Artillery: July 22, 2004


As the Pentagon tries to keep its uniformed ranks filled, it is facing other challenges in finding enough civilian employees to fill the 700,000 civil service job that support the Department of Defense (DoD) around the world. DoD is expected to lose a substantial number of GS (Government Service) civilian service employees in the next five years, when 57 percent of the workforce will be eligible for early or regular retirement. In addition, the Pentagon wants to hire replacements that are more skilled and technical than previous hires.

Since the end of the Cold War, the defense department has had an increasingly aging civil service work force. Base closings and realignments plus lower hiring rates due to downsizing, shank the civilian workforce by 38 percent between 1989 and 2002. Those who stayed typically had the seniority and experience to keep their jobs. Now, these same people are nearing retirement. 

Adding to GS manpower concerns, an increasing number of civil service positions are supporting combat functions and the trend is going to continue as more than 20,000 jobs shift from the military to civilian workers in the next two years. More shifts are expected in the future as the services want to free up more uniformed personnel for combat, rather than state-side desk jobs. 

Approaches to get more qualified civilian personnel differ from organization to organization. The Army and Air Force are planning to step up hiring through intern programs, while the Army also offers bonus for engineers, scientists, and computer experts. The Air Force is conducting civilian leadership training, as a way to get employees to be ready when experienced personnel leave. The Navy and Marine Corps are looking at a program to bring back retired military personnel into civilian positions. 

One change expected to help the military is a move from the governments General Schedule (GS) system to a National Security Personnel System (NSPS). The new system, to be rolled out starting next summer, will offer competitive pay linked to the local labor markets and allow administrators to classify jobs to accommodate new technologies and changing missions. Doug Mohney


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