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Research Questions

  1. Where, and in what numbers, have Army expeditionary civilians deployed? How have these deployments varied by occupation?
  2. What is a viable method for modeling demand for Army civilians, given the range of operational contexts that this workforce is called upon to support?
  3. In what potential future operational scenarios are Army expeditionary civilians likely to deploy, and what is the likely demand for these capabilities?
  4. What policies or processes are necessary to help the Army manage its expeditionary civilian workforce more efficiently and effectively?

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has long turned to its civilian employees to support overseas operations and emergencies. Yet there is no standardized, systematic process in place for collecting data on past civilian deployments or for identifying a pool of civilians who are available to deploy to future contingencies. The requirements for these expeditionary civilians are often the result of a compromise among defense components rather than based on actual historical or modeled demand.

As the largest provider of civilians for DoD operations, the U.S. Army stands to benefit to a great extent from a more robust process for forecasting future demand for its civilian workforce. Although it has established organizations and processes to fulfill its staffing mix obligations, there is some question of whether the processes are efficient and effective and whether the Army's current approach to providing civilian personnel will be appropriate for future conflicts. To address potential gaps, it is important to examine DoD's targets for civilian staffing, how these needs may change, and what policies and procedures should be in place to ensure that the Army can continue to meet these demands.

The modeling process described in this report supports the Army and — by extension — other DoD civilian force providers in aligning their available expeditionary civilian workforces with the future demand for these capabilities, with the goal of helping them forecast demand and better prepare to deploy civilians to a range of future scenarios.

Key Findings

There is a need for a more accurate method of modeling demand for expeditionary civilian capabilities over time

  • Force providers do not collect data on civilian deployments in a standardized, systematic fashion, nor do they use sophisticated approaches to forecast demand for expeditionary civilians.
  • An appropriate method for modeling future demand for expeditionary civilians is a multistage statistical model capable of pulling in numerous inputs specific to particular deployment scenarios.

Certain characteristics of historical operations are useful in predicting future demand for civilian deployments

  • The type of operation and the role of the country to which personnel deploy (whether it is a core or ancillary participant in the operation) appear to be critical indicators in predicting future demand for civilian deployments, with counterinsurgency operations in core countries having the highest demand.
  • High levels of military deployments coincide with high levels of civilian deployments across all types of operations, and civilian deployments generally increase as military deployments increase.
  • Civilian deployments are inversely related to countries' fragility and polity scores. Countries categorized as "fragile" and having "transitional" governments tend to demand more civilian deployments than other locations. Stable democracies tend to require the fewest civilian deployments.
  • Civilian administrators and logisticians are likely to be in high demand in future operations. Other occupations, such as intelligence and data processing, will likely be in high demand to support certain types of operations. Historically, Army civilian administrators, mechanical and electrical equipment personnel, and logisticians have deployed most often.


  • The Army — and DoD more broadly — should improve data collection and model demand for expeditionary civilians on an annual or semiannual basis. Critical data include deployment characteristics (locations and durations), occupations, the number of expeditionary civilians required, and the number of expeditionary civilian billets actually filled.
  • Once such modeling practices are in place, the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the defense components and services should consider revising policy guidance on the size of the pool of civilians who are readily deployable to ensure that it more accurately reflects demand. In the near term, the estimates in this report may provide appropriate target numbers for this pool.
  • The Army should implement a strategic plan to fill expeditionary civilian skill sets that are in high demand, such as civilian administrators, logisticians, intelligence personnel, and data processing specialists.
  • To ensure that deployments do not drain civilian manpower in high-demand occupations, Army officials should proactively consider how and to what extent to substitute high-demand skill sets across different occupational codes. This should include deliberation across the Army and with other defense components and could involve backfilling high-demand positions or recruitment incentives.

Research conducted by

This research was sponsored by the U.S. Army’s Office of the Assistant G-1 for Civilian Personnel and conducted by the Personnel, Training, and Health Program within the RAND Arroyo Center.

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