DoD must catch the eye of future scientists and engineers

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The Defense Department needs to brand itself as the place to be for top tier science, technology, engineering, and mathematics professionals in order to fill its pipeline with needed new talent, says the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council.

In a report dated Oct. 25, the academies say recruiting and keeping top talent for critical STEM workforce positions are among the greatest challenges faced by the DoD. The concern over STEM employees is that they tend to be in great demand throughout the global market.

Overall defense efforts in STEM are a "small and diminishing part of the nation's overall science and engineering enterprise," says the report, and as a result, the DoD cannot exert much influence over national STEM aspirations.

This means the DoD will need to examine and potentially change recruitment policies to maintain competitiveness with the private sector, as well as review other personnel requirements that may limit their pool of potential recruits, such as security clearances for some STEM positions.The department would improve access to STEM professionals by removing or reducing clearance requirements, the report says, making non-U.S. citizens available for positions. It also suggests modifying the H-1B visa system to allow for access to more workers in areas of need like cybersecurity. Some 50 percent of U.S. STEM-related doctoral degrees are awarded go to non-U.S. citizens, about one-third of who leave the country after graduation.

The report also suggests looking into workforce utilization at the DoD to improve retention and satisfaction rates. It characterizes the DoD workplace as one with limited career growth that often underutilizes employee skills, is slow to hire, and can be impersonal. It recommends an overhaul of policies to expedite hiring, improve the security clearance process, and layout career growth tracks and benefits such as continued education.  

NAE and NRC say this is just an interim report that's crafted for the use of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering Zachary J. Lemnios, who will use the report for his fiscal 2014 planning as well as to develop a foundation for subsequent budgets.

For more:
- get a copy of the report

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