thus become eligible for employment in national security related activities. International students can thus become a source of STEM hires for DOD. Further, if DOD were to adopt more liberal practices toward hiring of non-U.S. citizens as recommended in Chapter 4, the education of international students in U.S. universities would become a more important component of the STEM pipeline. This section reviews the current picture of international students in the United States and discusses other countries in which the fraction of such students is on the increase.
The United States plays host to the largest number of international students in STEM fields (Figure 5-3). China and other countries in developing Asia (the “Asia-8”) are among the largest source countries of international STEM graduates in the United States (Figure 5-4). The number of full-time graduate students in science, engineering, and health fields—largely those with F-1 non-immigrant visas—was nearly 149,000 in 2009, up considerably from just over 91,000 in 1990 (Wassen, 2012). At the bachelor’s degree level, temporary residents in 2009 were awarded only about 3 to 4 percent of degrees in STEM majors, although by specific major the fraction earned by such persons can be higher (e.g., electrical and industrial engineering degrees are each 9 percent).3 Additionally, in 2009, the foreign student population earned 26.6 percent of doctoral degrees in science and 57.4 percent of the doctoral degrees in engineering (National Science Board, 2012; Appendix Table 2-19). Upon completion of their degree, foreign students on F-1 visas have various routes by which to change their immigration status to remain in the United States and become employed in STEM fields, including through acquisition of H1-B visas (Government Accountability Office, 2007), discussed in the Chapter 4 section “Security Clearances.” Certain organizations such as Sandia National Laboratories have developed pathways by which a foreign national may become a member of
3 See, for example, Appendix Table 2-19 in National Science Board (2012).
FIGURE 5-1 Persistence in science and engineering STEM fields and attainment of STEM degrees among postsecondary students in 4-year postsecondary institutions.
NOTE: Data were as of the end of the 2008-2009 academic year for the cohort that began postsecondary education in the 2003-2004 academic year. STEM fields include physical sciences and biological/agricultural sciences; engineering/engineering technologies; and computer/information sciences.
SOURCE: Department of Education (2012).
its technical staff while concurrently obtaining citizenship and security clearances (see discussion in the Chapter 4 section “Temporary Work Visas”).
Several other nations, including several Commonwealth countries, have facilitated the issuing of visas to foreign nationals who earn graduate degrees in science and engineering fields in Commonwealth countries.
FIGURE 5-2 Persistence in science and engineering STEM fields and attainment of STEM degrees among postsecondary students entering 2- and 4-year postsecondary institutions.
NOTE: Data were as of the end of the 2008-2009 academic year for the cohort that began postsecondary education in the 2003-2004 academic year. STEM includes physical sciences and biological/agricultural sciences; engineering/engineering technologies; and computer/information sciences.
SOURCE: Department of Education (2012).
FIGURE 5-3 Estimated percentages of all international higher education students in STEM fields in a selection of countries, by country of enrollment, 2000 and 2004.
SOURCE: GAO (2007).
FIGURE 5-4 First university degrees in S&E fields, 2008 or most recent year.
NOTE: Asia-8 includes India, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan; data on Indonesia and Thailand are not available.
SOURCE: Adapted from Appendix Table 2-32 in National Science Board (2012).
Immigration advocates and some observers in higher education note that close U.S. allies, including some Western European countries and Australia, Canada, and New Zealand, have substantially increased the number of foreign students studying in their universities, echoing the trend noted above in the United States.4 In Australia, now one of the leading countries in terms of percentages of international students, 56 percent of the international students in 2009 were undergraduates. Management and commerce was the most popular field and accounted for 48 percent of the students (Phillimore and Koshy, 2010). Engineering and related technology fields, though the second most popular fields, represented much smaller percentages, only about 8 percent. One of the principal reasons for the expansion of international students in Australian universities is the government’s urging that Australian universities seek increased revenues from foreign students instead of from the Australian government.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office found that average annual costs for private colleges and universities doubled between 1990 and 2004, from $13,237 to $26,489. However, the costs at 4-year public institutions increased by approximately 118 percent over the same time period (whereas for 4-year private colleges it was a 100 percent increase and at 2-year institutions an 83 percent increase) (Government Accountability Office, 2007). Most published fees at public institutions reflect in-state costs, and costs for out-of-state students are substantially higher. Even at 2-year institutions, the rate of tuition growth has been 3.8 percent above the rate of general inflation over the decade 2001-2002 to 2011-2012 (College Board Advocacy and Policy Center, 2011). Still, community colleges are considerably less expensive than 4-year institutions, even public ones. These rising costs of higher education have led to an increase in student loan debt, which in turn is impacting students’ career choices. A 2007 report found that debt “leads graduates to choose higher-salary jobs” and that “debt appears to reduce the probability that students choose low-paid ‘public interest’ jobs”(Rothstein and Rouse, 2007). Some federal agencies and other organizations have student loan debt forgiveness programs that can heavily influence the attractiveness of potential employers. This coupled with any hiring delays due to security clearances may well discourage students from pursuing many DOD opportunities.
