When Air Force Logistics and Air Force Systems Commands merged in 1992 to form the Air Force Materiel Command, the combined civilian work force totaled more than 93,000. At the end of fiscal year 2000, AFMC had only 58,250 civilian authorizations. Of the nearly 35,000 reductions, 2,200 -- approximately six percent -- resulted in involuntary reduction-in-force, or RIF, separations. The reductions were accomplished, in part, through limiting the number of new hires and offering incentives to employees to separate.
The end results were two-fold: First, AFMC was left with a force rapidly approaching retirement eligibility; and second, the decade of downsizing, reinventing and A-76 studies created uncertainty and instability. The current decade has provided AFMC with assurances that it has grasped what civilian end-strength needs to be. The challenge remains to continue to re-shape the work force to meet AFMC’s current and future business needs.
The civilian workforce is an integral part of the Air Force’s and AFMC’s capability. Researchers, systems maintainers, program managers, test and development experts and sound business managers have helped secure our nation’s constitution and freedoms. AFMC needs to retain a core of experts to teach and mentor a new generation of civil servants.
In 1998 the current AFMC commander directed a study be conducted to address how human resources -- the human capital of mission capability -- would be tailored to meet the future business needs of AFMC. The study’s scope encompassed the total force -- civilian, military and contractor elements. However, an initial review of force data revealed there were two great challenges to be addressed -- first, the rapid draw-down had skewed the civilian years-of-service demographics, and second, there was a lack of sufficient developmental positions in the civilian force. Hence, the main focus of the study became the civilian segment, with an emphasis on accessions planning and the investments needed to achieve its objectives.
Throughout 1999, AFMC Centers and the headquarters staff carefully analyzed center-level manning requirements from 2000 to 2007. This helped target recruitment/public information programs:
- Breakout of general categories of projected accessions: 8,675 wage grade, 6,265 administrative, 5,783 professional, and 3,133 technology.
- Breakout of skill levels for accessions: 14,458 journeymen, 5,783 developmental, 2,169 interns, and 1,687 managerial. (Currently developmental employees, without regard to Palace Acquire interns, number about 4,195, and represent 8 per cent of the AFMC skill mix.)
- Where to find these skills:
-- Journeymen positions filled from: 35 percent former-military, 27 percent industry, and 11 percent other federal agencies.
-- Developmental positions filled from: 45 percent college, 17 percent trade schools, and 15 percent industry.
AFMC’s operating budget represents 57 per cent of the Air Force budget and AFMC employs more than 40 per cent of the Air Force’s total civilian work force. AFMC civilians make a significant impact on Air Force overall operational capability and 50 percent of this force is eligible to retire (optional or early) over the next five years.
If ranked on the Fortune 500 list of businesses, the Air Force would be the 15th largest corporation in the world. The Air Force needs a workforce comprised of the right mix of quality, training, and experience to effectively accomplish its complex mission.
The strategic advantage of aerospace superiority can only be maintained with the right combination of scientists, engineers, skilled technicians and craftsmen. AFMC people in Air Force laboratories, program offices, test centers, and depots acquire, maintain and sustain the integral part of the war fighting structure -- systems.
Over the last decade there has been a change in our society. A flourishing economy and a decade of eliminating government workers have discouraged young people from considering civil service. They look to the corporate world for advancement and opportunity.
The current nationwide labor market conditions present a tough environment in which AFMC must competitively recruit and retain the high number of journeyman fills that will be needed. AFMC needs the right recruitment tools and adequate resources to meet the tough challenge. AFMC is committed to meet total hiring requirements without compromising the quality of candidates. Certain career fields are particularly impacted by the competition in the private sector, including information technology, telecommunications, and engineering. The competition for qualified candidates in these fields is extremely fierce, and employers are attracting employees by using innovative compensation strategies. Candidates are being offered stock options and promises of growth as elements in a total compensation package. Companies with large market capitalization are being challenged to compete with the compensation packages associated with smaller corporations, including pre-Initial Public Offering (IPO) firms.
AFMC leadership recognizes the importance of establishing a stable end-state for the size of the workforce because it impacts retention and recruitment, particularly at the local level.
The Command continues to recruit bright people from the nation’s universities and technical schools, through direct hire or the cooperative education programs. Air Force scientists and engineers go to campuses to talk about the important work being done in Air Force laboratories, test centers, depots, and program offices. AFMC specialists volunteer as mentors, visiting scientists, guest instructors, hosts for shadow programs, and guest lecturers.
AFMC is hiring mid-career expertise and college-level trainees, especially those with backgrounds in engineering, computers, and the management areas of finance, contracting and business. Internship and developmental positions provide unique opportunities to solve problems, manage responsible programs, and build leadership skills.
AFMC leadership is pursuing legislative and budgetary measures that will assist in both creating a better balance in the workforce and in recruiting the right mix of skill-level and expertise.
- Expanded Intern Program.
- Authority has been granted to allow the Air Force to hire retiring military personnel with the expertise it needs into the civilian workforce in a more streamlined manner when a waiver to the 180-day waiting period currently stipulated by law is necessary.
- Legislation expanded on separation incentive program. A beefed-up version of the current VERA/VSIP incentive program, currently authorized for FY 01 only, would allow AFMC to offer monetary incentives to targeted areas of the workforce, where headroom is needed to hire trainees for out-year expertise.
- AFMC has pressed the need for flexible hiring authorities to enable the command to hire high quality people quickly, and waivers for annuity offsets for civilians to allow certain key employees to return to work on a part-time basis after retirement with no offset of their salaries.
- AFMC obtained delegated examining unit approvals for Edwards, Eglin, Hill, Robins, Tinker, and Wright-Patterson AFB to allow them to hire locally from outside sources, rather than through Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, or a centralized Air Force office.
· OPM approved AFMC’s request to expand the use of recruitment, retention and relocation bonuses to blue-collar employees.
- AFMC is processing several requests for special salary rate increases for engineers at specific installations.
Opportunities and Benefits
One of the Command’s five strategic goals -- “Enable our people to excel” -- shows AFMC’s level of commitment to its human resources. One of AFMC’s Strategic Plan Enabling Tasks is to “acquire and sustain the human resources required to support the command mission essential tasks."
At AFMC leadership’s urging, the Air Force is revitalizing its civilian education and training programs to prepare high-potential employees for increased responsibility and shared leadership with the military. There is great opportunity for career progression in the civilian force.
Ongoing training programs are designed to keep employees informed, as well as provide a means to continually advance professionally and personally. Advancement up the civil service ladder exists if you take advantage of the opportunities offered to you to broaden your experience and skills. Career civil servants have a chance to realize their full potential as the way is opened to develop, grow and lead.
Many AFMC installations are their states’ largest employer. This means they offer a variety of jobs, opportunity for career progression, and a range of responsibilities very few businesses can match. Scientists and engineers emerging from colleges and universities should consider internship and developmental positions in the laboratories, depots and program offices. Each provides unique opportunities to solve complex technical problems, manage programs and build leadership skills.
Civilians in AFMC have a variety of conveniences available to them: recreational facilities, health clubs, childcare centers, club membership for dining and entertainment, competitive health insurance options, an occupational health facility with strictest compliance to worker health and safety, as well as an employer with an active concern about equal opportunity employment and labor practices.
Military and government service is about a higher calling -- supporting America’s Air Force. The Air Force encourages bright people to consider this calling. A rewarding future awaits them.