A capable workforce is central to the effectiveness of any government, military, or industry. Opaque processes and standards that lag behind the private sector contribute to recruitment challenges in both the uniformed and civilian national security spaces, while poor and inconsistent management practices endanger the ability to retain top talent. Encouraging and incentivizing the next generation of professionals to participate fully in the workforce across the security sphere is critical to maintaining the United States' competitive edge over near-peer adversaries. CNAS experts are sharpening the conversation about talent management in the military and across the civilian sector. Continue reading this edition of Sharper to explore their ideas and recommendations.
The Future of Civilians in National Security
While there are qualified individuals who want to serve and are actively seeking opportunities, employers within the federal government aren’t always able to access them. What is standing in the way? A new report offers a response to the demonstrated need for a well-qualified civilian workforce in American national security institutions as challenges grow. The authors offer recommendations for Congress, government agencies, higher learning institutions, and individuals to provide a roadmap to increase the government’s access to national security talent.
Technology Competition: A Battle for Brains
Emerging technologies—including artificial intelligence (AI), quantum information science and technology (QIST), and biotechnology—will transform people’s lives and work worldwide. In a CNAS report, author Sam Howell evaluates the national and economic security opportunities and risks that emerging technologies such as AI, quantum information science and technology, and biotechnology present, particularly within the context of heightened U.S.-China competition. The author concludes the report with a series of recommendations to maximize existing workforce efforts for the future.
Analyzing the 2022 National Defense Strategy
“The NDS rightly focuses on the need to cultivate the right workforce needed to execute integrated deterrence. DoD and the military services need uniformed and civilian talent with the critical skills necessary to deter or, if necessary, defeat the adversary,” writes Katherine Kuzminski for CNAS. “...The NDS further underscores the need for an active plan to improve the hiring practices for DoD and military service civilians—a traditionally lengthy process that may dissuade otherwise interested, competitive individuals—in order to capture their talent in service of national security.”
Rethinking Human Capital: Before and After Service
The DoD and the Department of Veterans Affairs are investing significant attention to and evaluation of existing policies and processes to ensure that the U.S. military is the most advanced fighting force in the world and that those who have served in the military are cared for once their time in service has ended. On Wednesday, February 9, 2022 CNAS hosted a discussion with the key advisors to the Secretary of Defense and Secretary of the VA on issues of human capital and diversity, equity, and inclusion.
How Zoom has Reduced Barriers to Entry in National Security
”Given that a coffee or happy hour required physical proximity, most of the individuals I had the pleasure of mentoring in the past were either already located in Washington, DC, or attending elite graduate programs with the resources and networks somewhat necessary to break into the field” writes Katherine Kuzminski in Inkstick. ”The shift to the virtual environment assists those who may have been overlooked in the past: students and young professionals of modest means, from underrepresented groups, and from the midwestern state schools who might otherwise not know how to break into our field. It also gives us much broader access to the full range of talent across the country.”
Schedule F: An Unwelcome Resurgence
”Career executives bring program and policy expertise from their long familiarity with their agencies, which can help them manage programs better and work more effectively with external stakeholders and inside actors,” argues Loren DeJonge Schulman in Lawfare. ”Politically appointed leaders can bring energy, risk-taking and responsiveness into an agency’s decision-making process, which can improve performance. When leaders are matched with missions, agendas and teams that align with their distinct approaches and perspectives, they can find success in creating a government that is more efficient, innovative and responsive to the needs of the public.”
The State of U.S. Technology Talent: A Whole-of-Nation Approach to Bolstering the Tech Talent Pool
“Robust cooperation between tech talent stakeholders is important because America’s competitive edge will erode without adequate talent stores to drive sustained innovation forward,” writes Hannah Kelley for Markle. “Despite how recent layoffs may be perceived, the United States continues to face a significant talent shortage across critical technology areas as companies struggle to fill and maintain key positions—be they managerial, operational, or technical—to lead in a rapidly evolving technological landscape. Federal, state, and local governments, research institutions, civil society, and private industry each play a critical role in capturing and developing the U.S. technology workforce. They must work together to build up U.S. tech talent for current and future needs.”
The United States’ Quantum Talent Shortage Is a National Security Vulnerability
“The United States is at an important inflection point. Though practical use cases remain limited, quantum technologies are maturing rapidly, and several countries could surpass the United States as the global QIST leader,” argues Sam Howell in Foreign Policy. “The United States has QIST advantages but can only maximize them by first prioritizing the development of a robust, diverse, and agile quantum workforce. Access to talent is a key factor that will determine which country ultimately wins the quantum race. The U.S. government, academia, and private industry share responsibility for maintaining the United States’ lead.”
Why Is Public Service a Members-Only Club?
“A more concerted effort is needed to market pathways programs through universities and social media spaces to reach current and former students,” observes Celina Pouchet in Military Times. ”Pathways program application windows should be extended beyond the 2-year timeframe as many graduates are often unaware of their existence until it is too late. This leaves prospects to incur more debt through continued education otherwise not necessary, a pivot to private sector competitors or total abandonment of potential. The next generation of leaders in public service are jumping through costly and complicated hoops for the chance to serve their country when they should be able to enter through the front door.”
About the Sharper Series
The CNAS Sharper series features curated analysis and commentary from CNAS experts on the most critical challenges in U.S. foreign policy. From the future of America's relationship with China to the state of U.S. sanctions policy and more, each collection draws on the reports, interviews, and other commentaries produced by experts across the Center to explore how America can strengthen its competitive edge.
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