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Plan Looks to Shape Acquisition Workforce

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2001 – Within the next five years, 50 percent of DoD's acquisition workforce will be eligible for retirement, department officials said.

That means DoD could find itself having to hire about 65,000 acquisition specialists over the next five years. Now is the time, officials said, to examine the acquisition workforce and plan how it should face the future.

One of Pete Aldridge's goals as undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics is to revitalize the quality and morale of the acquisition workforce. To do this, he is working on a strategic plan.

"The purpose is to start doing some human capital planning," said Rick Sylvester, deputy director of acquisition initiatives for systems acquisition. "In the military, they look at careers and missions and continuation rates, etc. We don't do that for civilians."

Aldridge's plan will look at DoD's acquisition workforce needs. The plan will project both the future and coming problems. It will look at the skills and career tracks acquisition specialists will need. It will look at functions that need to be beefed up. It will look at areas where DoD may need more people -- and fewer.

For instance, Aldridge said during an Aug. 15 meeting with reporters in the Pentagon, DoD will need more specialists in information technology and a workforce that understands the uses of information technology in the acquisition process. DoD will probably not need as many specialists in procuring traditional logistics items, he noted.

"We're going to look at the entire civilian workforce like the military does," Sylvester said.

The strategic plan is a work in progress. "Part of it is tied to the Quadrennial Defense Review," Sylvester said. "We will continue to work with the services."

Solving the problems posed by the demographics of the DoD civilian workforce is part of the Aldridge plan. The average age of civilian acquisition workers today is 48. Many will become eligible to retire in the next five years, officials said. People generally have retired as soon as they are eligible, they said. The real problem is the lack of skilled, experienced staff to take their places, they said.

DoD will have to replace retirees by hiring across the breadth of age groups. During the 1990s drawdown, hiring freezes and attrition caused the workforce's average age to rise as younger, lower-graded employees were promoted but not replaced. A drove of retirements would ravage the workforce's middle and upper management, so the department cannot solve the workforce problem by simply hiring young people to fill lower positions, officials said.

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