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News from the National Academies

Date:  Oct. 25, 2012




DOD Faces Potential Shortfall in Quality STEM Workers;

Overhaul of Recruitment Practices, Security Requirements Needed


WASHINGTON — The principal challenge for the U.S. Department of Defense's science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) work force is recruiting and retaining top quality professionals for critical positions, says a new report from the National Academy of Engineering and National Research Council.  The agency must become -- and be perceived as -- an appealing career destination for the most capable scientists, engineers, and technicians, all of whom are in great demand in the global marketplace. 


To that end, DOD recruitment policies and practices should be reviewed and overhauled as necessary to ensure that the department is fully competitive with all sectors of American industry and the global STEM marketplace.  The agency will also need to reassess its requirement for security clearances for some STEM positions.


"STEM assignments at the DOD that involve more procedure and bureaucracy than technical challenge and mission are unlikely to satisfy the high-quality STEM professionals the DOD needs to recruit," said C.D. Mote, professor of engineering at the University of Maryland, College Park, and co-chair of the committee that wrote the report.  "Making DOD employment an attractive career choice to the most qualified and motivated professionals will pay enormous dividends to the department and the nation."


More effective management of the STEM work force is needed to meet the challenges in recruiting and retention of top talent, the report says.  Career growth at DOD is limited, employee skills are often underutilized, and the hiring process is slow, impersonal, and sometimes opaque.  The report recommends an overhaul of policies, which could entail expediting the recruitment process and security clearances and making a commitment both to provide meaningful opportunities for technical work and to provide career development opportunities including education.


"It's virtually impossible to forecast the STEM skills and number of individuals possessing those skills that will be needed by DOD beyond the near term because of the increasing rates of advancement in science and technology and the geopolitical uncertainties affecting DOD demands," said Norman Augustine, retired chairman and CEO of the Lockheed Martin Corp. and committee co-chair.  "The fundamental issue, therefore, is maintaining the necessary quality, agility, and skills mix.  It is critical to include workers at the forefront of emerging, potentially critical technical areas, as well as those capable of redirecting their careers into these new areas."


Because DOD and its contractors need access to the most talented STEM professionals globally, the department should re-examine the need for security clearances in select positions in order to permit non-U.S. citizens to enter portions of the talent pool.  Furthermore, the H-1B visa system should be modified to provide DOD with substantially more talent in areas of need such as cyber security.


In addition, DOD should be prepared to educate highly capable, but not STEM qualified individuals rapidly with master's degrees in science and engineering at times of urgency, as is done in the Naval Postgraduate School.  The DOD SMART scholarship program is also a proven method of attracting top talent to the agency and should be expanded, the report says.  SMART is a civilian "scholarship for service" program that provides full undergraduate or graduate tuition, living and book allowances, summer internships, health insurance, and other benefits contingent on year-for-year post-graduate employment within DOD.


The U.S. Department of Defense sponsored the NAE-NRC study.  The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies.  They are private, independent nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter.  The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.  For more information, visit  A committee roster follows.



Lorin Hancock, Media Relations Officer

Shaquanna Shields, Media Relations Assistant

Office of News and Public Information

202-334-2138; e-mail


Pre-publication copies of Assuring DOD a Strong Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) Workforce are available from the National Academies Press; tel. 202-334-3313 or 1-800-624-6242 or on the Internet at  Reporters may obtain a copy from the Office of News and Public Information (contacts listed above).

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Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences


Board on Higher Education and Workforce


Committee on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics Workforce Needs for the

U.S. Department of Defense and the U.S. Defense Industrial Base


Norman R. Augustine1,2 (co-chair)

Chairman and CEO
Lockheed Martin Corp. (retired)
Bethesda, Md.


C.D. Mote Jr.2 (co-chair)

Regents Professor and Glenn L. Martin Institute

Professor of Engineering

A. James Clark School of Engineering

University of Maryland

College Park


Burt S. Barnow

Amsterdam Professor of Public Service

Trachtenberg School of Public Policy and Public Administration

George Washington University

Washington, D.C.


James S. Chew

Director of Advanced Technologies and Concepts

Business Development
L-3 Communications
Anaheim, Calif.


Lawrence J. Delaney


Titan Corp. (retired)
Potomac, Md.


Mary L. Good2

Dean Emeritus and Special Adviser to the Chancellor
University of Arkansas
Little Rock


Daniel E. Hastings

Dean for Undergraduate Education, and

Professor of Aeronautics and Engineering Systems

Massachusetts Institute of Technology


Robert J. Hermann2
Private Consultant
Bloomfield, Conn.


J.C. Herz

Batchtags LLC
Alexandria, Va.


Ray O. Johnson

Senior Vice President and Chief Technology Officer

Lockheed Martin Corp.
Bethesda, Md.


Anita K. Jones2
University Professor Emerita
School of Engineering and Applied Science
University of Virginia


Sharon G. Levin

Emeritus Professor of Economics
University of Missouri
St. Louis


Frances S. Ligler2

Senior Scientist
Center for Bio/Molecular Science and Engineering

Naval Research Laboratory

United States Navy
Washington, D.C.


Aaron Lindenberg

Assistant Professor
Stanford University
Stanford, Calif.


Paul D. Nielsen2

Director and CEO
Software Engineering Institute

Carnegie Mellon University


Daniel Oliver


Naval Postgraduate School
United States Navy
Monterey, Calif.


C. Kumar N. Patel1,2
President and CEO
Pranalytica Inc.
Santa Monica, Calif.


Leif E. Peterson

Managing Partner
Advanced HR Concepts and Solutions LLC
Beavercreek, Ohio


Stephen M. Robinson2

Professor Emeritus of Industrial and Systems Engineering and Computer Sciences

University of Wisconsin



Michael S. Teitelbaum

Wertheim Fellow

Harvard Law School, and

Senior Adviser

Alfred P. Sloan Foundation
Guilford, Conn.


Ronald Williams

Vice President
The College Board
Washington, D.C.





Martin Offutt

Study Director



1      Member, National Academy of Sciences

2      Member, National Academy of Engineering