Air Force seeks nominations for the Dr. Heather Wilson STEM, CSAF Ph.D. programs

  • Published
  • Secretary of the Air Force Public Affairs

The Air Force opened the nomination window April 1 for the 2021 Dr. Heather Wilson science, technology, engineering and math Ph.D. program and the Chief of Staff of the Air Force captains’ prestigious Ph.D. program.

These programs offer the opportunity for three captains each to become Airmen-scholars and earn doctoral degrees in STEM or strategic studies, respectively, with the goal of building Air Force and joint leaders who can communicate and exercise critical thinking skills across enterprises.

“The critical thinking ability and technical skills gained through attaining a Ph.D. degree are essential to solve our toughest problems and maintain our current intellectual overmatch,” said Benjamin Caro, Air Force Airman-scholar Ph.D. management office chief. “The great power competition our nation faces requires Airmen-scholars who are operationally proficient and strategic leaders capable of multi-domain warfighting superiority.”

Recently, the Air Force centralized these two programs, along with the reserve officers’ training corps graduate scholars program and developing the Airmen-we-need programs, into the Air Force Airman-scholar Ph.D. management office, which falls under the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel and services.

This new office is chartered to establish a talent-management strategy to deliberately recruit, develop, utilize and retain officers in support of Air Force positions requiring research and scholarship for the purpose of ensuring these Airmen-scholars are managed strategically across the entire enterprise.

The Ph.D. management team will function as an integrator and facilitate partnerships between functional authorities, Air Force general officer and colonel management, and developmental teams to develop and execute a talent-management strategy for Ph.D. expertise and leadership incorporating functional unique, Air Force enterprise, and joint requirements.

Packages for both programs are due to the Ph.D. management office by June 15, with tight qualification criteria and deadlines. Officers submitting their packages are encouraged to immediately begin applying to their schools of interest. Programs begin in the fall of 2021.

While the Dr. Heather Wilson STEM Ph.D. program includes all STEM disciplines, special consideration will be given to candidates applying for degrees, or degree concentrations, in advanced computing, big data analytics, artificial intelligence, autonomy, robotics, directed energy, hypersonics and biotechnology in an effort to better align the Air Force’s graduate degree programs with the National Defense Strategy.

Strategic studies degree options for the CSAF Ph.D. program include Asia-Pacific studies, history, political science, international relations, economics, philosophy, international business relations, international security studies and political systems and theories.

A senior-level panel of general officers will review and select members for the programs. The selection panel will consider officers’ military performance, strength of application, letters of nomination, past academic performance and personal statements.

Complete eligibility and application requirements, including degree and school options, can be found on the Air Force Personnel Center's MyPers website. Select "Active Duty Officer" from the dropdown menu and search "PhD" or visit

The DAWN program provides captains and majors with the opportunity to earn master’s or doctoral degrees in STEM disciplines and the nomination announcement is scheduled for May 2020.

The ROTC GSP affords 10 ROTC cadets the opportunity to remain in college for an additional 12-36 months to pursue a STEM master’s or doctoral degree, and the nomination announcement is scheduled for October 2020.