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Research Summary

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Research Questions

  1. How can the Force Management Policy Directorate eliminate disparities for minority groups and women in the Air Force?
  2. What short-term, midterm, and long-term policy changes should be made?

The Department of the Air Force (DAF) released three reports in 2020 and 2021 discussing the disparities it identified for minority groups and women. Eliminating documented, persistent, and unwanted disparities requires sustained commitment at all DAF organizational levels, rigorous and regular analysis, well-coordinated comprehensive implementation of well-crafted solutions, and dedicated and consistent resourcing. The DAF is taking many actions to address the disparities; however, this project was designed to assist the Air Force's Force Management Policy Directorate in refining its way forward.

The authors developed a framework to assess how DAF policies drive leaders' actions at strategic, operational, and tactical levels and to help identify policy gaps at each level. The team explored exemplar practices in other organizations to identify those that could help address the DAF Inspector General's findings regarding human capital management. The team conducted seven workshops with representatives from various communities that have roles in the DAF's human capital cycle and conducted additional analyses to address gaps identified during the earlier tasks. Next, the team developed dashboards that the DAF could use to routinely execute barrier analysis to analyze and improve patterns of representation and promotion within the different career fields. Finally, the authors created recommendations targeted at three distinct groups: human capital management policymakers, wing and squadron leaders, and senior DAF leadership.

Key Findings

  • The DAF is implementing innovative diversity initiatives in multiple human capital management pipeline segments; however, it is critical to monitor the initiatives for effectiveness and return on investment.
  • The authors' assessment of disparity countermeasures and initiatives revealed gaps across root causes, governance, resourcing, and implementation accountability.
  • The DAF barrier analysis methodology could be improved if it is grounded in deductive reasoning to determine the extent to which observed disparities in a career field can be attributed to the root causes for disparities identified in the 2020 and 2021 reports.
  • A dashboard would help organize the data inputs and enable development teams and career field managers to make side-by-side comparisons of talent development and promotion analysis to determine reasons for disparities.

Recommendations

  • Expand use of published racial, ethnicity and gender stretch goals for officer and enlisted recruitment, accessions, and career field classification.
  • Bolster the recruiting enterprise to enable wider reach and earlier engagement.
  • Provide competitive tools to recruit racial and ethnic minority officer candidates at selective colleges and universities.
  • Ensure that multiple rated diversity improvement countermeasures are coordinated, resourced, and measured for their effectiveness.
  • Increase awareness among internal and external audiences and influencers of programs that serve as introductions to operations career opportunities.
  • Have minority officers with operations backgrounds engage with prospective recruits to operations career fields.
  • Expand analyses of racial and ethnic minority promotion and retention outcomes.
  • Build predictive success models to enable active management decisions by year group.
  • Implement wing-level processes to actively manage development opportunities by year group.
  • Inculcate deliberate, active mentoring by local wing leadership.
  • Add wing-level checks and balances to increase trust and confidence.
  • Support base-level acculturation and socialization for racial, ethnic, and gender minorities.
  • Develop and proliferate comprehensive, recurring unconscious bias training.
  • Hold commanders accountable for the diversity, equity, and inclusion climate in their units.
  • Standardize data feeds and data sets, and focus on analytical approach and methodology.
  • Publish barrier analyses outcomes and resulting diversity initiatives.
  • Resource dedicated core staff to routinize development team barrier analyses.
  • Communicate an action-oriented strategic narrative, and increase data transparency.
  • Assign clear lines of authority, responsibility, and accountability to conduct racial, ethnic, and gender disparity and barrier analyses; implement diversity improvement initiatives and barrier countermeasures; and assess effectiveness.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Director of Military Force Management Policy, Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services, Headquarters U.S. Air Force, and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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