DOD rethinks workforce plans

The Defense Department has reversed a longtime policy of reducing the civilian

acquisition and technology workforce.

The Pentagon has reduced its acquisition workforce from about 1.1 million

in 1989 to about 700,000 this year while it also downsized the military

and other civilian personnel forces. Now, up to 50 percent of the acquisition

and technology workforce, made up largely of baby boomers, will become eligible

for retirement in the next five years, and the entire government is faced

with growing competition from the more financially rewarding commercial

sector. The military's civilian workforce is projected to be about 625,000

in 2005. These factors motivated Jacques Gansler, undersecretary of Defense

for acquisition, technology and logistics, earlier this month to change

the Pentagon's policy of actively downsizing its acquisition and technology

workforce.

"Dr. Gansler, in many visits to [Capitol Hill] earlier this year, has

actually told members of Congress that in fact the workforce may have to

grow larger in the next couple of years in order to deal with the massive

retirement issue," said Keith Charles, the Pentagon's director of acquisition,

technology and logistics workforce management, during an Internet broadcast

Sept. 12.

Gansler signed a memo stating that there will no longer be any goal

to reduce the acquisition workforce under the Government Performance and

Results Act, Charles said.

"We reduced the [acquisition] workforce by 50 percent, and the rest

of DOD came down 37 percent, and DOD was way ahead of all the civilian agencies.

We are going to be impacted first," Charles said. "I really don't think

you are going to see a lot of management directives from within the department

calling for reductions in defense acquisition."

Gansler said the rapid advances in information technologies and the

increased military focus on information dominance is driving the need for

a future workforce that will be "doing different things and doing things

differently.

"The whole way of fighting wars has changed to information dominance

and sensor-to-shooter information technologies. All of that is demanding

a rapid response. We need to have the ability in our acquisition force to

respond to that," Gansler said.

Meanwhile, DOD is working to identify the next wave of acquisition workers.

Charles leads a task force that is researching ways to better recruit and

retain acquisition personnel. He said the task force has come up with more

than 30 recommendations, most of which can be implemented immediately (see

box).

The task force made public in July a working draft of its report, which

concludes that the country's security will depend on a DOD acquisition workforce

that is appropriately trained and prepared for the future. "The nation's

warfighters depend on technologically superior weapon systems provided by

the acquisition system," the report stated. "DOD cannot afford to wait;

it must address the needs of the future acquisition workforce immediately

to ensure that it attracts quality people and provides challenging opportunities."

The document recommends new initiatives, pilot programs and best practices

and can be found on the Internet at www.acq.osd.mil/yourfuture/ report072000.PDF.

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