Sustaining the Drone Enterprise: How Manpower Analysis Engendered Policy Reform in the United States Air Force   [open pdf - 741KB]

From the abstract: "The Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), colloquially labeled the 'drone,' has become iconic of American military campaigns this century. However, with surging demand for RPA combat operations, the United States Air Force (USAF) has struggled to train and retain sufficient manpower to operate these aircraft. Earlier efforts to address this challenge relied on military intuition and subjective input instead of objective analysis, engendering significant manpower shortfalls and jeopardizing USAF capacity to complete RPA missions worldwide. As part of a recent effort by the Secretary of Defense to stabilize manpower trends in the USAF RPA enterprise, we developed a dynamic manpower projection model to quantify the potential impact of over fifty policy initiatives. Ultimately, the model illuminated that a combination of five major policy initiatives would most efficiently and expeditiously improve manpower trends. The Air Force has already begun to implement these initiatives as part of a plan that will affect over 1100 Active Duty airmen operating a multibillion-dollar enterprise. In this paper, we discuss the background and complexity of the RPA manpower problem, the metrics that we used to evaluate the manpower system, and the modeling techniques we employed to inform a comprehensive solution to mitigate this manpower shortfall."

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