A Methodology for Determining Air Force Education Requirements Board (AFERB) Advanced Academic Degree (AAD) Requirements

by Tara L. Terry, Albert A. Robbert, John E. Boon, Jr., Perry Firoz, Craig Moore

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Research Questions

  1. To what extent did the number of Air Force personnel with master's and doctorate degrees match billet requirements, in terms of graduate degree level and academic specialty, in fiscal years 2000 through 2010?
  2. What are the main issues that account for mismatches between officers and billet requirements, in terms of graduate degree level and academic specialty?
  3. How can the Air Force improve the processes by which it produces, allocates, and assigns officers with master's and doctorate degrees?

United States Air Force career field managers (CFMs) annually predict the number of billet vacancies that will require an officer who holds an advanced academic degree (AAD), and submit these requirements to the Air Force Education Requirements Board to fill the projected vacancies. The process requires CFMs to predict specific vacancies three to five years before they occur, which can be difficult and produces inaccuracies that can lead to a shortfall of officers qualified to fill positions that require an AAD or to an oversupply of officers with AADs, which unnecessarily increases Air Force costs. This report examines the Air Force process for producing, allocating, and assigning officers with master's and doctorate degrees. The authors find that a relatively low percentage of officers with master's or doctorate degrees were matched to a billet that requires that degree and academic specialty in fiscal years 2000 through 2010. The authors provide a methodology for determining the required production level of officers who earn AADs, and this report serves as a user's guide for the modeling tools that illustrate the methodology.

Key Findings

There Is Significant Mismatch Between Officers with Graduate Degrees and the Billets That Require Them

  • In fiscal years 2000-2010, only 58 percent of officer assignments to master's degree billets and 33 percent of officer assignments to doctorate degree billets were made such that the officer's degree level and academic specialty matched the billet requirement.
  • There is a lower-than-desired utilization rate of officers who have earned Air Force-funded advanced academic degrees (AADs).
  • The career points at which personnel earn AADs are misaligned with the AAD billet grade structure: There tends to be a shortfall in the number of personnel with required AADs in early years of service and, once earned, there isn't enough time in a particular grade to utilize personnel before reassignment or promotion to the next grade.

Recommendations

  • Use the modeling tools described in this report to provide an initial allocation of constrained quotas to meet career fields and academic institutions' advanced academic degree (AAD) needs in a more equitable, transparent, and standardized manner.
  • Modify the assignment process by placing a higher priority on matching personnel with AADs to AAD billets to better meet unfunded quota requirements.
  • Validate the grade structure of all AAD billets; a likely outcome of validation would be a redistribution of the grade structure, which could better match the supply of personnel with AADs and thereby increase utilization. Utilization could also be increased if officers earned Air Force-funded AADs earlier in their careers.
  • Increase tenure in AAD billets after graduation to reduce the AAD production requirement.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One

    Introduction

  • Chapter Two

    Outcomes of the Current AAD Process: Analysis of Officers Earning Advanced Academic Degrees, Billet Grade Structure, and Payback Rates

  • Chapter Three

    AAD Production Requirements Model

  • Chapter Four

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix

    AAD Production Calculation Example

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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