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Research Summary

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Research Questions

  1. What is the current alignment and effectiveness of HCM functions at all organizational levels of the USSF?
  2. What actions are recommended to help the USSF achieve optimal alignment and effectiveness?
  3. What policy issues need to be prioritized, and what areas require improvement?

Since its formation in 2019, the U.S. Space Force (USSF) has adopted many of the U.S. Air Force's human capital management (HCM) policies and procedures. However, the USSF has a rare opportunity to revolutionize military HCM and adopt innovative approaches to talent management. The structure and policies the USSF designs will create a framework for effective and efficient mission execution.

Through review of policy and doctrine and interviews with key stakeholders, the authors assessed USSF HCM functions and identified (1) topics concerning specific USSF HCM policies and functions, (2) crosscutting topics, and (3) additional concerns outside the scope of this effort but that warrant senior leader attention. 

Recognizing the challenges inherent in establishing and building a new military service, the authors developed 25 implementable recommendations for the USSF in structuring and aligning its HCM functions at all organizational levels. Recommendations are divided into eight categories and identified as achievable in the near, middle, and far term. As the USSF refines the alignment, structure, and composition of its units, implementing these recommendations will help guide personnel policy decisions.

Key Findings

  • USSF leaders acknowledge that HCM functions are evolving as the USSF determines what works best for the nation's newest military service.
  • Senior leaders appreciate the importance of getting HCM right and have significant insights into what is working well and what improvements are needed.
  • Areas that need improvement include personnel policy, force development, macro force design, interservice transfers, personnel and talent management platforms, and resourcing HCM functions.


  • The USSF should implement robust personnel policy development efforts.
  • The USSF should adjust the current chief human capital officer staff structure.
  • The USSF should improve communication.
  • The USSF should increase commander involvement in HCM.
  • The USSF should improve the transition experience for guardians transferring in from the Army, Navy, and Marine Corps.
  • The USSF should prioritize completion of its macro force design and expand force development efforts.
  • The USSF should increase resourcing for HCM functions.

Research conducted by

This research was prepared for the Department of the Air Force and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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