The Defense Business Board has been around for 20 years, but isn’t particularly well known. It consists of 20 or so private sector executives and the charge of the board is to look at ways to make the DoD a more streamlined organization through studies and recommendations. The board is non paid; however, it has control in most instances in hiring consultants. There are several senior members of DoD that sit on the board as observers or non-voting members.
The board has actually identified wasteful spending and cumbersome practices by the Pentagon in the past (shocking I know). Such things often become paradoxical in that money and practices that are deemed wasteful by the board can result in budget cuts by congress. Other studies, such as comparisons of hiring practices, mentoring programs, and lifecycle costs between DoD and the private sector are a little less game changing and can still have some positive effects.
BUilding Talent for Emerging Technologies Fields
One ongoing study has a report due in the not too distant future. On November 12, 2021, the Deputy Secretary of Defense issued a term of reference letter directing the Defense Business Board to study how the private industry uses methodologies to match talents with jobs as well as reskilling/upskilling its workforce, focusing on the emerging technologies fields. The full letter is found here: Terms of Reference Letter
The subcommittee on the study will submit (if they have not already) its assessment to the full board , who in turn will submit their recommendations to the DoD not later than June 30.
From my experience, upskilling and reskilling was an incredible success. When my Air National Guard Wing lost their flying missions due to DoD decisions in the early to mid-2000s, they were handed cybersecurity and intelligence units to fill the manpower void in their place. Those type of recruits are a little challenging to not only find but train on a tight timeline. So we looked for all of the aircraft maintainers, aircrew, and other flying support personnel that were in peril of losing their full or part time positions to recruit to the new missions. Some had chosen retirement, a few others switched ANG units, but the majority of them elected a new career in our Wing. A small number had to retake their ASVAB tests to qualify for cyber and intelligence jobs, and they were happy to do so. A few years later, our Munitions Squadron was vested, while our other missions increased and the same transition on a smaller scale occurred. The results of reskilling were resoundingly positive (in fact, several of those members are still in the unit today) as our new missions were off and running to the praise of leaders at every level.
The Benefits of Upskilling in the DoD
Why this worked so well is still subject to some debate but I would offer the following as a very unscientific guess:
- The reskilled already believed in the culture of the organization and didn’t have to learn it.
- Maintainers and aircrews are very checklist-oriented, making it a natural translation to cyber defense and intelligence analysis protocols.
- Buy-in started from the top-down with both senior officers and enlisted changing careers with little to no grumbling.
While “emerging technologies” could mean anything from cyber, robotics, artificial intelligence or GIS platforms, some of it will redefine or even eliminate existing jobs. Thus some of the decisions by those choosing to reskill will be based on “self preservation”, just like in my example; however, success and that term are not always in common. The results of this study are worth watching out for, as it will continue to impact the progression of the DoD workforce.