Although as discussed in Chapter 3 there is no evidence of a shortfall in the availability of a STEM workforce within DOD, except in selected disciplines, it is nevertheless prudent to consider how DOD can ensure that its STEM workforce remains robust in an increasingly uncertain future. This section first describes the current level and focus of DOD support for STEM and then discusses some specific approaches that, if adopted, could enhance the pipeline of STEM workers available to DOD.
Turning first to the resources DOD has to invest in this endeavor, the committee notes that these include money, people, facilities, and programs (e.g., procurement, scholarships). Table 5-1 shows how DOD’s Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD(R&E)) is currently investing in STEM development programs, although this clearly does not represent the total investment in STEM across DOD. The latter include programs in support of basic research (so-called 6.1), which alone was $2.1 billion in FY 2011 to all DOD components, and applied research and other categories of funding aimed at moving a system to a higher level of technological readiness.
However, as DOD becomes a diminishing fraction of the global demand for skilled workers, it must become more strategic and nimble in its STEM investments. The report on the federal STEM education portfolio by the Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Education (co-STEM) of the National Sci-
4 It is important to recognize significant differences, such as the fact that in Europe many such foreign students are from other European countries that are members of the EU, of NATO, or both.
|STEM Programs||FY11 Presidential Budget Request / FY11 Enacted||Targeted Group|
|National Defense Education Program (NDEP) K-12 Informal Education||$18M / $11.2M||K-12|
|Awards to Stimulate and Support Undergraduate Research Experiences (ASSURE)||$4.5M / $4.5M||Undergraduates|
|Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation (SMART) Program||$56.0M / $48.8M||Undergraduates|
|HBCU / MI Program*||$15M / $17.3M||Faculty, staff, and students of minority institutions|
|National Defense Science and Engineering Graduate (NDSEG) Fellowship Program||$38.3M / $38.3M||PhD students at/near the beginning of their graduate study|
|National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF)||$36.12M / 30.721M||University faculty, staff scientists, and engineers of accredited, U.S. doctoral degree-granting academic institutions|
|Presidential Early Career Awards for Scientists and Engineers (PECASE)||Army: $5.1M
Air Force: $4.5M
Total: $14.7M (Enacted)
|Outstanding scientists and engineers beginning their independent careers|
| *Funding includes monies for scholarships/fellowships and for research.
SOURCE: Laura Adolfie, DOS STEM Development Office, personal communication, December 15, 2011. Description of ASSURE based on Air Force Research Laboratory (2012); HBCU /MI based on Defense Technical Information Center (undated); NDSEG based on Office of Naval Research (undated). NDSEG based on National Defense Education Program (undated); and PECASE based on National Science Foundation (undated).
ence and Technology Council (2011) appropriately stated, “Our analysis indicates that the critical issue related to federal investments on STEM education is not whether the total number of investments is too large or whether today’s programs are overly redundant with one another. Rather, the primary issue is how to strategically focus the limited federal dollars available so they will have a more significant impact in areas of national priority.” In developing a strategic plan to meet DOD STEM workforce needs, it must minimize duplication of other federal or private programs, while emphasizing programs that have the greatest leverage in meeting DOD requirements. This is consistent with the findings from the Government Accountability Office (2012) report 12-108 on STEM, which led to the review and recommendations from the National Science and Technology Council report of February 2012 entitled Coordinating Federal Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Education Investments: Progress Report.
This challenge of focusing limited federal dollars to improve the supply of STEM workers can be seen as having both a direct side, including investments in education, and an indirect side. Both sides must be weighed in building and maintaining an appropriate investment strategy. For example, DOD could sponsor large numbers of scholarships that carry obligations for employment in a DOD laboratory, which consequently might directly enhance its supply of educated STEM workers. The return on investment is, however, difficult to judge. For instance, should DOD invest in K-12 teacher education in STEM disciplines, or in internships for students? And if the latter, at what levels of education is intervention most strategic?
