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Research Questions

  1. What opportunities exist for optimizing processes at all levels of the U.S. Air Force nonrated technical training — corporate Air Force planning and programming, Air Education and Training Command strategic training management, and training management at 2nd Air Force and training wings?
  2. What policy and process changes could improve overall efficiency in the U.S. Air Force nonrated technical training pipeline?

This report presents RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF)'s assessment of the processes and policies in the U.S. Air Force nonrated technical training pipeline. In recent years the Air Force has faced persistent resource constraints while trying to deliver necessary training to its officer and enlisted forces. The Air Force asked PAF to identify opportunities for optimizing processes at all levels of the nonrated technical training pipeline and to recommend policy and process changes that could improve efficiency. PAF used a mixed-methods approach to address the research objective, combining the results of three primary research streams — stakeholder discussions and process observations; analysis of training data and metrics; and development of a technical training pipeline model — to identify inefficiencies in the technical training system. PAF identified numerous inefficiencies that fall into three broad areas: planning, flow of students, and resources. The report concludes with recommendations for improvements to training processes and outlines the benefits that can be obtained from proactive modeling and the development and tracking of effective metrics. This report will be of interest to those involved in technical training for military personnel.

Key Findings

Inefficiencies in the Technical Training Planning Process Stem From:

  • Unrealistic expectations associated with changing requirements. Two different perspectives concerning end strength management emerged: one held by those at headquarters and one by those in the field.
  • Lack of agility in responding to changing requirements.
  • Insufficient visibility into technical training capacity. The inability to view schoolhouse capacity contributes to the lack of flexibility in the technical training pipeline.
  • Lack of readily available information to support execution planning.
  • Missing participants in the planning process. From requirements planning to execution planning, the absence of key actors in the planning process can cause delays in critical information sharing.
  • Complications of guard and reserve planning. Across 2nd Air Force, the guard and reserve fill on average only 65–70 percent of the seats allocated to them.

Inefficiencies in the Flow of Students Through the Pipeline Stem From:

  • Inefficiencies associated with time not in training.
  • Lack of realistic and consistent metrics, which can provide false perceptions of the status of individual students, the instructor pool, required resources, and the success of the training system as a whole.

Resource Insufficiencies Stem From:

  • Improper rightsizing of the supply of instructors. Finding the right balance between having too many instructors or too few is the most significant resourcing challenge for technical training.
  • Inadequate resourcing of training management and instructional systems, which can seriously undermine the delivery of training and lead to long student wait times and increased costs.


  • Develop a capacity visibility system. Air Education and Training Command (AETC) should develop, fund, and field an information system to enhance visibility into individual pipeline capacity.
  • Develop a flow visibility system. The Air Force needs a system that would provide visibility into the flow of students in the pipeline. Formalizing a rapid, flexible system and appropriate policy to accompany it will allow AETC to more effectively utilize training seats.
  • Review and update instructor pricing methods and formulas and manning policies. Updated pricing methods should take into account instructor manning standards and personnel policies that have changed since the standards were first developed.
  • Reinvigorate technical training pipeline modeling capabilities. Embedding estimation models within the AETC information architecture will help to rapidly provide estimates of the effect of planning, resource, or scheduling changes on pipeline costs and capacity.
  • Identify and track effective metrics. Current metrics need to be reviewed for their utility; such a review can also help identify new metrics that could provide additional insight into the management of pipeline processes. Once a set of metrics is established, the information must be accessible to the appropriate management levels.
  • Improve management and communication across all levels of the pipeline. Improvements that can address inefficiencies in management and communication include setting and enforcing limits on changes in training targets in the year of execution, standardizing the role of career-field managers in the planning process, and being more accountable with guard and reserve seats.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Air Force and conducted by the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program within RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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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