Letter: Civilian agencies abuse grade system with quick promotions

Regarding "Battling more than demographics": Funny, I was talking to a co-worker about this very subject. I've been a civil servant for two years, but in the military for 15 years.  I have never been able to figure out the promotion system for civilians.  I have seen Copper Cap Trainees complete the four-year training program and get a [General Schedule]-13 promotion a year later (in military terms the [second lieutenant] is now a [major], it doesn't add up). 

The GS system has steps for a reason, you get a chance to learn your job.  You don't need to give a excellent young worker a grade promotion, you can bump them over a step or two.  Make them earn it, once you give it to them, they come to expect it.  I have been doing contracting for 11 years [in] military and civil service, and it's the dumbest thing.  I have already made the claim to the AF IDEA [Air Force Innovative Development through Employee Awareness] program that the promotion system needs to be taken away from the managers making these decisions. 

These agencies are doing a disservice to these inexperienced workers by giving them grades they have not earned.  You have some agencies waiving the basic requirements needed to be an 1102 for workers and giving them promotions.  Some agencies don't train their employees, so they offer trainees from other agencies quick promotions to GS-13 with the possibility of a GS-14 within a few years. The biggest abusers of the grade abuse are the civilian agencies. 

The DOD for the most part can't keep workers they trained because you have an agency like DOE here in [Ohio] dangling carrots to the recent trainees.  It's amazing that they bypass the experienced workers and settle for the fresh faces.  The [Air Force] pushes it's trainee's to complete a master's degree, get their APDP Certification Level II and for some even Level III, while at the same time wanting them to learn contracting.  Oh yeah, they rotate every year, so they learn a little bit about how different organizations operate.  With the retirement age being 55/59, what's the rush.  Why have a 37-year-old GS-15 being promoted twice in a five year period without a degree, when the requirements for promotion in the 1102 series changed back in the 1990's, why are we allowing individual managers the right to totally mess up the promotion/retirement system.  The basic problem is all of these agencies operate out of D.C., the cost of living there makes it hard to keep workers at the GS 9-12 range.

Is it really necessary to maintain the contracting function in D.C. Today's technology makes it easier to move certain functions out of the Beltway.  It's a shame that recent college graduates feel they deserve to be making more than the contracting officer with 25 years of experience.


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Reader comments

Sat, Jun 7, 2008 Sean Gaffney

While this may be the case on the Federal level, please feel free to have a look at the World of State Government to see the complete elimination of promotional step systems. Colorado is a shining example. They had a step system in place until the early 90's when it was replaced with a pay-for-performance system to eliminate the "promotions based on longevity" problem. I hired on in 2001 and have a resume that spans over 10 years of competent, progressive work. The pay-for-performance system has kept me in the lower half of the entry level pay range despite satisfactory and outstanding reviews. This state is losing its young talent to private industry at an alarming rate. Like it or not the step system, used correctly, provides the acknowledgement and reward factors needed to retain a workforce for the long-haul.

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