A Methodology for Modeling the Flow of Military Personnel Across Air Force Active and Reserve Components

by Lisa M. Harrington, James H. Bigelow, Alexander D. Rothenberg, James Pita, Paul Emslie


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Research Questions

  1. How can the U.S. Air Force best make use of the total force — the active component, the Air Force Reserve, and the Air National Guard — to meet future mission requirements in a sustainable way?
  2. What tools can help force planners understand whether policy changes are necessary to meet personnel goals, both in the aggregate and within career fields and for individuals?

The Air Force is placing increased emphasis on managing its airmen as a total force. Yet many aspects of personnel management are conducted within the confines of a particular component — whether active, guard, or reserve. As a result, when personnel policies are implemented in one component, little is known or considered about the effect that those policies might have on personnel flows into and out of other components. The degree to which this is important varies by career field, so examination of such concerns must be conducted not only at an aggregate level but also for individual specialties. Total force personnel management requires tools that provide managers with insight on personnel flows across components and how those flows are affected by personnel policies that lead to changes in accessions, retention, affiliation, and retirements. With a view toward shaping the future force size and mix from a total force perspective, the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs (SAF/MR) asked RAND Project AIR FORCE (PAF) to help improve Air Force capability to analyze and capitalize on military personnel flows across the total force. In response to this request, RAND developed a component flow model described in this report. The model's description and capabilities will be of interest to manpower and personnel managers and analysts both in and outside the Air Force.

Key Findings

Most Existing Total Force Management Tools Do Not Provide An Integrated Picture of the Total Force Including Active, Guard, and Reserve

  • Future personnel managers will need the ability to forecast future inventories; establish goals for personnel policy changes; examine the interrelated effects of changes to accessions, affiliations, separations, and retirements; and assess actions necessary to meet component contributions to the overall requirement — all from a total force perspective.
  • Without an integrated picture, personnel managers are unable to see the effect of personnel policies implemented in one component on personnel flows into and out of other components.
  • The Total Force Flow Model provides a capability to analyze personnel flows across the active and reserve components.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Existing Tools for Analyzing Human Capital Flows

  • Chapter Three

    Identifying and Organizing Historical Data for Analysis

  • Chapter Four

    A New Model for Assessing Human Capital Flows Across the Total Force

  • Chapter Five

    Final Thoughts

  • Appendix A

    Transition Probabilities and Stocks and Flows

  • Appendix B

    Mathematical Formulation of the Optimization Approach

Research conducted by

The research reported here was sponsored by the Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Manpower and Reserve Affairs and conducted within the Manpower, Personnel, and Training Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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