Cover: Talent Management and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of the Air Force

Talent Management and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion in the Department of the Air Force

Qualitative Review of Programs, Practices, and Partnerships

Published Mar 9, 2023

by Maria C. Lytell, Elicia M. John, Melissa Shostak, Miriam Matthews

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Research Questions

  1. What planned and ongoing efforts to address DEI exist across DAF career fields and accession sources?
  2. How could the DAF evaluate and sustain proactive DEI efforts that exist across the force?

To support the Department of the Air Force's (DAF's) goal of improving diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in its workforce, researchers conducted a qualitative literature review and interviews with subject-matter experts to identify the DAF's existing and planned DEI efforts. This report offers a snapshot of DAF's 2021 DEI efforts, highlighting potential gaps and limitations in several enlisted and officer career fields and across recruiting and accession sources. Recommendations focus on better evaluation and ways to sustain proactive DEI efforts across the DAF.

Key Findings

  • Air Force recruiting and accession sources aim to increase the diversity of the applicant pool while not limiting opportunities to applicants from underrepresented groups.
  • Demonstrating diversity is a key consideration in marketing information and recruiting events.
  • Partnerships play a key role in extending reach into diverse communities and building networks to optimize recruiting efforts.
  • Few career field representatives offered details on marketing and recruiting, but some discussed changes to accession standards to increase the recruiting pool.
  • Career field representatives cite work-life balance and other challenges for women's advancement and retention.
  • Formal processes are used to track diversity trends for key assignments and promotion.
  • Literature highlights cultural and communication barriers to successful implementation of DEI policies and programs in the DAF.


  • Develop clear measures of progress tied to DAF DEI goals and use data to assess the effectiveness of DEI-related practices and programs.
  • Provide tools to encourage more career fields to assess their workforce needs and evaluate DEI practices.
  • Use an information system to capture details on DEI practices in DAF communities and ensure practices are evaluated and, if effective, sustained.
  • Leverage effective DEI practices from other organizations in both the private and public sectors.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by DAF-A1 and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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