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

Derek William Beck

 

Some feedback I have received:

I thought it was great and right on the money. The factor not covered, however, is whether the top level Air Force leaders really care about developing career fields, other than the pilot's career field, with a logical, well motivated career path. You keep saying it is a problem keeping enough people in the career field to fill the management/supervisory positions after Captain. I believe the "powers that be" see those positions as good positions to shuttle in their promoted pilots for "career diversification". [I observed the same thing] as a Maintance Training Officer...when a bunch of young maintenance officers...get a boss as squadron commander with no maintenance experience, but with pilots wings. Believe me, the Air Force has got a lot of shitty maintenance as a result of the preconceived notion that pilots are Gods and have the inherent intelligence to run any program regardless of its nature... The Air Force WANTS a high attrition rate for everyone but pilots because for every ten Air Force Captains there are say two Air Force Majors, etc on up the line. You don't want to/can't promote and keep everybody.

-- a Colonel (Retired)

I was commissioned a second lieutenant in the United States Air Force so long ago you parents probably hadn't yet dated. I can tell you that the problems you documented existed back then - and not just in the technical career fields. My reason for want(ing) to read - and understand - your thesis is so I can be part of the solution.

[The Wing Commander] of [a certain Center in the Air Force Materiel Command (AFMC)] has asked everyone to read it [the thesis]. [Current as of Oct 2005]

-- an Air Force Officer Veteran and Current Government Civil Servant

The assignment system is grossly unfair, even with the new ODP [Officer Development Plan]. As an group exec for a year, I saw complete dirtbags get dream assignments, while the hardworking ones worthy of alot of respect got the places nobody wants to go. These people got the typical "well, do well there and maybe next time...at least it will be good for your career". The ODP is too focused on what senior leaders think is a good career path...but I've found the happiest and most successful officers are those who made their own decisions.

-- a First Lieutenant

Thanks again for the insight! There's a big group of new Capts/1Lts I work with that have all put in their paperwork. Of course we all find it ironic that leadership questions why there is a mass exodus when you have already done the research for them.

-- a Captain

I'm glad finally someone has stepped up to the plate and nailed it on the head! Every comment you wrote seemed like a direct reflection of me. I'm just hoping that the AF finally decides to listen instead of just blowing the issues off and "letting the broken wheel continue to attempt to roll." It would be interesting to find out the follow up from the Air Force in response to your thesis. I hope your effort provides some great light to help us Acquisitions personnel out.

-- a First Lieutenant

Thanks for putting this thesis together - it's a great read and I sure hope the AF listens... Thanks for fighting the good fight!

-- a Major

There's more to say about dilution within the junior CGO's. It's also a bit ironic that the USAF will recruit more LT's to hopefull staff off their retention issues, but by doing so they dilute the available workload amgonst the LT's well past the saturation point, and in such, LT either dont get alot of work or end up working positions that they are not interested in or dont have the background for. Who could blame LT's for feeling useless and wanting to leave to the civilian sector to actually do meaningful and productive work?

-- a Second Lieutenant

I'd like to see a study that tracked the evolution of career intent in the junior officer ranks. For example, when I came onto active duty I was definitely career oriented. But, today I'm considering separation. (Incidently, for many of the reasons you discussed).

-- a Second Lieutenant

 

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