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Teachable moment at Air Force Academy 

A long-awaited study of Air Force Academy faculty composition calls for the hiring of more civilian instructors, not only to better serve cadets academically but also to save the Air Force money and not hamper career progression of officers assigned to teach.

The RAND Corp. undertook the study in 2010 at the behest of the Air Force, amid complaints that some military faculty weren't qualified to teach the subjects they were teaching. It was due in 2011, but released only last week.

The 202-page report makes four recommendations, including increasing the number of civilian instructors to comprise 40 percent of the 570 instructors. In the past, that number's been as low as 25 percent.

The Air Force and the academy "identified one of the primary challenges as finding military officers with the required advanced academic degrees, particularly doctorates," the study reports. Even when officers are sponsored by the service to get certain degrees, issues related to timing, their career paths and other assignment policies "often result in a very small pool of qualified officers available for faculty duty."

That's why RAND recommends using officers to teach earlier in their careers rather than later, assuming they have the proper credentials. Right now, teaching assignments "do not always fit designated career paths and result in missed opportunities to gain operational and command experience compared with non-faculty peers."

Researchers also found that military instructors cost more when retirement, health insurance, relocation expense and the cost of the advanced degrees are factored in.

The academy didn't respond to specific questions about the study, the cost of which was not disclosed, but rather issued a statement contending it corroborated the academy's approach to its faculty mix. Air Force Deputy Chief of Staff for Manpower, Personnel and Services Lt. Gen. Darrell Jones added, "Future assignment of military and civilian instructors will be informed by the study. However, future [Department of Defense] budget levels, the effects of sequestration and the uncertainty of future defense authorizations will also come into play."

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