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Changes Proposed to Acquisition Work Force

By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, June 3, 1997 – DoD will expand a demonstration project in an effort to enhance the quality and professionalism of the acquisition work force.

Part of the acquisition reform initiatives, the project will change the way DoD hires, promotes, trains and pays acquisition professionals.

The initiatives -- which borrow from the China Lake experiences where the Navy demonstrated alternative personnel practices -- address three general areas: hiring, retention and shaping the work force. Officials expect up to 50,000 acquisition employees in the different agencies and services to participate.

DoD is changing the way it buys systems, equipment, goods and services, and it only makes sense to change the way DoD manages the acquisition work force, officials said. They pointed to the integrated product team concept as a driving force for the changes. The teams require multiskilled personnel working in multiple functional areas as needed.

"Today, and particularly in the future, the acquisition professional who thinks 'outside the box,' operates in more than one functional area and is willing to take managed risks will be the individual most likely to be a high contributor to the team," according to a report detailing the changes.

The changes will make it easier and faster for DoD organizations to hire personnel in all acquisition series and grades. This will enable managers to hire workers with the correct mix of skills, knowledge and ability. This will also make it easier for managers to hire recent college graduates and other applicants with the latest technological skills.

Hiring authority will include three types: permanent, temporary and modified term. Changes to workload and mission means the government must have a work force that expands and contracts as needed. Using new temporary appointments to one authority will allow managers to hire short-term employees more quickly. It will also allow managers to separate nonpermanent employees without having to use reduction-in-force procedures.

Current personnel management procedures do not provide the right tools to retain, motivate and develop a quality acquisition work force, officials said.

The major proposal is to establish a contribution-based compensation and appraisal system. Under this initiative, managers will rate an individual's contributions toward organizational mission accomplishment.

Another retention change will simplify the classification system. The current General Schedule system has 434 occupational series divided into 22 groups. DoD acquisition officials are consolidating the current position descriptions into fewer broadly defined job categories. They will then link these categories into pay bands reflecting the desirable acquisition work force characteristics.

The changes will establish broadbanding. Also called paybanding, this involves merging two or more pay grades into one band or pay range. Broadbanding provides a stronger link between pay and employee contributions because advancement is contingent on merit. It also allows for a smoother transition into more responsible, higher-paying jobs by allowing employees to move noncompetitively within the bands.

A proposal calls for modifying and simplifying reduction-in-force rules. This follows from the broadbanding and reducing appointment authority changes.

Another change in shaping the work force is to modify the Priority Placement Program. Currently, whenever managers wish to move employees to different areas, they must check for displaced employees listed on the Priority Placement Program. Under the changes, managers can move employees across geographical boundaries as an exception to the program when reorganizing or realigning in a downsizing environment. This initiative best matches the crucial program that helps displaced employees secure jobs with the demands of the acquisition mission.

Finally, the initiatives attempt to facilitate mobility within the acquisition work force, authorize sabbaticals for acquisition employees and extend authorized training for degrees and certification in critical skill areas to all acquisition workers for the duration of the demonstration.

Those wishing more information can check the initiative home page at http://www.crfpst.wpafb.af.mil/demo/homepage.html

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