Science & Tech Skills Increasingly Vital

STEM GFX

(Graphic illustration by Jessica L. Tozer)

A senior DOD official said the Defense Department needs to be thinking now about how to best recruit a workforce skilled in science and technology, which will be increasingly vital to national security.

Reginald Brothers, deputy assistant secretary of defense for research, told a conference aimed at spurring more young Americans to take up such careers that the pace and adoption of technology are accelerating at such a rate that the department envisions a commensurate need to have a strong, technical and scientific workforce for the nation to remain competitive and secure.

One problem, he said, is that minorities are not choosing those careers in great numbers, and within a few decades, they will be the majority in the workforce.

“We have to be thinking right now [about] how do we motivate, how do we train this population of underrepresented minorities and women?” Brothers said. “Most of these people are not going into these areas.”

Brothers and representatives of other federal agencies and industry spoke at the conference, called the “Summit on Meeting the President’s STEM Call to Action” to discuss the need for more people to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering and math, and to explain how federal agencies are responding to President Barack Obama’s call to increase those numbers over the next decade.

Brothers said the Defense Department has invested $150 million in 16 such programs. “We’re trying to excite minorities and women,” he told the audience, noting that part of the challenge is that people considering such careers don’t often associate them with the Defense Department.

“We really don’t brand ourselves in a way to let people see us,” he said.

The lure of much higher paying jobs offered in Silicon Valley is another challenge the department faces in recruiting people with scientific and technological skills, Brothers said.

“When we see Google, Intel, etc., how do we attract people to our workforce?” he asked. The diversity of work offered at the Defense Department is key, he said.

“If you work at some of these companies, you will be well paid, but you will work on one thing for quite a while,” he said. “If you work at the Defense Department, you will work on a variety of problems throughout your career.”

By Nick Simeone, www.defense.gov
American Forces Press Service

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