AFIT must have military leadership in order to maintain preeminence and relevance in the years ahead. That’s why I included language which would provide that top level military leadership while simultaneously ensuring educational continuity by establishing a Senior Executive Service level Provost position. This effort closely mirrors the leadership structure at the U.S. Navy operated Post Graduate School and is identical to legislation that Sen. Rob Portman and I have since introduced.
The proposal allows for the Secretary of the Air Force to fill the top slot at AFIT with either an active duty Colonel or a retired Brigadier General or higher. This would ensure the AFIT retains the attention of top level leadership while providing the Secretary of the Air Force discretion as to filling the position with active duty or retired personnel. Furthermore this proposal is consistent with Secretary Gates’ goal of reducing the number of flag officers in our armed forces.
With a number of scientists eligible for retirement at our government laboratories, those facilities need to have an edge to stay competitive with the commercial market and bring talented personnel into Department of Defense. Our nation’s Defense Laboratories are experiencing both a critical hiring need and a severe shortage of engineers and scientists with advanced degrees. My language included via an amendment while the NDAA was being considered by the full House Armed Services Committee, eliminates the sunset provision of the Defense Laboratory hiring authority which I had placed in the Fiscal Year 2009 NDAA.
The provision allows AFRL to waive some advertising and preference requirements, but maintains the requirement that applicants meet all relevant qualifications. Since the enactment of the legislation, AFRL and the other defense laboratories have been able to reduce the hiring time by weeks and has become a critical tool of AFRL personnel management to hire the best scientific talent. In fact, a recent Defense Department report showed that “direct hire” generally cut the number of days it took to hire an applicant from 147 to 91.
This bill also allows the AFRL to play a role in the decisions on Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) testing needs. AFRL has a number of experts who have pioneered the expanding field of unmanned flight. Ohio, the birthplace of flight will continue that tradition by playing a key role in integrating UAS into the National Airspace System. The House Armed Services Committee has noted that the availability of special use airspace is important to research related to UAS and the needs of our national defense
The approved bill with this language urges the Department of Defense and the Federal Aviation Administration to place a high priority on meeting national defense needs for special use airspace related to UAS research, including addressing defense needs for special use airspace for research in “detect and destroy” technologies. This important both for Wright Patterson Air Force Base and potential testing facilities like the Wilmington Air Park.
As the National Defense Authorization Act makes its way through the Senate, I will be working with our Senators to ensure that these provisions remain a part of this legislation. Our community has the opportunity to benefit from these provisions through increased educational training, swifter hiring processes and an expanded field for new research possibilities. I look forward to this bill passing the Senate and making its way to the President’s desk to become law.