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5th Manpower Requirements Squadron employs science to allocate personnel

TINKER AIR FORCE BASE, Okla. -- A century ago, Frederick Winslow Taylor published a book in which he described how the application of scientific methods to the management of workers -- using a stopwatch and motion studies -- could greatly improve productivity.

Today, the 5th Manpower Requirements Squadron at Tinker Air Force Base, employing similar scientific methods, develops tools and models to predict and validate personnel requirements throughout Air Force Materiel Command.

The mission of the 5th MRS is to develop comprehensive models that provide Air Force decision-makers with objective data to determine manpower requirements for use in allocating resources, said Lt. Col. Tracy Hunter, commander of the 5th MRS.

"We look at a unit's workload and their processes," she said. Management engineering entails identifying minimum manpower requirements to accomplish approved missions, she related.

"Our objective is not to make cuts," the colonel hastened to add. "We perform studies to standardize requirements and identify efficiencies." Their studies sometimes result in personnel reductions, but often requirements are increased based on increased workload, she said. "Once we establish the requirements, the hard decisions are made by the major commands." The MAJCOMS "decide what will be financed."

A management engineering study can take as much as eight months or more to complete, said Colonel Hunter, who earned a master's degree in operations research. The depth and complexity of the study, the number of bases involved, and limited personnel, all affect the time required to perform an analysis.

The 5th MRS has 37 personnel authorizations, divided almost equally between military and civilian employees, the colonel said. The squadron is currently engaged in 14 manpower studies, including an aircraft fueling study and a high-visibility analysis of the Air Force Nuclear Weapons Center staffing level.

"We come in unbiased" and perform the necessary research, Colonel Hunter said. Their analysis justifies the number of people, military and civilian alike, who are needed to perform a specific task.

Colonel Hunter, who has a background in acquisition, also is assisting in a Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Initiative launched by Frank Kendall, Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology and Logistics.

"A right-sized, requirements-based, and properly skilled acquisition workforce is vital to the nation's military readiness, increased buying power, and substantial long-term savings," Under Secretary Kendall wrote in a memorandum in September. "We must ensure our acquisition Total Force capacity and capability are requirements-based," he continued, asking components leaders to continue to "improve the processes and tools used to validate manpower requirements."

Before a management engineering study is undertaken, the 5th MRS first determines whether a study is even feasible. "Maybe what's proposed would affect only a handful of people, so that probably won't be a high priority," Colonel Hunter said.

If a manpower study is deemed to be feasible, 5th MRS personnel then familiarize themselves with the prevailing conditions to determine the size, scope and potential complexity of the analysis.

Next on the agenda is design/study planning, to "develop a clear roadmap" to guide the study, followed by measurement, and then the analysis/model phase in which data is validated, statistical analysis is conducted, and a manpower model is developed. Afterward, a final report is produced, reviewed by the impacted MAJCOMS and Headquarters Air Force, and then published.

Tinker has one of five manpower requirement squadrons in the Air Force: the 1st is at Randolph AFB in Texas, the 2nd MRS is at NASA/Langley in Virginia, the 3rd MRS is at Scott AFB in Illinois, and the 4th is at Peterson AFB in Colorado. There also are two manpower requirement flights: at Lackland AFB in Texas and at Ramstein AFB in Germany. All five squadrons and the two flights report to the Air Force Personnel Center at Randolph.

Each MRS and MRF is assigned a major command area. The 5th MRS is assigned the AFMC; the 2nd MRS is assigned the Air Combat Command and Pacific Air Forces; etc.
The squadrons and flights assist each other on manpower requirement studies whenever possible, Colonel Hunter said. "We rely on each other to minimize costs of accomplishing studies across the Air Force."