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Research Questions

  1. What processes does the Air Force use to select and manage DAWDF initiatives and can these processes be improved?
  2. How does the Air Force monitor the performance of DAWDF initiatives to ensure that DAWDF money is well spent?
  3. Can approaches used by commercial firms for recruiting, developing, and retaining their workforces give the Air Force insight into ways to make better use of the DAWDF?
  4. How should the Air Force prioritize DAWDF proposals to determine what should be funded?

The Defense Acquisition Workforce Development Fund (DAWDF) was established in 2008 to provide funds for the recruitment, training, and retention of acquisition personnel. Financed by a combination of direct appropriations and funds provided by military departments and defense agencies, the fund is meant to pay for initiatives in three major categories: recruit and hire new acquisition personnel, train and develop members of the existing workforce, and retain and recognize highly skilled personnel. Since the fund's establishment, the U.S. Air Force has contributed more than $600 million to DAWDF and received more than $451 million for various initiatives. The Air Force's Director of Acquisition Career Management (DACM) is responsible for managing the Air Force's share of the money.

In recent years, resources available to the Air Force through the DAWDF have been sufficient to pay for all proposals received by the DACM. Recognizing that this will not always be the case, the DACM asked the RAND Corporation to explore ways to ensure that the funds are used effectively.

To do this, we examined legislation, regulations, and other documents related to the fund; interviewed acquisition workforce subject-matter experts and users of DAWDF money in headquarters organizations, major commands (MAJCOM) and centers; analyzed acquisition workforce databases; and interviewed managers in 21 companies that have been recognized by Fortune magazine as being among the "100 Best Companies to Work For."

We suggest improvements in management processes, describe an evidence-based approach to justify and monitor DAWDF initiatives, and develop an evaluation framework to prioritize DAWDF requests.

Key Findings

DAWDF Management Practices Require Improvement

  • The Air Force does not provide guidance about strategic priorities for the acquisition workforce that would help proposers of DAWDF initiatives address the Air Force's most important needs.
  • The Air Force does not have formal documentation for its approach to DAWDF management, including for the process used to approve DAWDF proposals. As a result, there is a lack of transparency in how DAWDF proposals are evaluated and approved.
  • DAWDF proposals tend not to use appropriate databases or metrics to show the existence of an acquisition workforce problem. DAWDF initiative proposers tend to have difficulty developing measurable objectives and performance metrics. This problem exists with all DAWDF users, not just the Air Force.

DAWDF Management Can Benefit from Insights into Some Industry Practices

  • High-impact, relatively low-cost programs exist to recruit and retain talent.
  • Social media is gaining importance for workforce management.
  • Incentive program effectiveness can be gauged using a variety of approaches.
  • A framework that classifies strategies to attract and retain talent based on whether they pertain to individuals or to the organization has value.


  • The Air Force DACM should formalize and document all processes related to DAWDF management, especially those related to the initiative approval process.
  • When interacting with individuals and organizations that are proposing initiatives for DAWDF funding, the Air Force DACM should stress the importance of the use of appropriate levels of data for justifying the initiatives and assist with the development of valid metrics for monitoring their performance.
  • The Air Force should use a more formal process, such as the framework suggested by RAND, to prioritize and approve DAWDF initiatives.

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was prepared for the United States Air Force and conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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