Cover: Improving U.S. Air Force Training Investments

Improving U.S. Air Force Training Investments

Putting Proficiency First

Published Dec 15, 2022

by Mark Toukan, David Schulker

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The U.S. Air Force (USAF) needs to make near-term investments to develop its operational training infrastructure so that airmen are ready for high-end conflict in future contingencies but lacks the information it needs to make informed decisions for many training investments. This Perspective explores which investments are most appropriate for training needs and which should receive priority, identifying five primary components of training decisions for which additional research and information are needed to support investment decisions in the training enterprise.

Focusing on combat pilot training, the authors assess where the USAF requires additional information and research to support investment decisions in its operational training enterprise. The authors note that new analytic approaches can be harnessed to improve the training enterprise but will not solve the greatest training challenges without first having valid performance metrics. This puts a priority on advancing proficiency measurement.

The authors recommend that the USAF prioritize formulating performance metrics for existing competencies; experiment to identify which are most informative; and create new competencies, measurement approaches, and metrics where existing approaches do not hold up to experimentation. Further, the USAF could use downtime in its emerging force generation model to generate information for metric identification, analysis, and experimentation.

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

This commentary is part of the RAND expert insight series. RAND Expert Insights present perspectives on timely policy issues. All RAND Expert Insights undergo peer review to ensure high standards for quality and objectivity.

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