An Analysis of Retention Issues of Scientists,
Engineers, and Program Managers in the
US Air Force

Derek William Beck (About Me)

Abstract: The United States Air Force is having a difficult time retaining their technical officers, who are critical to the success of their research, development, and acquisitions of major military and defense systems. A statistical analysis is conducted on survey data collected, and the analysis seeks to explain the reasons why officers, mostly junior in rank, leave the Air Force after only a short time on active duty. This retention problem leads to fewer higher ranking officers, since the military only hires from the bottom up. Results of the research show that about 47% of junior officers have intent to leave the Air Force after their initial commitment, which is 4 to 5 years. With nearly half of the Air Force’s incoming officers leaving after their initial commitment, the problem is very serious. Job satisfaction and the closely related Air Force assignment system are shown to be the primary problems for junior officer retention. The thesis concludes with recommendations to Air Force leadership on where to focus their retention efforts. Special emphasis is given on how the Air Force may address tangible components of job satisfaction. Policy change recommendations that affect satisfaction levels with the assignment system are also given.

--Analysis Published in Feb 2005

Update: As of 31 October 2009 (per the Air Force Officer Classification Directory, or AFOCD, corrected copy 26 Oct 2009), the 61S career field has been replaced with the simply the 61 career field, with the specialty suffix now following the 61. Thus, the new format is 61(specialty)(tenure), versus the old format: 61S(tenure)(specialty). For example, the 61S3D, a mid-level (or "qualified") physicist, is now coded as 61D3. The references to 61S throughout this website will be retained as they were published. -- Apr 30, 2010.


* I strongly recommend you read the full Executive Summary, since it builds the argument and supports my conclusions. However, I make this overview available to those that just want a quick synopsis. Note this version does NOT have my full conclusions nor my recommendations to the Air Force.

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