The Defense Acquisition Workforce Growth Initiative

Changing Workforce Characteristics and the Implications for Workforce Retention

by Michael H. Powell

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The U.S. defense acquisition workforce (DAW) experienced significant personnel reductions in the 1990s, leading to concerns regarding the size of and age distribution within the workforce in the early 2000s. Defense officials responded to these concerns, instituting a DAW "growth initiative." The growth initiative was successful in increasing the size of the DAW, but little is known about how the hiring surge changed who the DAW hired into its ranks, and how this might influence workforce outcomes, such as retention. This dissertation examines this issue by focusing on the civilian portion of the DAW (civilian DAW) and on entrants' prior work experience.

This dissertation utilizes DoD personnel data to (1) describe civilian DAW cohorts in terms of past work experience and illustrate how the hiring surge has changed cohort past-work-experience characteristics; (2) evaluate how prior work experience relates to retention in the civilian DAW; and (3) estimate how the growth initiative has influenced overall cohort-level retention rates.

The analyses reveal that the growth initiative was fueled mainly by outside hires with no prior DoD experience, and some evidence suggests that these DoD newcomers — in general — tend to have the highest retention in the civilian DAW. Additionally, the analyses reveal that internal hires are more attached to the DoD civilian workforce than are external hires. In line with these conclusions, the synthetic-cohort analysis finds that the hiring surge likely produced cohorts with greater civilian DAW retention.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Background: The DAW and the Growth Initiative

  • Chapter Three

    Prior DAW-Related Studies

  • Chapter Four

    Prior Work Experience, Workforce Socialization, and Retention

  • Chapter Five


  • Chapter Six

    Data and Definitions

  • Chapter Seven

    Descriptive Analysis

  • Chapter Eight

    Retention Analysis Part I: How DoD Experience Relates to Retention

  • Chapter Nine

    Retention Analysis Part II: How the Growth Initiative Relates to Retention

  • Chapter Ten

    Conclusions and Discussion

  • Appendix A

    Dropping Observations Does Not Significantly Change Cohort Characteristics

  • Appendix B

    The Cox Proportional Hazard Model and Methods for Controlling for Confounding Factors

  • Appendix C

    Balance Results for DoD-Experienced Entrants vs. Non-DoD-Experienced Entrants

  • Appendix D

    Balance Results for Internal Hires vs. External Hires

  • Appendix E

    Balance Results for DoD-Experienced External Hires vs. Non-DoD-Experienced External Hires

  • Appendix F

    Retention Analysis Part I: Additional Results

  • Appendix G

    The Creation of the Synthetic Cohort Groups

  • Appendix H

    Sensitivity Analysis: Lags Instances Not Included in Civilian DAW Cohorts

  • Appendix I

    External Hires and Internal Hires

  • Appendix J

    Career Level Definitions

Research conducted by

This document was submitted as a dissertation in September 2016 in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the doctoral degree in public policy analysis at the Pardee RAND Graduate School. The faculty committee that supervised and approved the dissertation consisted of Susan Gates (Chair), Ed Keating, and William Shelton.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Dissertation series. Pardee RAND dissertations are produced by graduate fellows of the Pardee RAND Graduate School, the world's leading producer of Ph.D.'s in policy analysis. The dissertations are supervised, reviewed, and approved by a Pardee RAND faculty committee overseeing each dissertation.

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