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Defense Priority Placement Program Places 250,000th Employee

By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 4, 2009 – The Defense Department’s Priority Placement Program placed its 250,000th employee in March, program officials said today.

The program provides hiring preference to eligible civilian employees who’ve been displaced from their jobs because of downsizing or restructuring, said Jeff Nelson, chief of the Civilian Assistance Reemployment Division, a component of the Civilian Personnel Management Service.

Since 1986, Nelson said, the program also has assisted military spouses in obtaining another defense civilian job when they move with their military sponsors. More than 52,000 military spouses have obtained Defense Department jobs through the program.

On March 29, a Navy spouse became the 250,000th person to be placed through the Priority Placement Program, Nelson said. The spouse, he said, had returned stateside from an overseas location with her military sponsor.

“That truly is a significant quality-of-life benefit for military families,” Nelson said.

Defense personnel managers, Nelson said, view the Priority Placement Program as a useful tool for retaining skilled civilian employees displaced during downsizing or restructuring. Employees affected by reductions in force, Base Realignment and Closure actions and other restructuring can voluntarily register in the Priority Placement Program, said Steve Wooley, Nelson’s deputy division chief.

Registration for the program peaked in 1996 at about 22,000 participants, Wooley said. This surge, he said, occurred amid a series of BRAC actions that began in the late 1980s.

“The most noteworthy thing about the whole experience through the first four BRAC rounds is that we eliminated over 400,000 civilian positions,” Wooley said, “but only about 9 percent of the employees affected were involuntarily separated.”

According to CPMS documents, the Priority Placement Program benefits the Defense Department in a number of ways, by:

-- Retaining skilled employees and minimizing retraining costs;

-- Maintaining employee morale and productivity at installations affected by defense transformation;

-- Reducing costs associated with involuntary separations, such as severance pay, unemployment compensation;

-- Complying with statutory requirements to provide priority hiring consideration for displaced employees; and

-- Implementing force restructuring actions efficiently and humanely.

Employees being separated during a reduction in force have the highest job-placement priority, Wooley said, and they also have the broadest options in terms of geographic choices for new jobs. In this situation, he said, participants who are more flexible as to where they’ll relocate “are the ones who get placed.”

The PPP also comes into play during realignments, Wooley said. One of many examples, he said, is the Missile Defense Agency. Many MDA employees do not want to accompany their organization during its pending relocation from northern Virginia to Alabama.

“As a result, they’ll be scheduled for separation and [be] eligible to register in the PPP,” Wooley said. “But, the difference here is that we don’t allow them to register as far away from northern Virginia as Huntsville, Ala.”

Program participants who decline the Alabama job offer would thereby restrict their geographic consideration for employment “to points less distant,” Wooley explained, and also would carry a lower priority for job placement, because “they did have a job offer, albeit one in a different state.”

Then-Defense Secretary Robert S. McNamara established the program in 1963, during a period of military downsizing prior to increased U.S. involvement in South Vietnam. McNamara announced that all civilian employees facing layoffs due to base closures would be offered positions at other installations.

The first employees were enrolled in the program in 1964. The system became fully operational the following year.

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Related Sites:
Civilian Personnel Management Service
BRAC Transition Assistance for Defense Department Civilian Employees

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