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American Forces Press Service

DoD Civilian Personnel Chief Discusses Future Force

By Army Sgt. 1st Class Tyrone C. Marshall Jr.
DoD News, Defense Media Activity

WASHINGTON, June 9, 2015 – The Defense Department's top civilian personnel policy chief discussed developments intended to address civilian workforce challenges and improve performance management and resourcing as part of the Future of the Force initiative during a panel discussion held here today.

Paige Hinkle-Bowles, deputy assistant secretary of defense for civilian personnel policy, participated in "Future of the Force: Recruitment, Retention and Readiness," a Defense One Live-sponsored event.

Civilian Personnel Policy Mission

Hinkle-Bowles explained DoD's civilian population is a part of a "very large and complicated organization that we work within."

"We focus, in my organization, predominantly on the civilian population," she said. "If you list out the different categories of civilians that we have in the department, we have about 900,000, which is very large by any standard of an organization."

Those individuals, Hinkle-Bowles said, are grouped into about 600 occupations in 3,000 locations across the U.S. and around the world.

"In those occupations, we range from everything from logistics, acquisitions, information technology [and] medical [services] to human resources and education," Hinkle-Bowles said. "So we really cover the full gamut."

Hinkle-Bowles said most of DoD's civilian workforce work outside of the Washington, D.C., area.

"About 14 percent of our civilians are located here in the D.C. area," she said. "The rest are out, again, in the rest of the country and all over the world."

Addressing Challenges

The last few years have been challenging for the department's civilians, Hinkle-Bowles said referring to results from the 2014 Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey.

"Our employees sent some messages to us as they have over the last few years," she said. "The positive side of what they said to us is our employees are very dedicated to the department's mission and they continue to remain focused on the job."

Despite satisfaction with many DoD work/life balance programs, areas such as performance management, terminal development and resources were cited as areas needing improvement, Hinkle-Bowles said.

"In many cases," she said, "our employees expressed some concern about whether or not we have the right resources [and] people to do the job, and so those are the types of things that we are focusing on in the civilian arena."

Planning Efforts in Progress

Hinkle-Bowles said this is an opportunity under "Force of the Future" to explore some of those areas and efforts to affect change are already underway.

One strategic workforce planning effort, she explained, involves categorizing the appropriated workforce across functional communities and assessing if the correct skills and competencies are in place and strategies if they are not.

"We are making progress in that planning effort, but we still have a lot of work to do," Hinkle-Bowles said.

New Beginnings Initiative

Another initiative, referred to as "New Beginnings," began prior to the Future of the Force initiative, Hinkle-Bowles said.

This effort, she said, began several years ago following authorities granted under the National Defense Authorization Act to establish a new civilian workforce performance management system, and undersecretary of defense authorities provided hiring capabilities.

"We are anticipating implementation of that performance management system and a phased rollout starting as early as next year," she said.

"One of the key notes of that for us," Hinkle-Bowles said, "is that it was a collaborative process with our labor unions and many other recommendations that culminated in that effort came out of some design teams where we worked in partnership with labor and management together."

Hiring Strategy

Hinkle-Bowles noted the civilian workforce experiences challenges similar to those of the military workforce in attracting, recruiting and retaining personnel.

"One of the key elements of our hiring strategy is bringing veterans back into our workforce as civilians," she said. "About 50 percent of our civilian workforce has some prior military service."

But DoD wants to do a better job of attracting people who might not normally consider the department or government as an employer of choice, Hinkle-Bowles said.

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