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Rare Birds: Understanding and Addressing Air Force Underrepresentation in Senior Joint Positions in the Post-Goldwater-Nichols Era

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RAND Corporation Santa Monica

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This report draws on the existing literature on joint leadership, current data on USAF representation in senior joint positions and JTFs, and project team interviews with active-duty and retired USAF general officers, retired U.S. Army and U.S. Navy general officers, and retired Office of the Secretary of Defense OSD civilians who were involved in the senior joint leader selection process. The discussion that follows contains references to the interviews, and, unless otherwise indicated, all quotations come from these interviews. This report aims to spur a broader debate within the USAF regarding its goals for joint senior leader development and to offer broad recommendations for reforming the joint senior leader development process. It describes how various sources view the relative importance of senior joint positions and examines the USAFs representation in those positions. However, it does not make any judgments about which specific positions would most immediately benefit from increased Air Force representation, nor does it speculate on whether joint senior leader reforms would be worth the inevitable costs. The report also stops short of identifying specific actions the Air Force should take to increase its competitiveness for any particular senior joint position. Instead, our main goal is to help the Air Force think through what it hopes to achieve by reforming joint senior leader development and what trade-offs might be required. Once those decisions are made, further qualitative and quantitative analysis could be done to determine the career and education pathways that would increase the competitiveness of Air Force officers for the USAFs top priority joint senior positions. The report proceeds as follows. Chapter 2 discusses how the GNA andor changes in the international environment dramatically boosted the power and, therefore, the influence of three categories of joint positions Joint Staff positions, combatant command positions, and JTF positions.

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Technical Report



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Approved For Public Release;

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