On the indirect side, DOD could fund compelling high-technology programs and laboratories that would attract high-quality STEM workers, thereby stimulating its workforce through contractors. The DOD investment priorities for programs and facilities would cascade from national security priorities. Here the investment will be most effective if it can avoid year-to-year fluctuations, thereby providing a stable signal to would-be researchers (JASON, 2009); providing $100 million evenly over 10 years, for example, is preferable to a short burst of very high
funding (National Research Council, 2012b). The Defense Science Board has further underscored the importance of stable funding and has explicitly recommended that DOD take steps to eliminate large fluctuations in funding with its 6.1 (i.e., basic research) programs (Defense Science Board, 2012).
There are also the matters of stimulating currently underrepresented populations and tapping more heavily into the global pool of STEM workers. This report focuses primarily on the DOD civilian STEM workforce, stipulating that the military services also have need for these skills, but acknowledging that responsibility for recruiting, training, and equipping uniformed forces are in the portfolios of the individual services.
As discussed earlier, the DOD maintains a system of K-12 schools, primarily overseas, that caters to dependents of DOD employees. These are typically well run and could be used in to address the current issue in at least two ways. The schools can provide examples of best practices to state and local schools, and they can be used as workshops for experimental approaches to pedagogy and education administration.
Improving K-12 STEM education on a nationwide basis is beyond the role of DOD; K-12 education is heavily controlled and financed at state and local levels. DOD does not have the mandate, resources or know-how to engage the U.S. STEM challenge as a whole. The National Defense Education Act of 1958 (Public Law 85-164) is not a realistic model for national action today. However, DOD could make a significant difference in the K-12 space by mining the talent of its own employees’ families the way some companies do. DOD school-age dependents include more than 1.1 million children (Government Accountability Office, 2011), 88,000 of whom are enrolled at the DOD Education Activity (DODEA) (Department of Defense Education Activity, 2012), with most of the rest in public schools near large bases. A dedicated effort to nurture the potential of these students could involve DOD-themed STEM learning opportunities in school and participation in competitions such as FIRST Robotics and MATHCOUNTS, summer programs at DOD labs, and internships. A department-wide K-12 focus on military dependents would not preclude broader outreach for STEM talent at the postsecondary level, but it would be much more likely to produce results than the current broad approach. Some advantages of a new approach might include the following:
• Politics. A “grow your own” focus on DOD STEM development ties together two widely shared national priorities—STEM education and military families. It also provides a K-20 component to the Administration’s efforts to encourage returning veterans to pursue careers in STEM.
• DOD synergy. Within DOD, the “targeting” of military dependents leverages the interests of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering (ASD(R&E)), where the need lies, with those of the Office of Personnel and Readiness (P&R), which has the credibility in K-12 STEM education through DODEA. If the fragmented assets of DOD were melded together, the department could more effectively impact the K-12 level and build a stronger base for its projected workforce needs.
• Diversity. The military dependent pool is very diverse. DOD’s diversity initiatives have varied greatly at the K-12 level. The proposed strategy would bring more focus and help level the playing field for underrepresented minorities and other diverse groups.
Obviously, many hard questions need to be asked. Is there any empirical evidence that “growing your own” works in STEM education? Would there be opposition to giving special attention to particular pools of youth? Is DOD capable of breaking through its own stovepipes? Nonetheless, an initiative along these lines has the potential to break important new ground and thus deserves serious consideration.
Lastly, the Secretary of Education can have a significant impact through federal oversight and other tools such as applying conditions to the awarding of grants. Coordination between DOD and the Department of Education on mutual goals should be enhanced.
Competitive Internships Recruitment
If DOD were able to identify STEM-inclined students in high school and provide opportunities for them to be exposed to those sciences of importance to DOD, the latter could build the pipeline and also keep those students close to the work done by DOD, thus improving the chances of recruiting them.
