Military Education:

Reporting Requirements on Air Force Enlisted Personnel Attending Officer Training

GAO-18-649R: Published: Sep 5, 2018. Publicly Released: Sep 5, 2018.

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What GAO Found

In 2016, the Air Force began a pilot program enrolling selected enlisted personnel (Chief Master Sergeants) in the Air War College's 10-month officer in-residence professional military education training course. The Air Force provided information in its April 2018 report to Congress that addressed each of the ten statutory requirements regarding enlisted personnel attending the Air War College officer in-residence training. For example, the Air Force included information on the:

  • Purpose and objectives for enlisted personnel attending the course. The Air Force intended to target a small number of personnel for developmental opportunities in addition to what is being offered in training for enlisted personnel and to develop a small number of high-potential Chief Master Sergeants to potentially fill the most senior- and strategic-level Air Force and joint-service enlisted positions. 
  • Prerequisites for enlisted personnel attending the course and the process for selecting attendees. According to the Air Force, attendees required a bachelor's degree and 18 to 23 years of service. Attendees were selected by a screening board comprising general officers, the Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force, and four Major and Combatant Command Chief Master Sergeants. 
  • Impact of the enlisted personnel's attendance on the availability of slots for officers and the resources required for enlisted personnel to attend. The impact, according to the Air Force, is negligible because no officer was denied the opportunity to attend the Air War College due to this pilot program. The Air Force-estimated cost was approximately $240,000 per attendee, for a total of approximately $2.6 million for the 11 attendees who have graduated. 

GAO identified additional information related to Chief Master Sergeants attending the 10-month officer in-residence course that may be useful for congressional oversight of enlisted personnel attending officers' professional military education training. For example, GAO found the following:

  • Of the 11 Chief Master Sergeants who had graduated from the course, 1 had been assigned and 2 were scheduled for assignments in strategic-level positions within the Air Force ahead of the Chief's 18 through 24 months normal developmental progression period. The remaining eight graduates (1 from 2016-2017) were on track with targeted developmental progression. 
  • The Air Force had an average of 100 slots in the officer in-residence training for academic years 2016-2017 and 2017-2018, and not all of those slots were filled even after being offered to Air Force enlisted personnel and other sister services' officers who were on the alternate training list. A combined total of 182 Air Force officers and enlisted personnel graduated from the officer in-residence professional military education training course (91 in 2017 and 91 in 2018), meaning that there were 18 Air Force funded slots that were not filled. 

Why GAO Did This Study

In 2016, the Air Force began a pilot program of enrolling selected senior enlisted personnel (Chief Master Sergeants) to the Air War College's officer in-residence professional military education training course to better develop enlisted personnel who had demonstrated a high potential for serving in strategic level positions and ultimately prepare those personnel to serve directly within the Air Force headquarters and joint military structures.

Congress included a provision in the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 that the Air Force submit a report to Congress addressing requirements regarding the attendance of enlisted personnel at the officer in-residence professional military education training course. This act also contained a provision that GAO assess the report. The Air Force submitted its report in April 2018. GAO (1) assesses the extent to which the Air Force's report addresses the reporting requirements and (2) presents additional information that may be useful to Congress in its oversight of enlisted personnel attending officers' professional military training. GAO compared the Air Force's report with the statutory reporting requirements, analyzed relevant information available to the Air Force as it prepared its report, and interviewed agency officials.

What GAO Recommends

GAO is not making recommendations in this report. GAO provided a draft of this report to the Air Force and incorporated its technical comments as appropriate.

For more information, contact Jason Bair at 202-512-6881or bairj@gao.gov.

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