DOD sets out to keep technical workers

DOD sets out to keep technical workers

T. Kevin Carroll, program executive officer for the Standard Army Management Information Systems, says many of his 146 employees are eligible for or close to retirement.

Plans range from internships and re-enlistment bonuses to training and partnerships with industry

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

With a worker shortage looming, Defense Department leaders are devising plans to retain their civilian and military technical employees.

Officials throughout DOD said they plan to use intern programs, re-enlistment bonuses for service members and training programs to keep workers in the fold. One service is even considering partnering with vendors to try to retain soldiers.

T. Kevin Carroll, just three months into his job as program executive officer for the Standard Army Management Information Systems, said he has found that the average age of his 146 government employees is 49.

Retiring types

Nineteen STAMIS employees are eligible for retirement now, 60 more will be eligible by 2005, and 65 percent of the work force will be eligible for retirement by 2011, Carroll said.

'There's a vision in some people's mind that PEO STAMIS consists of a couple of [government employees] and some contractors,' Carroll said. But that's not the case, he said, adding that the organization does not have people to take the place of retiring staff members.

Carroll wants to implement within three years an intern program for college students, similar to an Army Materiel Command program that worked well at Fort Monmouth, N.J. Interns would come in as GS-7 employees and go to GS-9 and GS-11 noncompetitively under Carroll's initial plan. They would be hired by a contracting shop at GS-12, he said.

Although the government cannot meet the pay criteria of many young people, 'there are still a lot of John F. Kennedy types'young people who are willing to work for the government for $20,000 to $30,000 less' than they could make in the private sector, he said.

Other DOD organizations have their own plans for improving recruitment and retention.

Though conceding that 'it's difficult to compete with industry across the board,' Marine Corps officials have found that quality of life, not just money, is a factor in retention, said Brig. Gen. Robert M. Shea, assistant chief of staff for command, control, communications, computers and intelligence.

In addition to re-enlistment bonuses, the Marines are reviewing the service's recruiting standards and skill sets for each military occupation specialty, Shea said.

With vendors working closer with the Corps through programs such as the Navy-Marine Corps Intranet project, the service is considering setting up partnerships with industry through which Marines could re-enlist after working in the private sector.

Some Marines in the Fleet Marine Force would consider re-enlistment, he said, if they did not have to go on deployments. 'We're looking at training for different skills sets,' including the training Marines ought to get between re-enlistment options, he said.

Senior Air Force and Navy officials did not report any drastic plans to improve retention.

'Our retention of information technology specialists is pretty good,' said Vice Adm. Robert Natter, the Navy's director of space, information warfare, command and control.

'We try to make it a career path. We know that if we don't give them training, they will leave anyway,' he said. Many Navy organizations use Microsoft training as a reward for sailors, Natter said.

The Air Force, by giving more responsibility to good specialists and training them well, helps give its service members an 'enormous amount of satisfaction' and motivation to re-enlist, said Lt. Gen. William J. Donahue, the service's deputy chief information officer and director of the Air Force Communications and Information Center.

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