Role of Community Colleges
Another possible approach to respond to the problem of ensuring that DOD has the necessary STEM talent is to strengthen community college programs so that the first 2 years of education could be provided by these less costly institutions. Community colleges have been around for about 100 years, and there are now some 1,100 public community colleges around the country. There are an additional 200 or so private 2-year institutions. These colleges are, for the most part, “open-door” institutions that allow enrollment by students who do not have high academic scores or preparation. Most students are given an entrance test, designed to evaluate their readiness for college-level work. They are then placed in courses appropriate to their skill level. Outside the community college sector this screening process is not well known, and as a result, community colleges often suffer from the stigma of being institutions of lower standards and, by extension, lesser quality. Yet, those students who transfer to 4-year institutions from community colleges perform quite creditably, graduating at rates comparable to, if slightly below, those of 4-year students and with the same or higher GPA.5
Another approach to the pipeline issue would be to link community colleges, high schools, and neighboring universities into alliances that would identify students with demonstrated math and science aptitude as early as tenth grade and create pipelines from that point on through the community college and into the 4-year college or university to complete the baccalaureate degree. There are a number of pieces that would need to be put in place, some through the auspices of DOD. Relationships that could be facilitated by DOD would have to be built among the participating institutions, and joint institutional expectations would have to be developed. Of critical importance are the issues of standards and quality, and these can be assured only by teachers and faculty working together to build curricula and to develop appropriate pedagogy.
Some community colleges have already developed structures called dual-enrollment or concurrent enrollment that allow students to take courses at a community college for college credit while still in high school. In some of these arrangements, these courses also count as fulfilling high school requirements, thus accelerating the time to degree completion. Similarly, large numbers of students already transfer from 2-year to 4-year colleges. The proposed model would streamline these existing models in a seamless process that monitors student progress from tenth grade to completion of the baccalaureate degree.
There is a concern that community colleges have moved away from the technical mission, which was their focus prior to the 1980s. Unfortunately, there has been little empirical research exploring this very important trend. Upon consultation with a series of researchers from the American Association of Community Colleges, the committee found that interest in technical-vocational programs decreased drastically due to the decline in such programs at the high school level. This was particularly evident during the 1980s in urban school districts where African American parents, worried about the bifurcation of the workforce and collegiate preparation going to whites and vocational education going to blacks, insisted that their children be given the same academic education as other populations. The researchers also postulated that the decline in the industrial base of the United States over the last quarter of a century caused the decline in the community colleges’ technical mission. As many of the blue-collar jobs were off-shored, it became less urgent for institutions to provide the skills for what were essentially dying industries. This also led to the up-skilling of the workforce. Whereas high schools were able to provide the training for many of the disciplines needed in the workforce for technical jobs, the current skill level demands are well beyond the high school institutional capacity. These skill requirements are elevated to higher education, particularly the community colleges.
However, the researchers also stated that although the technical mission appears to be on the decline, the
5 See, for example, pp. 33-34 of National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council (2005).
numbers both of certificate program completions and of certificates awarded in the last 20 years have actually increased. Since certificates are almost never credit transfer-related, but rather have workforce applicability, this increase might be taken as evidence that the curriculum has become more workforce-driven in the last two decades. However, the committee has no clear indication that these are technical certificates, and in fact believes that they may be more likely to be awarded in business-related areas of study. More research on the current condition of technical programs is required in order to have a full understanding of the state of community colleges and their potential role in the development of the DOD STEM workforce.
Bachelor’s, Master’s, and Doctoral Level
Over 5,000 undergraduate and graduate students are provided support by DOD through research assistants, research awards, and other mechanisms such as the NDSEG (see Table 5-1) (Defense Science Board, 2012). Among these latter mechanisms, DOD currently has a scholarship-for-service program for civilians similar to the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC): the Science, Mathematics and Research for Transformation Scholarship for Service Program (SMART) enables students pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree in STEM disciplines to receive a full scholarship and be gainfully employed upon degree completion. Participants in SMART have the opportunity to pursue summer internships at DOD laboratories, giving them exposure to a research environment and encouragement to pursue a career in STEM. The program seeks students pursuing degrees in aeronautical and astronautical engineering, biosciences, chemical engineering, chemistry, civil engineering, cognitive, neural, and behavioral sciences, computer and computational sciences, electrical engineering, geosciences, industrial and systems engineering, information sciences, materials science and engineering, mathematics, mechanical engineering, naval architecture, ocean engineering, nuclear engineering, oceanography, operations research, and physics. Upon selection, awardees are assigned to the DOD laboratory where he/she is expected to serve as a paid summer intern and complete a 1-year for 1-year period of post-graduation employment as a DOD civilian. This SMART program can be managed to adjust the input as DOD’s needs evolve.
At the PhD level, one of the best sources of quality talent will be the doctoral research assistants supported by DOD research grants to universities for basic and applied research.
