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Research Summary

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Research Questions

  1. How does the USSF currently differentiate between the personnel roles and duties performed by its officers, enlisted personnel, and civilians?
  2. What are the considerations for potential future differentiation?

As the U.S. Space Force (USSF) continues to define its identity and culture, it will need to decide how best to use its officer, enlisted, and civilian forces to meet its unique mission requirements. The objective of this research was to characterize how the USSF currently distinguishes between the roles of military and civilian personnel, as well as between officers and enlisted personnel.

The authors reviewed policy and guidance, assessed unit manning data, interviewed stakeholders across the USSF, and conducted focus groups with USSF Space Delta 8 and Space Delta 7 personnel to describe the current structure and practices and identify considerations and constraints in rebalancing these roles in the operations community. Findings showed that units varied greatly in how they assigned officer, enlisted personnel, and civilian roles.

The authors propose guidelines for defining the roles of each personnel type going forward and present an example rubric to establish a deliberate and systematic approach to making these decisions while still allowing for adjustments and unique applications when necessary. With confusion and change fatigue already identified as the USSF stands up, leadership should decide personnel policies and structures now that will facilitate transition to a future with increased automation and fewer required personnel.

Key Findings

  • USSF leadership and individual guardians need better clarity of and rationale behind roles assigned to officers, enlisted personnel, and civilians.
  • Some operational units, such as the 53rd Space Operations Squadron and the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance squadrons in Space Delta 7, have a clear, traditional delineation between officers and enlisted personnel.
  • Some operational units, such as the 10th Space Operations Squadron, the 53rd Space Operations Squadron, and the intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance squadrons in Space Delta 7, also have a relatively clear use of civilians.
  • Manning decisions based on differentiated roles will require balancing many, sometimes competing, considerations: budget; caps on military personnel; the need for 24-hours-a-day, 365-days-a-year mission assurance in some USSF missions; sustainment of the military personnel pool; the eight-crew requirement for the Space Force Generation model; unit structure; personnel development pathways; and restrictions on civilian roles.

Recommendations

  • The USSF should use a defined rubric with associated guidelines to assess personnel roles and responsibilities to more clearly delineate how it will use officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel while maintaining the desired workforce flexibility.
  • The USSF should consider comparing different personnel mixes either by (1) using a demonstration program with selected units or (2) leveraging the different units the USSF already has with different personnel role distinctions as natural experiments for comparison.
  • The USSF should consider what adjustments to officer, enlisted, and civilian personnel roles would ease the transition to a future with increased automation and fewer required personnel.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the U.S. Space Force (USSF) Office of the Chief of Space Operations for Human Capital and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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