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Air Force specialty codes, similar to Army and Marine Corps military occupational specialties and Navy officer designators and enlisted ratings, establish personnel-classification boundaries according to the work performed and the required skills, education, and training. The specialties combine duties and tasks into cohesive job clusters that may be matched to people possessing the essential aptitudes, attributes, and qualifications. Given the Air Force's evolving missions, changing nature of work, and changing workforce, several senior Air Force leaders have asked whether the existing specialty codes still provide the appropriate clustering of specialties.

This technical report examines the current officer-classification structure while seeking to determine whether more fundamental changes are needed. It provides a brief primer on the specialty-classification system, encapsulates major changes that are in progress and planned, and offers additional changes based on interviews and comparative analyses. Although the research focused primarily on the officer structure, many of the observations have correlates in the enlisted-specialty structure. Specialty-classification components need continuous maintenance and periodic upgrades. One recommendation is that the continuous process improvement initiatives, such as Air Force Smart Operations 21, be expanded to include reducing the overall cycle time for specialty-classification changes.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    The Air Force Specialty Classification Structure

  • Chapter Three

    Past and Future Changes

  • Chapter Four

    Recommended Specialty-Structure Changes

  • Chapter Five

    Conclusions and Recommendations

  • Appendix A

    Interview Protocol

  • Appendix B

    Air Force Officer Special-Experience Identifier (SEI) Codes

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was sponsored by the United States Air Force and conducted by RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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