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Automated Services Erase Civilian Drawdown Deficit

By Douglas J. Gillert
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, March 28, 1996 – If there is an upside to downsizing DoDs civilian personnel work force, its in the automated processes that will save managers countless hours filling positions -- and give employees fingertip access to personnel documents.

Facing a forced reduction from the current level of 14,000 personnel specialists to just 7,200 by 2001, DoD opted for radical changes in the way it delivers civilian personnel services. By the turn of the century, 23 regional service centers will form the core that processes DoD's routine civilian personnel actions. Scattered throughout the world and divided among the services, these centers will oversee 360 customer service units, where managers and employees will conduct face-to-face business, but with a lot fewer faces.

"For the kinds of service we offer today, we just wont have the people in the future," said Linda McCullar, chief of the Functional Program Management Office, Civilian Personnel Management Service, in Arlington, Va. "So through automation and improved processes, were going to streamline that part of our business."

McCullars office is responsible for regionalizing and modernizing the DoD civilian personnel data system. By selecting customized off-the-shelf software -- Oracle Human Resources -- to replace the current system, theyve already advanced development by 12 to 18 months. Their goal is to have the system running worldwide by 2000. When that milestone is reached, customers can begin to benefit from profound new business processes.

Take, for example, a manager wanting to fill a civilian vacancy in an organization. Currently that action requires at least one, but probably several, visits to the civilian personnel office, struggling over wording for the position description, weeks of waiting for a list of qualified candidates and still more time to receive and analyze individual qualifications and records.

Under the new system, managers wont have to leave their desks. Instead, theyll access the personnel data system using an assigned password and call up a desktop computer application called Coredoc.

"Coredoc replaces the labor-intensive process of building a position description," said Rob Schmidt, director of Civilian Personnels Reinvention Laboratory in Arlington. The lab houses the Integrated Functional Process Improvement Suite, comprising the system hardware and software. "What now takes a manager about 15 hours to complete can be finished in a matter of minutes."

The software removes all guesswork from the hiring process, Schmidt added. "The software data base provides a menu of duties and responsibilities, performance requirements, classification factors, and knowledge, skills and abilities," he said. "Once the manager selects from these items, Coredoc classifies the position and produces a core document that replaces the traditional forms."

The manager attaches the finished document to a "Request for Personnel Action" (SF-52) located in another software module, Persaction.

"Persaction provides a single point of entry for personnel data, routing and tracking," Schmidt said. "It eliminates unnecessary and duplicative steps in processing personnel action requests."

Besides benefiting managers, civilian personnel modernization will make it easier for employees to effect several personnel actions. Using toll-free telephone numbers or centrally located touch-screen kiosks at their installations, employees will be able to access and change selected items in their payroll records, including federal withholding exemptions, allotments and direct deposits; and update health benefits and Thrift Savings Plan information.

While managers and employees will benefit, for personnel specialists it will be a matter of survival. "With the reductions we face," McCullar said, "theres simply no other way we can continue providing quality personnel services."

McCullar said cutting the personnel specialist field in half is being handled as painlessly as possible. DoD will attempt to find jobs for those displaced and will offer retirement incentives.

Those who remain must be trained to use the new system, and McCullar said this will be accomplished through on-site training, video-teleconferencing and other methods. "In addition, when a region stands up," she said, "I will send people to provide the work force refresher training on the functional process improvements. In addition, our Central Design Activity at Randolph Air Force Base, Texas, will go out and work with them in adapting to the new technology.

"Anytime you have such a drastic change in the way you deliver services, there is going to be some disruption," she added. "Were trying to keep that to a minimum through aggressive training, keeping the community informed, letting managers know what kinds of personnel processes theyre going to be involved in and making sure they have the right hardware and software."

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