Civilians Can Free Up Military for Other Duties
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Oct. 28, 2004 The Army is converting some 5,000 military billets - mostly staff -- to civilian positions in order to free up more soldiers for other needed duties, DoD's top civilian personnel official said here Oct. 27.
"There are a significant amount of (military) units that don't deploy by definition," Undersecretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness David S. C. Chu told members of the Association of the United States Army at their annual meeting. Therefore, he said, DoD is looking "at using civilians in these positions."
That initiative, Chu observed, is part of DoD's efforts to transform and realign its military and civilian workforce to become more efficient and to better meet 21st century challenges like the war on global terrorism.
Chu said the department wants to inject more flexibility in managing its 2.7 million active and reserve-component service members, 650,000 civilian workers and 96,000 nonappropriated-fund employees.
Regarding military force structure, "a significant degree of rebalancing is necessary," Chu said. For example, he pointed to a current project that draws down outmoded active-duty field-artillery units and replaces them with high- demand military police.
The current voluntary military system "is splendid," Chu said, noting, "we are not going to have a draft."
However, Chu noted, DoD is looking into "the short tenure" of officers in their posts. Current two-year postings are "far too fast," he said, and don't give officers enough time to effect meaningful changes.
Another recently adopted initiative involves calling up reservists to active duty for training before they're mobilized, Chu said. For example, he pointed to the recruitment of 200 reservists for training in Arabic. Forty of those linguists, he noted, were recently deployed to Iraq.
And, he said, DoD still is evaluating if 300,000 military slots can be converted to civilian positions.
Changes are also in store for the department's civilians, Chu observed, noting Congress last year approved DoD's proposal to overhaul its personnel system as part of the 2004 National Defense Authorization Act.
The adoption of the National Security Personnel System now being crafted, Chu said, will create a "more responsive and flexible" DoD civilian workforce.
The NSPS, he pointed out, would "make the civilian component of our personnel system equally effective with the military" force.
NSPS, according to the system's Web site, gives DoD greater authority over hiring, rewarding and firing civilian employees. The new system does away with the current 150 occupational/pay scales in favor of four broad pay bands. Under NSPS, according to the Web site, employees are rewarded for performance instead of longevity.
NSPS regulations are being written now, Chu said, noting parts of the new system will be brought on line in mid-2005, with total NSPS implementation envisioned in the 2007-2008 timeframe.
The NSPS and other personnel initiatives -- like the recent Air Force merger of the management of its senior military officers and senior executive service civilians -- will expand DoD civilians' role in departmental affairs, Chu said, while fostering the "one force" concept.