Cover: General Officers, Career Field Sustainability, Training Pipelines, and the Civilian Workforce of the U.S. Space Force

General Officers, Career Field Sustainability, Training Pipelines, and the Civilian Workforce of the U.S. Space Force

Considered Options to Enhance Structure and Configuration

Published Jun 12, 2024

by Shirley M. Ross, Irina A. Chindea, John S. Crown, Samantha E. DiNicola, Ginger Groeber, Lawrence M. Hanser, Jennifer J. Li

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Research Questions

  1. Can the Space Force organically generate a sufficient number of GOs?
  2. Is the GO structure that was under consideration in FY 2020 sustainable?
  3. Are the five primary career fields that are transitioning from the Air Force to the Space Force—Space Operations, Intelligence, Cyberspace Operations, Developmental Engineering, and Acquisition Management—sustainable with the number of proposed officer billets?
  4. Can existing training pipelines for officers and enlisted personnel in these five career fields support the training needs of the Space Force?
  5. What are the key considerations of the civilian workforce transferring into the Space Force?

With the U.S. Space Force rapidly standing up as a separate military service within the Department of the Air Force, as established by the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, it was imperative to determine the appropriate workforce alignment and training for the space cadre. This report documents several sets of analyses conducted in support of the Space Force. These analyses assess the number of general officers (GOs) that the Space Force could internally generate compared with the Space Force–proposed GO structure and associated selectivity (or promotion) ratios; career field sustainability for officers in the five primary career fields within the Space Force (Space Operations, Intelligence, Cyberspace Operations, Developmental Engineering, and Acquisition Management); the training pipelines of both officers and enlisted personnel in these five career fields; and key considerations regarding the civilian workforce transitioning to the Space Force.

Based on a mix of quantitative and qualitative methodologies, the analyses yielded several major findings. In this report, the authors discuss the implications of these findings, provide recommendations specific to each career field and the transitioning civilian workforce to address identified challenges and gaps, and conclude with a synthesized list of 20 recommendations. The options considered in this report to enhance the Space Force's structure and configuration are designed to support an entirely new type of warfighting and national security organization, the U.S. Space Force.

Key Findings

  • With an officer base of 3,032 positions, as planned in FY 2020, the Space Force would be able to organically generate only about half—or 16—of the 30 GOs that it had requested.
  • The distribution of GOs from O7 to O10 that was under consideration in FY 2020 (six O7s, eight O8s, five O9s, and two O10s) would be untenable.
  • GO selectivity (or promotion) ratios associated with the GO distribution under consideration in FY 2020 would not be aligned with those in the Air Force and would likely be unacceptably high.
  • A wider role for senior civilian executives could address the gap resulting from the shortage of GOs organically generated within the Space Force and bring the Space Force into closer alignment with other space-related organizations.
  • Updated sustainability analyses of officers in the five career fields transitioning to the Space Force revealed that the authorization structure for the two acquisition-related career fields requires significant adjustment.
  • The overarching issue in training for the Space Force is the dearth of space-specific training available, particularly in Intelligence and Cyberspace Operations.
  • The generalist space operator model, in which all Space Force professionals would begin as space operators and move several years later into their respective disciplines, could result in a decline in expertise and experience that may affect readiness and result in an inability to grow senior leaders with sufficient depth of expertise and experience to hold their own in the larger space community.

Recommendations

  • Implement best-in-class executive selection models from industry to identify and select high-potential GOs when promoting Space Force officers and any incoming GOs from sister services from O6 into the GO ranks.
  • Leverage civilian senior executives for leadership roles in the Space Force to mitigate challenges with the small number of GOs that the Space Force can generate and to move the Space Force toward a mix of military and civilian leaders comparable with other space-related organizations.
  • Adjust the billet structure based on the pyramid health sustainability analysis provided in the individual career field chapters of this report, particularly for the acquisition-related career fields.
  • Redesign the early training pipeline to ensure adequate space-specific training for Space Force officers and enlisted personnel, prior to their arrival at their first assignments.
  • Maintain distinct career fields for those personnel transitioning to the Space Force instead of combining them into one group of "generalist space operators" to preserve the Intelligence and Cyberspace Operations developmental pipelines that produce deep expertise and experience for the benefit of the Space Force and to ensure parity of expertise with like organizations.

Research conducted by

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

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