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Research Questions

  1. What were the implications of the AW growth initiative?
  2. Did attrition from the AW remain stable as the workforce grew?
  3. Do AW gain and loss patterns vary across subpopulations of the workforce?
  4. How can Department of Defense managers use the RAND workforce projection model?

The organic defense acquisition workforce consists of military personnel and Department of Defense civilian personnel who provide the management, technical, and business capabilities needed to oversee defense acquisition programs from start to finish. This workforce must itself be managed so that the right numbers of the right personnel are in the right positions at the right time. Since 2006, RAND has been helping develop data-based tools to support analysis of this workforce. This volume updates a 2008 report by documenting revisions to methods, providing descriptive information on the workforce through fiscal year 2011, and providing a user's manual for a model that can help managers project workforce needs through 2021 under different assumptions about the future. The report illustrates the use of the model.

Key Findings

The Acquisition Workforce (AW) Grew by 22 Percent from FYs 2008 to 2011

  • Gains came from new hires and internal transfers.
  • The number of new hires and hiring rates increased dramatically in FY 2008 and remained high through FY 2011.

AW Attrition Has Been Consistently Lower than DoD Civilian Norms

  • AW attrition (the percentage leaving DoD civilian employment in a year) has been consistently lower than DoD civilian norms, largely due to lower voluntary and involuntary separations.
  • Exit rates from the AW and the overall civilian workforce declined slightly in FY 2008, more significantly in FY 2009, remained low in FY 2010, and increased in FY 2011.
  • Unusually low rates of voluntary separation and retirement in FYs 2009 and 2010 were likely due to high unemployment and concerns about stock market and pension valuations.

Gain and Loss Patterns Vary Substantially Across Subpopulations of the Acquisition Workforce

  • An important example of these differences is among science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) personnel.
  • The AW STEM workforce has consistently higher retention than either the overall AW population or the DoD-wide STEM population.

The Projection Model Can Be Used to Explore Expected Future Growth Patterns Under Different Scenarios

  • Managers can adjust the expected future hiring rates, loss rates, or gain distributions.
  • The flexibility of the workforce projection model described allows managers to explore alternative scenarios.
  • An alternative version of the model allows users to input target end strengths for future FYs and see the number of new hires required to achieve the targets.

The research described in this report was prepared for the National Intelligence Council. The research was conducted within the RAND National Defense Research Institute, a federally funded research and development center sponsored by the Office of the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Staff, the Unified Combatant Commands, the Navy, the Marine Corps, the defense agencies, and the defense Intelligence Community.

This report is part of the RAND research report series. RAND reports present research findings and objective analysis that address the challenges facing the public and private sectors. All RAND reports undergo rigorous peer review to ensure high standards for research quality and objectivity.

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