What is the Air Force's most critical need? Space systems? More missiles? Advanced manned weapon systems?
All are high priority, but there is one need that consistently outranks them in importance. And until machines can think creatively this need will continue to head the list: PEOPLE.
Too often in these days of supersonic aircraft, hypersonic rockets, satellites, and outer-space probes, the key element tends to be overshadowed and forgotten —the people who develop, build, and operate the new technological marvels.
One of the most overworked phrases in our language today is "exploding technology." It is, however, still descriptive of the technological revolution and the constantly accelerating rates of progress. A good example of this acceleration can be found in the history of transatlantic crossing.
From the time man developed suitable sea-going vessels until Columbus made his voyage there was a span of about 2,500 years.
There was an interval of thirty years between the development of the first steamboat until one crossed the Atlantic.
Between the Wright brothers' first flight to the crossing of the Atlantic by the NC-4, there was fifteen years.
And it took man only four years from the time a suitable rocket booster was developed until he was able to launch a man into space.
Twenty-five hundred years—thirty years—fifteen years—four years.
The compression continues, daily putting man closer to wonders he dreamed and pondered about for centuries.
This process also magnifies the problems of national defense because the best people our nation produces are required for many national efforts. A democracy does not have nor condone the evil of forced labor. Thus the services must actively compete for quality people vital to the success of today's complex weapon systems. Despite the current fascination with computers and automation, the greatest computer devised is still the human brain. Man offers flexibility because of his ability to observe, discriminate, evaluate, and be a decision-maker.
Man-made computers are different. A computer remembers. It answers when asked. It knows what should be going on and can correct the process to get it on track. But thus far man has not been able to build one that can come up with original thoughts or display courage and love of liberty. Nor can the machine be dedicated to God and country.
Therefore man, by virtue of his brain and soul, is going to continue to be the most important element in our defense posture.
Since the composition of the Air Force is changing constantly as we progress into the aerospace age, the numbers and qualities of people needed are also changing.
The main reasons for the changing requirements in human resources are activation of missile squadrons; technical advancement of weapon and support systems; the complexity and cost of new weapon and support systems; and the reduction of manned aircraft requirements.
Men and machines are a partnership. A dual problem arises from this fact.
First, it is necessary to provide our units with thevery best equipment as rapidly as possible. The time taken between development of an idea for a new weapon system and its development, procurement, and introduction into the inventory must be as short as practicable.
In our stepped-up management procedures, these phases often overlap, thus compounding the twin problem of people.
Planning for people and related actions must keep pace with compressed time schedules if trained personnel are to be available from the earliest planning efforts throughout the development and procurement stages, test and acceptance, and finally the manning of operational units.
Since weapon systems coming into the inventory in the future are going to be vastly more complicated than those on hand today, it is obvious that more preparation is required. The Air Force therefore concentrated on more refined management techniques, seeks a higher level of individual education, and stresses motivation and dedication to the task. There are positive actions no being taken or contemplated to identify and retain the highly important resources of qualified people. Initial actions are to control input, retention, and retirements. This introduces quality control measures that will permit a balancing of skills and requirements with experience.
In order for the organization as a whole to keep pace with its weapons, a constantly refined educational base is required. To a great extent, this will be the responsibility of the individual.
Those people who cannot grow with us will not be with us.
A personal reading program, for example, should be a continuing project for everyone. The individual officer and airman should have broad interests. He should read not only in his technical field. He should read also timely and thought-provoking publications such as the Air University Quarterly Review, Airman Magazine, and AIR FORCE and SPACE DIGEST, to mention a few.
Education and professionalism go together to produce top-quality people. The Air Force is a professional force—from top to bottom. There is no place today or in the future for those who do not approach their specialties and jobs in a professional manner and with the intent of constant learning and personal improvement.
Many airmen and officers are now taking advantage of the educational opportunities being offered. Tomorrow there will be greater opportunities, but intellectual development in a military career is the same as in civilian life—desire marks the difference between the winner and the follower.
So that it can perform its mission, the Air Force of the future must be composed of vastly larger numbers of intellectually trained people. The critical shortage will be in the scientific and engineering fields.
We have the human resources in this nation. The Air Force has as its goal the obtaining, training, and retaining of quality people. This is an effort of great magnitude, an effort that can succeed if we move in the direction of personal satisfaction, esprit de corps, individual awareness of the Air Force role, and recognition and appreciation of the serviceman by the public.
What is the Air Force doing for its people in the way of future programs?
By stressing good management and human relations, significant improvements are going to be made to further broaden opportunity and compensation. While we do not foresee the day when the military will be able to compete with industry in take-home pay for skilled personnel, we will, however, continue to work for comparable compensation. This means pay adjustments, housing, restored commissary and exchange privileges, and other fringe benefits. All these things are needed to help attract quality people, but the Air Force member must also have inherent qualities that cannot be bought—a dedication to the mission and a willingness to work to the breaking point because the job is important and must be done. The Air Force, fortunately, has always been composed of this type of person.
The current priority projects of the Air Force relating to the management of people are:
¾ Education programs for both officers and airmen. • Expanded housing program.
¾ Adjustment of quarters allowances.
¾ Revision of reenlistment bonus payments.
