Cover: Implementation of the New Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Framework

Implementation of the New Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act Framework

End of Fiscal Year 2022 Update

Published May 1, 2024

by Susan M. Gates, Fernando Esteves, Elizabeth Roth, Jonas Kempf

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Research Questions

  1. How did the transition to the new DAWIA framework affect the DoD AW?
  2. Did the transition affect civilian and military members of the AW differently?

In fiscal year (FY) 2022, the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) implemented a new framework for managing the defense acquisition workforce (AW), which included over 180,000 military and civilian personnel as of the end of FY 2021. This workforce, which is responsible for providing a wide range of acquisition, technology, and logistics support for products and services to U.S. warfighters and support elements, has been the focus of policymaker attention for decades. The new framework involved the most significant changes to the management and oversight of the AW since the passage of the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA) of 1990, including consolidating the career-field structure into a smaller number of functional areas.

In this report, the authors use quarterly data on military and civilian members of the AW and the positions they hold through the end of FY 2022 to describe some features of the implementation of the new DAWIA framework and some implications for the workforce and its management.

Key Findings

  • As of the end of FY 2022, most but not all AW positions, and the individuals filling them, had been reclassified into the new DAWIA functional areas.
  • With the transition to the new DAWIA framework, DoD repurposed the career-field data field to track functional areas, with some codes continuing, some being dropped, and one code added. This transition is largely complete and went as expected.
  • The DoD civilian AW shrank, while the military AW remained stable. The end-of-FY 2022 civilian AW was smaller than it was at the end of FY 2021 by about 28,000 workers, with declines concentrated in the Army and the Navy.
  • AW civilians left DoD at a higher rate than expected, but the AW external loss rate was still below the rate for the non-AW DoD civilian workforce.


  • The Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment, Office of Human Capital Initiatives (HCI) should develop guidance related to coding certification requirements for DAWIA positions and certification attainment of AW members and revise DAWIA reporting systems and guidance to require tracking information about knowledge-area credentials.
  • HCI should continue to monitor loss rates and investigate workforce satisfaction for the following key groups to identify signs of workforce stress due to the transition to the new DAWIA framework: retirement-eligible workers, members of the Future Career Group, and civilians who transitioned out of the AW but remain in DoD.
  • HCI should continue to monitor separation by career field to better understand the workforce implications of the transition to the new DAWIA framework.

This research was sponsored by the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment and conducted within the Personnel, Readiness, and Health Program of the RAND National Security Research Division.

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