Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Inventory Management of Officers with Advanced Academic Degrees: The Case for a New Approach

Academic journal article Air & Space Power Journal

Inventory Management of Officers with Advanced Academic Degrees: The Case for a New Approach

Article excerpt

Editorial Abstract:

Every year the Air Force fills numerous graduate-level education positions using a decades-old system that seeks to project graduate-education requirements against upcoming advanced academic degree (AAD) billets. The authors propose replacing this requirements-based system with a new model that considers Total Force development and capabilites-based planning. They assert that their model will ultimately demonstrate lifelong educational development for individuals and strategic improvement for the Air Force.

EACH YEAR HUNDREDS of military officers receive advanced academic degrees (AAD), sponsored and funded by the Air Force. Because graduate education is costly in terms of both funding and man-hours, we must take care to ensure the relevance of these degrees to each officer's professional development. However, the existing system that we use to select officers for graduate education does not meet this intent.

The Graduate Education Management System (GEMS), the current "bottom-up" billetbased requirements process, focuses on resource management and utilization rather than on education, professional development of officers, and health of the career field.1 Succinctly put, the GEMS does not employ a strategic vision to ensure that the graduate education of officers provides an appropriate set of war-fighting capabilities. Rather, the system is primarily designed to project and fill AADcoded billets with officers possessing the specified degree and to provide an auditable tracking system for utilizing these officers. This article demonstrates the incompatibility of such an approach with the concepts of Total Force development as well as capabilities-based planning and proposes an alternative-the Advanced Academic Degree Inventory Management (AADIM) model.

Background and Issues

The GEMS generates unit-level AAD requirements, validates and certifies billets, and projects vacancies annually, doing so at the lowest level, where it is ostensibly easiest to identify the need for AAD education. The validated list then goes to the Air Force's career-field monitors, responsible for reviewing, certifying, and prioritizing their functional area's list of AAD billets. They act as points of contact for organizational and unit functional managers as well as for the Air Force Education Requirements Board, which approves educational quotas within available funding levels and places the remaining requirements on a prioritized alternate list. The Air Force Personnel Center advertises the available AAD opportunities and matches approved officers with a graduate-degree program. Selected personnel attend the Air Force Institute of Technology (AFIT) or other graduate institutions to obtain an AAD with a follow-on assignment dictated by the educational discipline. Officers serve a subsequent three-year payback tour in a validated AAD-coded billet, concurrent with a mandatory active duty service commitment.2 The Air Force intended that the GEMS fulfill the Department of Defense's (DOD) requirement of fully accounting for the utilization of graduateeducation resources; this system, along with a stringent validation process, serves as the foundation of the system's billet-based approach.3

However, in 1992 an audit by the Air Force Audit Agency found that officers were serving in AAD-coded follow-on assignments an average of one and one-quarter years versus the mandatory three years, and that AAD-coded position incumbency rates were only 40-50 percent.'1 The audit apparently did not consider the fact that officers found themselves at a competitive disadvantage by having to forgo career progression and broadening opportunities to remain in an AAD-coded billet for three years. Such a career risk has acted as a disincentive for officers to pursue fully funded graduate education. Local commanders clearly understood this problem and compensated by reassigning officers at the expense of leaving the AAD billet vacant until the projected arrival of the next AAD officer. …

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