Don't Stem the Tide

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The National Academies, America’s official science, engineering and medicine advisers, are recommending the Defense Department seriously consider loosening requirements for security clearances for some its STEM positions.

Recruiting and promoting a STEM – or science, technology, engineering and mathematics – workforce has been a leading concern for U.S. leaders and executives for decades, but it has come into harsher contrast since globalization and post-9/11 immigration problems blossomed over the last decade.

Now a National Academies committee co-chaired by famed former Lockheed Martin chief executive Norman Augustine said in an Oct. 25 report that “less-than-effective” management of the Pentagon’s STEM workforce has inhibited the department from finding and keeping top talent.

“STEM assignments at the DOD that involve more procedure and bureaucracy than technical challenge and mission are unlikely to satisfy the high-quality STEM professionals the [Pentagon] needs to recruit," notes C.D. Mote, professor of engineering at the University of Maryland in College Park, and the other committee co-chair.

The panel recommends the department re-examine its need for security clearances in select positions to permit even non-U.S. citizens to enter portions of the talent pool, and says the federal H-1B visa system should be modified to provide Defense with substantially more talent in areas of need such as cybersecurity.

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