Success in a Joint Environment

Research Questions

  1. What are the implications of broadening joint development to all airmen?
  2. To what extent does the Air Force consider attributes in its current recruiting processes and accession programs?
  3. What attributes should the Air Force look for during recruitment and accession that indicate joint potential?
  4. How can opportunities be leveraged during recruitment and accession to identify candidate airmen who possess these attributes?
  5. What next steps should the Air Force take?

One area of interest among U.S. Air Force leaders is whether it is possible to place more emphasis on joint participation at the earliest stages of an airman’s career — in particular, during recruiting and accession. Researchers investigated whether the Air Force could improve its ability to recruit leaders and team members who are likely to be successful in a joint environment and whether current practices are aligned with this goal.

The researchers conducted discussions with stakeholders in the Air Force, performed a literature review, and developed an approach to identify relevant attributes from joint development requirements that might position accession candidates for success in a joint environment. The researchers identified 22 attributes for success in a joint environment. Full descriptions of the 22 attributes are provided in a companion document.

Key Findings

  • No comprehensive set of attributes or other requirements was relevant to identifying joint potential.
  • Some current processes collect information that is related to attributes, but information either is not collected or is collected but not used to assess attributes of airmen in a systematic way.
  • The research team identified 22 attributes that would position candidates for success in a joint environment. Because this was a first look at identifying attributes, further research will be required before these attributes are incorporated into Air Force planning.


  • The Air Force should establish official joint development guidance. A clear statement of goals is needed to guide policy actions to improve the joint proficiency of airmen.
  • It might be more effective for the Air Force to prioritize developing joint proficiency in a portion of the force.
  • A process by which the Air Force can select and update attributes should be codified. The approach used by the study team offers a starting point.
  • Attribute data should be systematically and uniformly collected and tracked. Significant opportunities to gather information from accession candidates in a uniform way should not be missed.
  • Existing opportunities to assess for attributes should be leveraged, including formal assessment tools and information-gathering during interviews with potential recruits.
  • In developing future marketing efforts, the Air Force should consider whether and how attributes should be included.
  • The attributes that are prominent in joint requirements, are more difficult to develop, and can be assessed with existing tools should be identified and prioritized. Examples of such attributes include self-control, openness to experience, integrity, and motivation to succeed.
  • A pilot program should be considered to identify and track attributes.
  • Other tools (such as recognized tests for specific attributes or structured interview protocols) that might be appropriate and that the Air Force can draw on in evaluating alternative methods should be evaluated.
  • The Air Force might consider adding to the foundational competencies attributes that are not aligned with them and using the single merged list for development, recruiting, and accession.

Research conducted by

The research reported here was commissioned by the Department of the Air Force and conducted within the Workforce, Development, and Health Program of RAND Project AIR FORCE.

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