The DOD will need to be able to recruit scientists and engineers at the postdoctoral level whose expertise may be multi-disciplinary and who may be eager to have support for their research as well as access to equipment and laboratories. As noted in the interim report for this project, “The DoD, as viewed by the top STEM talent pool, must become an attractive career destination for a suitable share of the most capable scientists, engineers, and technicians” (National Research Council, 2012a). The workshop on DOD STEM workforce needs, convened in August 2011 as part of the present study, included discussion of the possibility that “DoD could offer fellowships aimed at bringing people to its laboratories and immersing them in DoD problems” (National Research Council, 2012b). It was noted that such fellowships would need to be of a caliber that could compete with other well-regarded fellowship programs such as those of the National Science Foundation or the National Institutes of Health.
DOD provided the funding for 2,034 postdoctoral fellowships on tenure in 2010, compared to the federal government-wide total of 24,367 such positions, of which roughly half were sourced to the Department of Health and Human Services (National Science Foundation and National Institutes of Health, 2010). DOD can in addition host postdoctoral associates funded by other sources, for example, the Department of Homeland Security and the National Institutes of Health.
The ASD(R&E) funds postdoctoral associates, for example, through the National Security Science and Engineering Faculty Fellowship (NSSEFF; see Table 5-1), which “engages approximately 250 of their researchers, students and postdocs in the DoD and research challenges” (Lemnios, 2011). The three military services offer highly competitive postdoctoral research opportunities, which can often lead to participants becoming involved in further DOD activities (Defense Science Board, 2012). For example, the Naval Research Laboratory currently hosts
just over 100 fellows: 80 through the National Research Council’s Research Associateship Program, 20 through the American Society for Engineering Education, and a handful through other sources.
A report by the JASONs recommended expanding DOD’s postdoctoral fellowships in line with a new business model of vertical integration at the level of undergraduate students through faculty so as to assist DOD in reinforcing its external network of researchers as well as its “brand” (JASON, 2009, p. 54). The Defense Science Board (DSB) recommended that the number of scientists and engineers in postdoctoral positions in DOD laboratories be greatly expanded. The DSB further noted that DOD’s NSSEFF program had not recruited a new class in over a year as of December 2011 (Defense Science Board, 2012).
Professional Science Master’s Degree
Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degree programs have been expanding around the country and now number over 250 at some 117 institutions. These programs have created a distinctive approach to articulating curricular design, with scientific/engineering workforce needs specified by employers (Professional Science Master’s, 2012; National Research Council, 2008). Often these programs are cross-disciplinary, and new programs of this type could be configured to meet the broad skills specified as needed by DOD management. PSM curricula are created by faculty, but in direct consultation with employer advisory committees that continue to advise as needs and programs evolve. In addition, some PSM programs (such as those at California State University) have been actively seeking ways to articulate with community colleges.
So far, most employers involved in PSM programs have been corporate; DOD has not been involved to any significant degree. However, if DOD agencies could describe PSM programs that would meet their projected needs, possibly in concert with large procurement programs, and commit to offer summer internships to students and to hire recent graduates with such capabilities, PSM degrees would likely be configured to meet DOD’s needs by a number of universities that are actively expanding their PSM offerings. As noted, these degrees could also be designed to articulate with community colleges. If DOD could offer PSM students even partial financial support— in return for appropriate commitments for specified years of DOD service—this could be a powerful recruitment mechanism. Moreover, students identified as promising future hires by DOD agencies could be pre-cleared while still in student status and then be ready to begin productive careers with DOD with no delay when they graduate.
Lifelong Learning Continuum
The DOD has many workforce development and executive education programs that are targeted at various facets of the STEM workforce. While most of these programs are concentrated on uniformed service members, there is vast potential for expansion of the programs to the civilian DOD workforce. These run the gamut from short courses taken in the work place on-line to advanced, graduate level in-residence courses. Some DOD institutions offer certificate and degree credit courses in a broad array of resident, non-resident, and hybrid programs. The Defense Acquisition University, for example, provides training at three levels of certification. These DOD programs are obviously important for developing, maintaining, and enhancing the relevance of the skills of DOD workers.
There are also DOD institutions that can be exploited to convert non-STEM employees into STEM workers. For example, the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) has a program to re-qualify mid-career naval officers with non-STEM degrees into master’s degree graduates of science and engineering programs. It does so in both resident and non-resident offerings, with effort focused in the interest of economy of time and money.
