Federal Officials Pledge Support for Hiring Veterans
By Gerry J. Gilmore
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 12, 2009 Senior federal officials today pledged their support of President Barack Obama’s directive to increase the hiring of military veterans.
Obama signed the executive order Nov. 9 that calls on each federal agency to establish a veterans’ employment program office designed to help former servicemembers get through the maze of paperwork as they apply for federal positions. It also mandates that agencies train personnel specialists on veteran employment policies.
The order also directs federal agencies to work with the departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs to develop and apply technologies designed to help disabled veterans.
Earlier today, Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis appeared at a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event where she told civilian employers they should consider military veterans as employees of choice.
Solis said establishing a veterans’ program office within most federal agencies is part of a program designed to transform the federal government into the model employer of America’s veterans.
Later today, several senior government officials met with reporters during a press conference held at the Labor Department.
America owes a great debt to its military veterans, Veterans Affairs Deputy Sec. W. Scott Gould said at the press conference.
“We can reach out to them with something as simple, as pragmatic, as practical as a job; a good job in government,” Gould said.
And, veterans’ hard-won experience, he said, constitutes “an asset we can now bring into government.”
It is imperative, Gould said, that government agencies assist veterans to become aware of government jobs, help veterans translate their military skills into civilian parlance, and to help them adjust to their new civilian environment.
Office of Personnel Management Director John Berry told reporters that the president directed him “to do right by our veterans.”
America’s veterans “are valued, they are experienced, and they are trained,” Berry said. Consequently, he said, it would be foolish not to provide veterans with more opportunities to continue to serve in the federal workforce after military service.
“And so, we want to make sure that they know they are welcome and we will have a job for them,” Berry said. “We will find one that matches their skills, their passions and their interests and their abilities.”
After finding the right job, he said, each veteran will be mentored to help them adapt and transition into the civilian work culture so that they can succeed.
The government-wide Council on Veterans’ Employment, chaired by Solis and Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki, will play a key role in the veterans hiring program, Berry said.
Solis’ and Shinseki’s influence, vision and leadership will make the program a success, Berry said. This week, he said, OPM will release a list of the numbers of veterans working at federal agencies.
“And our goal is to have every one of those numbers increase, so that those percentages go up,” Berry said.
The United States “arguably has the best-trained, best-equipped and best-led military force the world has ever seen,” said Gail McGinn, acting undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
The president’s veterans employment initiative “will showcase the leadership and technical skills our military members have to offer,” McGinn said, and “will bring back that wonderful talent into our civilian workforce.”
The Defense Department already is the largest federal employer of military veterans, McGinn noted. Today, about 342,000 defense civilians are veterans, she said, making up about 45 percent of the department’s civilian workforce.
“I work side by side with veterans every day,” McGinn said. The skills veterans learned in the service, she said, “serve them very, very well working within the Department of Defense.”
The department has two Web sites that provide employment information for veterans, as well as a toll-free phone number where they can talk to career advisors, she said.
The department, McGinn said, also provides transition programs for separating military members that feature resume writing, skills assessments, interview-process training, and jobs-search techniques.
“We also provide special help to our wounded, ill and injured servicemembers whose careers have been cut short due to the injuries received in Iraq or Afghanistan,” she said, through the “Hiring Heroes” career fairs. Thirty one of these career fairs, she said, have been run across the United States since 2005.
The largest of the fairs, conducted in June at Walter Reed Army Medical Center here, attracted more than 570 job seekers, McGinn said.
The career fairs, she said, provide servicemembers, many of whom still are recovering from wounds, the opportunity to visit with potential employers, get on-the-spot interviews, and often, job offers.
“At DoD, we are extremely proud of our servicemembers and fully aware of the value that they bring to the federal government,” McGinn said.
The interagency process launched by Obama’s executive order “will clear a pathway for more federal jobs for our servicemembers,” McGinn said, and “will allow them to look throughout the federal government to find the right fit and the best federal job for them.”
The Department of Homeland Security’s mission of securing the homeland requires dedicated people “willing to do whatever it really takes to get the job done,” said Jeff Neal, DHS’s chief human capital officer.
Military veterans, Neal said, have “all the types of qualifications that we are looking for in DHS, and they have proven time and time again, when their country has called on them, they are ready to respond.”
Neal said his agency plans to employ 50,000 military veterans by 2012.
“We want to show the veterans of America that DHS is one of the places where you are welcome, where you are valued, where you can build a second career and continue your service to America,” he said.