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DoD Civilians: Partners in America's Defense

By Gerry J. Gilmore
Special to American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 31, 1996 – DoD civilians perform important work worldwide with active duty and reserve component military members to protect the United States and its interests, and the department plans to highlight those contributions throughout the year.

Edwin Dorn, undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, noted DoD's more than 800,000 civilians include scientists, engineers, logisticians, accountants, computer specialists and many other specialists. Civilian employees comprise a quarter of the Total Force, which also includes 900,000 members of the reserve components and 1.5 million active duty service members.

"I think we sometimes forget how important our civilians are," Dorn said. "DoD's civilian employees are partners in our national defense. They develop and maintain sophisticated systems, manage complex programs, handle the day-to-day business of feeding, housing and paying personnel, and sometimes go into harm's way to support our military forces." He said civilian employees are integral to the success of DoD military operations, citing, for instance, the 700 deployed in Bosnia in Operation Joint Endeavor. During Desert Shield and Desert Storm, he added, about 4,500 DoD civilians deployed to the Mideast.

While many DoD civilians deploy with military members, others remain behind to perform other important work, said Diane M. Disney, assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy.

"Civilians provide stability in the organization," Disney said. "Military people rotate between assignments every three years or so. DoD civilians are necessary to provide vital support that allows our warfighters to perform their missions."

DoD civilians make up roughly half of the federal civilian work force, Disney said. However, unlike other federal civilian employees, DoD civilians support a special mission.

"It's as if DoD civilians live two lives. We live the life of a civil servant and the life of a defense employee," Disney said. "We are like other civil servants in that we fall under the same statutory authority, but we're also like the military in that we're dedicated to support the defense mission.

"I have found the civilians who work for DoD to be absolutely extraordinary. We have bright, hard-working people who are committed to working for something bigger than themselves," she added.

Dorn said DoD civilian employees are high quality, bringing stability, diversity and a professional work ethic into a work force that provides opportunities without regard to race or gender. DoD is the nation's largest employer of women and minorities. Thirty-seven percent of DoD civilian employees are women.

Defense civilians have developed technologies that have defense and commercial applications, Dorn said, such as the Internet, the Global Positioning System and the malaria vaccine lasers.

Dorn said he is impressed with DoD's civilian work force and wants to ensure the quality remains.

"It's important for us to ensure we recruit and retain the highest-quality civilians, just as it is for us to recruit the best-quality people to wear the uniforms of our military services," he concluded.

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