Air Force finds easier way to hire acquisition workers

Service using special authority approved by Congress. New process brings on new procurement workers in as little as 17 days.

By Jason Miller
Executive Editor

The Air Force has solved the arduous federal hiring process.

Thanks to approval from Congress and policy from the Defense Department secretary, the Air Force is using special flexibilities to bring on acquisition workers in about 17 days and bypass the time consuming standard hiring process.

“The new process cuts out all the middle process and we go directly to the individual applying for the job,” says William Caffaro, chief of the contracting career field team at headquarters Air force personnel center. “If the hiring manager wants them, they submit paperwork and we process it.”

So far the Air Force has hired less than 50 people under this special authority-mostly veterans-but the limited experience has shown great promise. Caffaro says it used to take the Air Force 120 days to bring a new acquisition worker on board.

“We put an announcement out to the general public that we are looking for a specific type of acquisition worker, and if a qualified application meets all the requirements, they submit their resume at the base listed in the general announcement to the public,” he says.

“The potential employee submits their resume to hiring manager, who forwards all appropriate documents to the Air Force personnel center and we process it immediately.”

Previously, Caffaro says the hiring process was much lengthier because it required so many more steps.

“The hiring manager would have to go to the local civilian hiring or personnel office and forward their requirements to the Air Force Personnel center, and the center would produce announcement for a job,” he says.

“The announcement would be out for 2 to 4 weeks. Applicants would apply for jobs and then the hiring manger has 45 days to do interviews and select candidate and then start the actual process of bringing into the government.”

Congress in the 2009 Defense Authorization bill granted the military the right to use this special hiring authority. Defense Secretary Robert Gates issued a memo in December and the Air Force submitted and received approval of its implementation plan in February. Congress authorized DoD to use this authority through 2012.

“The authority was in answer to DoD’s request to help get acquisition positions filled in a quicker time frame,” Caffaro says. “The growing shortage of these qualified workers resulted in DoD authorizing components to forgo the typical hiring process. It is available across DoD and the authority is giving us the vehicles to beef up our acquisition workforce.”

He says the Air Force, like most agencies, are in desperate need of acquisition workers. The service faces an annual turnover of between 400 and 500 civilian workers.

Secretary Gates also wants to hire about 20,000 acquisition workers over the next five years, meaning competition for these limited applicants will become more intense.

Caffaro says the Air Force is trying to spread the word about this new authority, and plans to review its progress quarterly.

“We still want the hiring manager to use merit principles and veterans preference still is a priority before they use this authority,” he says.

“We hope by 2012 we have reached our goals and levels and brought our workforce back up to a manageable level so people can handle the acquisition work.”

On the Web:

FederalNewsRadio — Ideas for fixing the federal acquisition workforce

FederalNewsRadio — OFPP on acquisition reform listening tour

FederalNewsRadio — Defense acquisition on road to recovery?

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