FROM THE DIRECTOR OF
ACQUISITION CAREER MANAGEMENT
CRAIG A. SPISAK
DACM Office, CHRA join forces to stand up the Army Acquisition Workforce Recruitment and Sustainment Center of Excellence.
It’s no big secret that the government lags behind its industry counterparts and how they have established unique, creative and highly efficient hiring practices. Granted, the government’s methods entail a higher degree of challenges when one considers its myriad rules, regulations and policies. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be creative in becoming one of the government’s “employers of choice.” In the past, the Army had a systemic problem in that we took an average time of more than 130 days to hire a qualified civilian. In some cases, the delay prevented agencies from selecting the best-qualified civilian employees, which consequently impacted Army readiness.
My impetus, as the Director of Acquisition Career Management (DACM), to address this problem was driven by a June 5, 2018 memo from Mark T. Esper, then secretary of the Army and now the secretary of defense. The memo directed that his “number one priority regarding Army Civilian employees is reducing civilian time-to-hire to below 60 days.”
SPEEDING THE PROCESS
In implementing this directive, several factors would uniquely test our ability to develop an innovative solution for such a complicated problem. First, we had to ensure that the solution would be predicated on finding the right kinds of talent for the acquisition community and complement the strategic imperative of continuing to provide lethal capabilities to the warfighter. And second, we had to devise a human capital plan that would incorporate the myriad hiring policies, authorities and special programs that had been afforded to the acquisition community through supportive legislation. Only by appreciating this level of complexity were my team and I able to proceed with a viable solution.
However, our success would not have been possible without first establishing a viable partnership with a peer organization vested in achieving the same goal. In October 2016, the U.S. Army Acquisition Support Center established a pilot program with the Army’s Civilian Human Resources Agency. to explore the benefits of streamlining the hiring process and leveraging expedited hiring authorities granted by Congress in the National Defense Authorization Acts for the fiscal years 2016 to 2018 as well as methods for streamlining the hiring process. After 12 months of evaluating the program, we determined the pilot a success. It effectively reduced our hiring time for qualifying candidates from 104 to 76 days.
With this milestone, our stakeholders decided to strive for the program’s full operational capability. In August 2019, we created a subordinate division, the Army Acquisition Workforce Recruitment and Sustainment Center of Excellence. It continuously collaborates with key Army partners and other DOD stakeholders on the best organizational practices to continue implementing this initiative as painlessly as possible. Essential aspects of this program include standardized information and training on the nuances of hiring civilians for acquisition positions, leveraging hiring authorities, and ensuring that participants fully understand the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act (DAWIA).
As we progress, we are learning quite a lot from expanding the pilot. The most beneficial outcome is reaping the value of adapting new ideas or methods with many organizational participants as the program continues to evolve toward its full operational capability. By continuing to collaborate as constructively as we have, we’ve developed and strengthened partnerships that are consistently yielding innovation.
We are excited the program is on a path toward maturity. Eventually, the center of excellence will be headquartered at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, along with the division for General Schedule pay system civilians. The divisions for the Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratories and AcqDemo pay systems will be at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland; and each division will have multiple satellite locations across the United States.
In the past, anybody who had said “the government’s hiring process met industry standards,” clearly wasn’t paying attention. Now, if one asks, “Are there some places where we’ve had pockets of excellence inside of government?” Absolutely. Or, “Have we utilized some specialized authorities and programs?” Absolutely. Or even, “Did we look at those and try to garner some best practices and apply them?” Of course, we did.
But in the big picture, government hiring has never been considered a model to emulate. And this program is an example of a good model to emulate. While it has improved over time, it has never been a user-friendly system by any stretch. Even people who have been in the system and used it for decades, like me, have never been fond of it. So now, as we recognize that we have to step into a new era of talent acquisition and talent management, is the time to address its every aspect. And onboarding and hiring through this Army Acquisition Workforce Recruitment and Sustainment Center of Excellence is one of the ways we can address all of our opportunities to be better at managing talent.
Goals of the Army Acquisition Workforce Recruitment and Sustainment Center of Excellence:
- Support Army civilian hiring reform goals.
- Meet the secretary of the Army’s 60-day reduction in time to hire.
- Leverage direct hiring authority and expedited hiring authority as the preferred methods for hiring.
- Maintain a singular interpretation of DAWIA and its implications for acquisition workforce hiring.
- Oversee the ability to shape, hire and retain a highly qualified and professional Army Acquisition Workforce.
Source: Civilian Human Resources Agency and the Army DACM Office
This article is published in the Winter 2020 issue of Army AL&T magazine.
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