¾ Pay adjustments to include incentive pay, full implementation of proficiency pay, alert pay for combat crews, and responsibility pay.
¾ And an increased number of Regular appointments for officers.
What are the chances of becoming and staying a member of the Air Force? Excellent—if the individual works for the job and is willing to improve himself.
Many trends are emerging.
Air Force people can expect to be trained and retrained to meet the changing needs. It is our firm intention to do the task with the people we have on hand—the career people who are due our first loyalty.
In turn, these people must recognize and help solve the problem. Voluntary retraining is one of the answers. If an individual resists retraining, it will be a self-imposed roadblock in his career.
Without question, one of the most critical problems posed to the Air Force today is in the officer career field. In general, our aim is to encourage those officers on active duty who do not have a baccalaureate degree to take advantage of the programs in existence—such as AFIT and Operation Bootstrap.
The majority of future officers will be college graduates entering from the Air Force Academy, AFROTC, and Officer Training School programs. Other sources will be the aviation cadet program and officer candidate school. Through the latter, capable airmen and college-trained men will be able to compete for commissions even though they do not have a degree. Additional progress up the ladder of command and chances of gaining a regular commission will be problematical, however, without further education.
We will continue with our basic approaches to retention of the younger officers. This group leaves us at the rate of six out of ten after serving their minimum obligated tours, despite our efforts to retain them.
Procurement is being aimed toward programs that produce not only well educated but also well motivated officers. This approach prompted restudy of the major sources of procurement, AFROTC, resulting in the new Officer Education Program (OEP). This program provides a scholarship plan, longer association of students with the military environment, and selectivity of highly interested applicants.
Secondly, informing and counseling of the individual is being refined to more clearly point out the advantages and satisfaction of a service career. Project Top Star was initiated to meet this need.
Among the newer management devices designed to increase our retention rate are:
¾ Extending the nonrated officer's tour of duty to interest highly motivated and qualified applicants in an Air Force career.
¾ Selection of officers for regular commissions without requiring them to apply.
¾ Legislative relief on the Officer Grade Limitation Act and the Bolte Committee recommendations to attain uniformity in all services with regard to promo-lion opportunity and grades.
¾ A flight pay accrual system.
The Air Force is currently short 11,000 officers with scientific and engineering degrees. In two years this shortage can be decreased by 4,500 through education programs available to officers now on active duty. In three years, this gap can be further closed by an additional 4,500 officers through utilization of the same education programs by the on-board officer resources. It is apparent there are great educational opportunities open now and in the future.
It must be obvious that the chances of success are in favor of those having the training, education, experience, or knowledge in the fields where expanding Air Force requirements are indicated.
This is equally true for airmen.
Our biggest problem in the airman field is still retention of first-term people. Many of the current projects are designed to make a USAF career for airmen more attractive and increase the number of applicants for further service. With greater numbers, the Air Force can be more selective and obtain quality as well as quantity.
The Air Force does not expect, nor does it wish to attain 100 percent retention of the newer people. The 55-45 program is designed to provide the desired balance of new people with those already having experience—fifty-five percent career airmen and forty-five percent first-term people. This percentage, of course, will vary with career fields from a high of 62-38 in the electronics groups to 48-52 in services.
The 55-45 ratio is called the "optimum"—the most effective and practical. It was based on a study and analysis over several years. Ratios were developed after consideration of many factors and checked against these criteria for a career force:
¾ Be attainable.
¾ Be sustainable.
¾ Provide career progression and promotion opportunity.
The desired distribution of the career force will be obtained primarily through controlling input. Input controls on prior and nonprior service procurement are now in effect.
Reenlistment quotas are also in effect, but due to the fluctuations of enlistments, yearly selection ratios vary according to the number of airmen reaching the end of their first enlistment. Under the quota system, entrance into career status becomes more than ever a matter of selective retention.
On the horizon are further controls. Selective retirements promise further quality and ensure progression and promotion for the force. Retraining is another solution to the problem and while it often creates short-time personal hardships, it is a long-term advantage to the individual.
And as with the officers, the broader the educational base, especially in technical fields, the broader the opportunity.
Promotional opportunity will invariably remain the greatest incentive for the individual. The Air Force will continue to take positive and determined action to ensure this opportunity remains available, since without it stagnation will quickly come and undermine combat capability.
Controls for quality and quantity are therefore viewed as the most efficient long-range methods at our disposal to acquire and maintain a professional force. These actions will prompt redirected thinking because in the past there have been people, in and out of the Air Force, laboring under the misconception that service careers were more or less sinecures. Under this theory a man had a job as long as he kept out of trouble and did his work with reasonable results.
It was a fallacy in any era, but in the aerospace era it is a deadly impression that not only halts an individual's progress, it may well endanger national security.
The acquisition and retention of quality people is still one of the best forms of insurance for national security. The task requires the understanding and vigorous support of each man and woman in the Air Force.
And the public at large must recognize and actively support our efforts to further improve what I believe to be the finest military force ever assembled.
There are challenging years ahead, challenging jobs for people who move with the times. The future holds no fear for people of courage who ready themselves as professionals. These are the people who will make up the Air Force in this and the coming decades.—End
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