Tuition assistance allows Airmen to reach educational goals Published March 7, 2008 By Staff Sgt. Julie Weckerlein Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs WASHINGTON (AFPN) -- The Air Force Military Tuition Assistance program, which allows Airmen to reach educational goals, recently identified an opportunity to link force development initiatives with the program after receiving feedback from the 2007 Air Force Audit Agency. "Historically, MilTA has been used as a recruitment incentive wherein individuals are offered the opportunity to work towards personal higher education goals, while serving our nation," said Joe McDade, the director of Force Development. "While focused on enhancing Airmen's educational levels, force development seeks to deliberately link advanced education with Air Force institutional and occupational requirements." Allowing Airmen to purse higher education benefits both the individual and the Air Force, he said. "A college education extends beyond building an area of expertise," Mr. McDade said. "It also develops unique competencies we value as an institution including strategic thinking, analytical abilities, and communication skills, which serve to further develop critical leadership skills. Advanced degrees, whether focused on individual pursuits or directly linked with force development goals, are a win-win for all of us." The Air Force Audit Agency report stated that 10 percent of the military personnel degree plans reviewed were unrelated to the Airmen's specialties, using as an example an aerospace propulsion journeyman who received money to earn a real estate agent license. The report recommended limiting MilTA benefits to educational goals specifically linked to force development. However, the recommendation to limit benefits would erode the recruiting and retention goals of the original program, said Mr. McDade. "Rather than an all or nothing approach, we're pursuing a dual-purposed approach," he said. "Allow individuals with personal ambitions beyond the Air Force to pursue their own educational goals, while at the same time, providing Airmen interested in furthering their Air Force professional goals an opportunity to do so by linking the programs." This ensures the Air Force maintains the recruiting and retention benefits inherent in the program while also providing synergy with force development efforts, Mr. McDade said. Efforts to instill a dual-purposed approach include ensuring institutional competencies are synchronized within the MilTA program, while also working with career field managers to identify advanced degrees that are relevant to each functional community. In a 2006 letter to Airmen, both Secretary of the Air Force Michael W. Wynne and Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. T. Michael Moseley reiterated the importance of advanced education. "In a smaller, leaner and more expeditionary-focused Air Force, it is essential that our Airmen have the knowledge and competency to accomplish our mission," they wrote. "Both of us want to encourage Airmen, not discourage them, from pursuing advanced education."