DOD civilians are eligible for these NPS programs and many are enrolled now, especially in the systems engineering domain, but further use could be made in the future of this conversion option, short-circuiting as it does the 8 to 10 year lag time between eighth grade and the workplace, and virtually eliminating attrition and clearance issues.
Other technology-focused DOD institutions that are accredited at the graduate degree level can be similarly exploited, including the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT), the Information Resources Management College
(IRMC), and perhaps others. Other high-quality online courses and materials are increasingly available, such as the MIT/Harvard “edX”6 initiative, and could be used effectively by the DOD.
Finding 5-1. DOD’s external funds for STEM education are limited. The vast majority of K-12 education is controlled and financed at the state and local level.
Recommendation 5-1a. The DOD should be more strategically focused to maximize its leverage on STEM workforce issues that have high priority for DOD. At K-12 levels, the focus of DOD’s funds should be on DOD schools; those public and charter schools in locations with a large DOD presence; and outreach to other schools by DOD STEM personnel.
Recommendation 5-1b. In higher education, DOD should deploy its limited resources to:
• Continue and expand support for DOD’s SMART program with particular emphasis on DOD area needs.
• Sponsor U.S. universities to develop Professional Science Master’s (PSM) degrees configured for DOD workforce needs, including those discussed in Chapter 2 (e.g., information technology, including cyber security and cyber warfare; autonomous systems; systems biology; innovative materials; and efficient manufacturing). DOD agencies could help university faculty plan such degrees; offer PSM students internships and hire PSM graduates; and provide partial financial support to PSM students in return for appropriate DOD service.
Recommendations 5-1c. The DOD should encourage and support alliances to more effectively link high schools, community colleges, and universities in identifying and encouraging secondary school students who have demonstrated aptitude in math and science but who, for family or economic reasons, may not be planning on entering directly into 4-year institutions. Such alliances might prove especially effective in attracting underrepresented minority students.
Finding 5-2. The DOD supports programs and in-house institutions that make STEM education, across a wide range of disciplines, available to its workforce at all levels of education. Some of these programs require in-residence training/education, although many deliver curricula remotely, including to the workplace. One particularly successful example is the Naval Postgraduate School’s program for rapidly reeducating personnel with no STEM educational background to a master’s degree standard in technical fields. The DOD could also benefit from certificate and master’s degree programs, created jointly with universities and targeted specifically to DOD workforce needs for advanced education. These topical programs could be delivered on-site and/or on-line as best serve DOD circumstances.
Recommendation 5-2. Because DOD’s STEM needs evolve, a strategic assessment of DOD’s own STEM training/education capacities should be undertaken periodically to ensure that its capabilities to prepare its existing workforce to serve DOD needs is sufficient. As a follow up to this assessment, DOD should create/adapt programs in support of its STEM professionals to maximize their currency in this rapidly changing science, technology, and DOD program/project management environment. The DOD effort could also include creating certificate and professional master’s degree programs developed in partnership with universities and possibly industry, whose content specifically targets the educational and skills needs identified by DOD.
Finding 5-3. The availability of stable funding for basic and applied research is an important factor in building and maintaining a robust STEM workforce. Also, it is apparent that those who become DOD STEM workers are drawn from a wide range of colleges and universities.
6 For more information, see Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) News (2012).
Recommendation 5-3. The DOD should maintain its commitment to stable basic research funding across a broad spectrum of U.S. colleges and universities in STEM areas of importance.
Finding 5-4. Integration of postdoctoral fellows into the DOD STEM mission is the fastest, most cost efficient way to recruit and screen PhDs for future career employment while making them aware of exciting DOD opportunities. Postdoctoral fellowships have been largely ignored in favor of higher-cost support of graduate students whose expertise (selected 6 years in advance) may not align with the rapidly changing needs of DOD. Although DOD has contracts to pay postdoctoral fellows through the National Research Council and the American Society for Engineering Education, among others, the funds come directly from laboratory operating budgets and compete in many cases with funds for staff salaries. A DOD-wide postdoctoral fellowship program that covers all costs of the fellow to the laboratories would be most cost-effective.
Recommendation 5-4. The DOD should initiate a postdoctoral fellowship program for recruitment of the highest-quality STEM graduates into the DOD laboratories that covers all costs of the fellowships. The applications should include inputs from both the postdoctoral candidate and the doctoral research mentor.
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