Establishing Feeder-Designation Relationships with Colleges and Universities to Increase Racial and Ethnic Diversity in Air Force Officer Accessions

by Dwayne M. Butler, Sarah W. Denton, Ignacio A. Lara

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Undergraduate schools with strong aerospace and cyber programs offer the Department of the Air Force (DAF) opportunities to reach high-quality students who have the skills to become successful officer candidates. Colleges and universities designated as feeder schools could cost-effectively extend DAF outreach to diverse students by capitalizing on institutions' substantial network effects while benefiting participating colleges and universities.

Key features of a feeder system include a symbiotic recruitment partnership, increased marketing and outreach opportunities targeted to high-performing minority students, a pipeline for graduates with skills that are relevant to DAF, and increased diversity of officer accessions.

The Diversity and Inclusion Task Force was established to specifically assess ways of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion within the DAF. The task force asked the RAND Corporation to explore several topics that resulted in deep-dive projects. One of the topics was assessing the efficacy of designating Tuskegee University as a "feeder for the Air Force" to assist with increasing racial and ethnic diversity in officer accessions.

Several colleges and universities currently feed the U.S. Air Force in terms of accessions. Taking this into account, the authors explored broadening the existing feeder relationship base beyond the current schools that could already be considered feeders. The authors also discuss how the U.S. Air Force should broaden the feeder concept into an official program—whether the term feeder is included in the designation or not—as a branding mechanism to market itself to more minority candidates.

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This work was prepared for the Department of the Air Force (DAF) and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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