Advertisement

You will be redirected to the page you want to view in  seconds.

Air Force faces shortage of engineers

Apr. 12, 2014 - 06:00AM   |  
Fourth of July
Air Force Chief Scientist Mica Endsley said the service has seen an almost 30 percent loss of senior scientists in the past two years. (Air Force)
  • Filed Under

More than any other military service, the Air Force depends on a constant stream of technological improvements and scientific breakthroughs. But according to the service’s chief scientist, a “perfect storm” of personnel issues is endangering the retention and recruitment of top scientific talent.

“When we asked recently across our AFRL [Air Force Research Laboratory] directorates how many of you are afraid of losing people, and know people have résumés on the street, every single hand went up,” Mica Endsley said. “So those are the kind of worries we have. We need to retain the people we’ve got, as well as be able to recruit in new people.”

About 26,000 people work in the Air Force science and engineering career fields, roughly split at 16,000 civilian, 10,000 active duty. Of that total, around 2,800 civilians and 500 military personnel work at Air Force research labs.

Endsley said the service has seen an almost 30 percent loss in the past two years of senior scientists — the chief technicians and other leaders who help guide labs and develop new programs.

“We have a large number of people over 50. We have a larger number of people under 35. Then we have a gap in the middle, where we didn’t recruit very much in the 1990s,” Endsley said. “As we move early retirements in and have senior people leaving, there’s going to be a gap in leadership.”

At the same time, recruitment of young people with technical expertise has become challenging.

The issue isn’t a lack of budget, although like everyone else, the research labs would be happy to accept more funding. The service’s top two officials made it clear at a February event that they recognize the need to protect those investments.

Science and technology funding “is absolutely essential to a service that prides itself on being fueled by innovations, was born of technology and must stay ahead of the technological curve to be successful,” said Gen. Mark Welsh, chief of staff. “So we have to pay a lot of attention to S&T funding. Every funding line we have is coming down, but we can’t slash S&T.”

Those comments were echoed by Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James, who said, “There was an effort to protect these accounts vis-à-vis others.”

Numbers compiled by analytics firm VisualDoD show research and development funding for the Air Force in the proposed fiscal 2015 budget at $23.7 billion. Roughly $2.1 billion is requested for AFRL, a figure slated to grow slightly each year of the five-year future years defense program.

Endsley said she appreciates that the Air Force has tried to protect its investments in science. But she says the issue is more about morale than available funding.

The largest reason for the morale issue? Uncertainty, she said. The sequestered budget forced civilian furloughs in 2013.

The number of active-duty individuals in the S&T realm also concerns the chief scientist. Endsley said she believes the service should develop a separate promotion system for scientists and engineers.■

Answers by RallyPoint

Join trending discussions in the military's #1 professional community. See what members like yourself have to say from across the DoD.

More In News

Start your day with a roundup of top defense news.

VA Home Loan
Rates

Search By:

Product Options:
Zip Code:

News for your in-box

Sign up now for free Military Times E-Reports. Choose from Money and Education. Subscribers: log in for premium e-newsletters.


This Week's Marine Corps Times

This Week's Marine Corps Times

Big changes in sight
Marksmanship overhaul was a long time coming, say Marines

Subscribe for Print or Digital delivery today!

Classifieds
MilitaryTimes Green Trusted Classifieds Looking to buy, sell and connect on Military Times?
Browse expanded listings across hundreds of military installations.
Faces of valorHonoring those who fought and died in Operations Iraqi Freedom and Enduring Freedom.
hall of valorThe Hall of Valor is a searchable database of valor award citations collected by Doug Sterner, a Vietnam veteran and Military Times contributing editor, and by Military Times staff.
Woman who cried rape
(3 replies)
   Last Post: TJMAC77SP
        May 3, 2014 1:32 PM
   Last Post: garhkal
        May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
Cliven Bundy
(45 replies)
   Last Post: Chief_KO
        Apr 26, 2014 9:49 AM
Handbooks

All you need to know about your military benefits.

Benefits handbook

Guard & Reserve All you need to know about the Guard & Reserve.

guard and reserve handbook