High Correlation in CPIP & RAND Study Results

Two studies for one problem

On 27 April 2017 the RAND Corporation published an Air Force Special Operations Command-funded study titled, “Stress and Dissatisfaction in the Air Force’s Remotely Piloted Aircraft Community: Focus Group Findings.” RWA extends our deepest appreciation to the research team and authors: Dr. Chaitra Hardison, Eyal Aharoni, Christopher Larson, Steven Trochlil, and Alexander C. Hou. The article is well wrought, deeply insightful, and accurately articulates the challenges the Persistent Attack and Reconnaissance community has faced in the wake of exponential demand for its capabilities. Nothing can replace reading the report in full and RWA recommends Air Force members and civilian leadership in the executive and legislative branches of government do so.

Around the same time that the RAND Corporation team began their work, General Herbert “Hawk” Carlisle, as Commander of Air Combat Command, acknowledged the stressed state of the MQ‑1/9 community and commissioned the MQ‑1/9 Culture and Process Improvement Program (CPIP). In September of 2015, two teams of experts from many career fields visited twelve MQ‑1/9 bases where they conducted interviews with Airmen from all segments of the RPA enterprise spread across the Active Duty, Reserve, and Guard components. They compiled their recommendations, drafted a formal report and forwarded their survey results to the COMACC.

The CPIP process was considerably more practical and hands-on than the analysis conducted by the RAND Corporation. Despite the differences in approach, the teams found the same situation and had similar recommendations in many areas. The following is a comparison of language in the CPIP team outbrief to COMACC and the RAND Corporation’s recommendations:

RAND Corporation report recommendations CPIP Outbrief to COMACC
Reduce the workload on RPA personnel. … This can be done in several ways: lowering CAP requirements temporarily to allow manning to catch up to demand; manning the career field at 100 percent (even if other, more-establisehd career fields are feeling stretched thin); and raising crew-to-CAP ratios.” “Fill current authorizations to 100 percent.”

“Cut CAPs until we’re at 10:1 crew ratio.”

“Update manpower models first, then complete total force manpower study that supports the recommended strategic vision.  Include deployed in-place costs.  Include RPA experts in discussions.”

Establish a combat-to-dwell policy for RPA personnel.  Institute a combat-to-dwell ratio for RPA personnel to help mitigate potential cumulative negative effects of combat exposure, high OPTEMPO, and shift work; to provide time for personnel to spend with their families; and to provide time for personnel to complete continuation training and other developmental activities.” “Provide adequate dwell time to conduct realistic mission qualification training to make everyone a “full up round” and complete verification prior to CMR like other tactical aircraft.”

“Provide adequate dwell time and manning to conduct realistic continuation training in multiple mission sets.”

“There is a lack of policy and guidance.  Existing policy and guidance does not fully integrate into the RPA community.”

“Find ways to attract and retain RPA personnel. The Air Force needs to take all steps possible to attract high-quality accessions and prevent the loss of qualified RPA personnel. It must continue to offer accession initiatives and offer bonuses and incentive pay, incentives the Air Force well understands and routinely uses in other career fields. The Air Force also needs to take steps to address the concerns raised by members of the RPA community. This includes ensuring that there are clear, attainable, and rewarding paths to job growth, including leadership and staff assignments and development and education opportunities commensurate with other desirable career fields. It also includes exploring the addition of new RPA base locations to allow personnel greater permanent change of station (PCS) opportunities and possibly to eliminate the need for shift work. Addressing as many areas of dissatisfaction as possible will be critical to enticing new personnel.” “Build and execute a strategic vision.  Manning, career progression, base locations.”

“…contractors are successfully competing for the same workforce.”  “Stop [Government Owned, Contractor Operated] growth until we’re healthy.”

“Established [High Performance Team] to look at revamping bonus structures for all rated officers.”

“Fully rate 18X – Flight Pay, etc.”

“Increase MAJCOM [staff] RPA manpower ASAP.”

“IDE slots – RPA quota & add specific Jt/Int’l school seats.”

“Develop plan for 18A/11U to fill staff billets with RPA pilots at 100% in 3 years.”

“Increase basing options via new CONUS locations or ‘Follow the Sun’.”

“Expand basing options/Implement [Selective Re-enlistment Bonus].”

“Continue to improve the RPA human factors environment. The Air Force must pay attention to human factors issues, such as climate control, ergonomic design, and equipment upgrades. Although these types of human factors issues were raised occasionally in our focus groups, we did not delve into them in detail, and future research should therefore explore these issues more deeply. We note that the Air Force has a program underway to deal with equipment issues, and the other human factors issues fall under the control of the installations. Responding to these types of human factors issues could go a long way in addressing perceptions that the force is not valued.” “Update RPA GCS design to reflect current DOD HMI standards.”

“Conduct thorough study of human factor requirements of RPA crew (pilot, SO,MIC).”

“Use metrics to continuously evaluate the health of the RPA community. An essential ingredient for ensuring the long-term sustainment, readiness, and well-being of the force is to define and implement data tracking mechanisms and associated performance metrics. Toward that end, we recommend implementation of a brief, annual survey of all RPA career fields, both to take the temperature of the force at strategic points in time and to solicit reflections and suggestions. We also recommend instituting a process for soliciting detailed feedback from the force about needed changes on a regular, ongoing basis and for communicating the ways leadership addresses those concerns. The Air Force must also track and analyze data on key aspects of RPA personnel in the career field, including such data as temporary duty, PCSs, and deployments, as well as leave requests and denials, professional military education opportunities, and career-broadening assignments. Tracking data over time would enable leadership to assess baselines and subsequently track improvements after policy changes are made.” “General Officer advocate-permanent office (2-Star plus).”

“Cross AFSC representation on a weapon system team.”

“Implement the solutions of the CPIP results.”

“Give us your heroes – recognize strategic accomplishments.”

“Need long term support to carry through the CPIP recommendations and execution arm of this effort.”

“Individuals from the enterprise (all functions) must support implementation.”

“Public Affairs will be critical.”

“Communication must reach all levels.”

Silver bullets

In their concluding thoughts, the RAND team identified that, “there is no silver bullet to solving the community’s morale issues.”  The CPIP team also summarized the severity of the problem identifying that the community was “[a]pproaching strategic collapse” and that there were “no silver bullets, no easy or cheap solutions.”

To date, General Carlisle followed through in large and meaningful ways. The Persistent Attack and Reconnaissance community will be forever grateful. His actions to preserve and promote the integrity of this force—a force which flew 49% of all operational Air Force flight hours in 2016—bring permanence to his legacy as a leader and a challenge to all that follow. However, there is still much work to be done. While RWA looks forward to tracking and reporting CPIP and RAND study implementation and effectiveness, we even more eagerly anticipate the opportunities to explore the simultaneous combat and taxpayer value that remote warfare is uniquely suited to providing… more power projection at lower cost!

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