The AFGE union has urged the Defense Department to reconsider its use of the numerous special hiring and other personnel authorities that have been granted to the DoD in recent years in the name of helping it close skills gaps in IT and other fields.
The department “has sought these authorities purportedly in the quest for greater management flexibility, often to the detriment of the long-term job security of employees being hired into the Department,” the union said, citing direct-hire authorities, an excepted service category for certain cyber-related positions, DoD-specific policies on probationary periods and RIF retention, and more.
However, its use of those authorities “arguably has been one of the primary factors leading to these persistent skills gaps in the workforce,” said the union, which represents some 300,000 of DoD’s roughly 750,000 civilian employees.
“There has not been a recognition of the inherent contradiction between unfettered management “flexibility” to set the terms and conditions of employment to deviate from standard title 5 civil service procedures to preserve an apolitical workforce and the very idea of human capital planning that views employees as possessing both existing skills and potential talent that can be developed only through a long-term commitment to those employees as a valuable part of a team,” it said.
It added: “The perception that an employee only has a single skill that cannot be adapted and developed as the department’s missions change is exemplified in the way personnel caps have been used in some cases to discard skills through the egregious mis-use of term and temporary appointments.”
It also pointed to what it called lax oversight by OPM that has resulted in a “proliferation of separate career programs within each military department for the same kinds of skills.” It recommended steps including generating “standing registers of qualified candidates from objective assessment tools that require applicants to apply only once rather than separately to each job opening.”