New Acquisition Guidance Leverages Diverse Talent Pool for Competitive Edge

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Department of the Air Force issued a new guidance memorandum Aug. 4 that implements policy and standards for establishing anthropometric — or body size — design specifications for all acquisitions programs using current male and female recruitment population data.

Air Force Guidance Memorandum 2020-63-148 establishes that all program managers work with their lead commands to use the central 95% of the U.S. recruiting population body size when defining design specifications for aircrew flight equipment and new aircrew or operator station designs.

“With accelerating disruptive technologies — like artificial intelligence, ubiquitous sensing, and autonomy — rewriting Air Power for all nations, not just the U.S., continuing our rich tradition of operator advantage is paramount to overcome unprecedented battlefield challenges,” Dr. Will Roper, assistant secretary of the Air Force for acquisition, technology and logistics, said in a memo distributed across the department. “Ensuring our maximum recruitment population can be that deciding factor nearly doubles our odds in what is already a stacked deck. The time to move out is now.”

The guidance updates minimum size design specifications for DAF flight training that is presently based on a 1967 male pilot survey, which stands in stark contrast to current body size statistics according to the Center for Disease Control’s National Health Statistic Report (December 2018), Mean Body Weight, Height, Waist Circumference, and Body Mass Index Among Adults: United States, 1999-2000 Through 2015-2016.

The 1967 study excludes 44% of the U.S. female population — including 74% of African Americans, 72% of Latino Americans and 61% of Asian Americans — unless they receive a waiver. Although waivers can be granted, the ability to pursue broad aircraft opportunities is limited. For example, the F-15 Eagle currently accommodates only 8.9% of women.

Roper said the guidance “reflects both the important diversity principle and practical necessity of leveraging our nation’s entire talent pool” to address long-term military competition.

The guidance requires acquisitions policy language in contracts that will define a minimum accommodation level and encourage companies to suit the widest possible range of statutes as a competitive edge.

As an interim measure, the guidance includes an attachment with eight anthropometric cases to be used as the basis for current compliance. The Air Force Lifecycle Management Center will conduct a new representative survey to supersede the interim guidance and previous studies. AFLCMC’s Airman’s Accommodations Laboratory is scheduled to embark on a three-year study beginning this fall with career enlisted aviators, who currently do not have an anthropometric-based standard. 

“This study will finally provide the opportunity to create a stronger, more capable force, utilizing the strengths of a diverse team representative of our great nation,” said Chief Master Sgt. Chris Dawson, Air National Guard CEA career field manager.

The CEA anthropometric study will also provide the opportunity to re-accomplish studies for officer crew positions on the more than 30 CEA aircraft. CEAs make up nearly 35% of the Total Force aviator community and up until now have eliminated candidates based upon the 1967 standard.

Dawson and fellow Air Force Women’s Initiatives Team members, Lt. Col. Jessica Ruttenber and Maj. Andrea Harrington, along with Dr. Jennifer Whitestone of the Airman’s Accommodation Laboratory, were part of a team to elevate the matter to department leadership to initiate the new guidance.

“This policy is a great sign of forward progress and will be instrumental in changing the future,” said Lt. Col. Cathyrine Armandie, Air Education and Training Command chief of rated diversity. “It’s incredibly humbling to work with a team that is advancing opportunities for Airmen now and generations to come.”