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

Derek William Beck

 

FAQ:

 

Q. How did you get permission to go to MIT while still in the Air Force?

A. If you haven't seen usmilitary.about.com, you should check it out. Site creator Rod Powers was kind enough to allow me publish an article on the Air Force Educational Leave of Absence (AFELA or just ELA) at his site. It was through this program that I attended MIT. All of the details of this program are outlined in my article at about.com.

(Unfortunately, the Air Force has almost no publicly available information on this program. Perhaps the Air Force consciously intends to keep this program as a "little known secret"?)

 

Q. According to AFI 36-3003, 20 Oct 05, Section G, paragraph 14.13, members are charged leave for semester breaks and extended holiday periods if they do
not return to duty during the semester breaks or holiday periods. This is also supported by Attachment 3, table 4, rule 14.

A. This is interesting, and unfortunate. This AFI didn't exist when I went, as I graduated before its publication, and the one applicable during my ELA referred to "Bootstrap", the now defunct precursor to the modern ELA. This current policy becomes a problem if, say, you are going to school on the other side of the country from where you are stationed. The other complicating factor is that BAS and BAH aren't so easy to simply turn on and off, despite what the regulations require. Anyone that's spent time with base finance knows it can take at least a pay period to get things adjusted, and in the meantime, your break may be over. Not to mention the accounting of time: you would then only incur a 2-to-1 commitment when on the program, which means you'll need separate ELA orders for each semester/quarter...now that's a pain. The trick then is, if you have a thesis, to insure you work on your thesis for those days that aren't ordinary military days off (i.e. fed. holidays, weekends, etc). In my case, this is exactly what I did, as I graduated in 13 months with a thesis, so I literally had no breaks. I think I stopped working on my thesis Christmas Eve then was back at it even on New Year's Eve. If you do the ELA but don't want to spend leave for breaks, get a letter from your thesis advisor stating that you'll be working during these times and that should suffice for the USAF. For a program without a thesis or other extra-curricular required work (e.g. internships), it may be that the student will have no choice but to use leave on breaks.

 

Q. What were the survey statistics (response rate, representation rate, etc)?

A. I am unable to determine the response rate due to the mass-email method of distribution--I do not know how many people actually got the email (and were in the target group of respondents). However, I can use the raw numbers to derive an estimate. The AFPC statistics for Sept 2004 give 6159 total personnel in the Core AFSC’s of 61, 62, and 63. My working data set (not including those labeled suspect) includes 528 total current (active duty plus reservists) members in these Core AFSC’s. Dividing the two, my sample is about 8.6% of the actual population, and is therefore representative of the population. The data set I used was 592 records, 70 of which were either retired or separated, and the other 522 were active duty or reserves. The original number of responses I received was 762 responses, and I discarded 170, 40 because they did not complete the survey, and another 130 because their responses to the two key questions on career intent were responded to with vastly different responses.

 

Q. Did you defend your thesis? What was your grade?

A. At MIT, to my knowledge, no one defends a Master's level thesis. However, those of us in the SDM and LFM programs (these two programs are sister programs both with ties to the Sloan School of Management and the Engineering School...go here for more info) do present our findings at a knowledge review, which is over two days. I presented on the first day, January 27th, 2005. I received an A on the thesis, worth 25 credits.

 

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