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Because test scores that are part of its enlisted promotion system are not standardized, the U.S. Air Force effectively emphasizes longevity and test-taking ability differently across and within specialties, and this emphasis varies randomly over time. The random aspects of the promotion reward system mean that the Air Force cannot be sure that it is selecting individuals with the highest potential to fill positions of increased grade and responsibility. Furthermore, not standardizing scores means that some specialties randomly produce higher percentages of senior non-commissioned officers. The authors discuss a range of outcomes that the Air Force could achieve by adopting various standardization strategies. They propose a modification that would not change the policy of equal selection opportunity but would affect selection outcomes within specialties. They recommend that the Air Force implement a standardization strategy that will produce predictable outcomes that are consistent with its personnel priorities and policies.

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The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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