An Assessment of the Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project

An Assessment of the Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project

Laura Werber
Lindsay Daugherty
Edward G. Keating
Matthew Hoover
Copyright Date: 2012
Published by: RAND Corporation
Pages: 108
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7249/j.ctt5hhw63
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  • Book Info
    An Assessment of the Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project
    Book Description:

    The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project (AcqDemo) is an effort to reengineer the civilian personnel system to meet the needs of the acquisition workforce and to facilitate the fulfillment of the DoD acquisition mission. Congress required an independent assessment of the program against 12 criteria by September 30, 2012. This report is that legislatively mandated assessment.

    eISBN: 978-0-8330-8359-3
    Subjects: Management & Organizational Behavior, Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-ii)
  2. Preface
    (pp. iii-iv)
  3. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-viii)
  4. Figures
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Tables
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Summary
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
  7. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Abbreviations
    (pp. xxi-xxii)
  9. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-10)

    The vast majority of U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) and, indeed, federal civilian employees work on the General Schedule (GS) personnel system.¹ The GS system has 15 numbered grades and ten steps within each grade. Under the Classification Act of 1949 (Pub. L. 81-429), the GS system was developed with the goal of establishing internal equity for federal employees. James (2002) definesinternal equityas a fairness and consistency criterion aimed at ensuring that each job is compensated according to its relative place in a single hierarchy of positions. The GS system’s creators used work-level descriptions to extend a central...

  10. CHAPTER TWO Assessment Criterion A: Workforce Description
    (pp. 11-16)

    As pointed out in Chapter One, AcqDemo had 15,250 DoD civilian employees on September 30, 2011, far more than it had ever had before. In this chapter, we utilize the DMDC civilian personnel data to describe the characteristics of that workforce and draw comparisons with the overall DoD civilian workforce.

    Table 2.1 lists some key characteristics of the 2011 AcqDemo workforce:

    It has considerably more men than women.

    It consists largely of business management and technical management professional personnel, i.e., in the NH pay plan.

    It is 11 percent unionized.

    It consists of a mix of DoD and military service...

  11. CHAPTER THREE Assessment Criterion B: Explanation of Appointment Flexibilities
    (pp. 17-18)

    The AcqDemo program includes some recruitment and appointment flexibilities designed to improve managers’ ability to address dynamic mission needs.¹ These flexibilities also ensure that positions remain competitive with private industry to allow for recruitment of the best possible candidates. Although the expansion of expedited hiring has improved the appointment process across the federal government, AcqDemo continues to provide features that facilitate the appointment process.

    All employees covered by AcqDemo are classified into one of three career paths: business management and technical management professional (NH), technical management support (NJ), and administrative support (NK). The NH and NJ career paths have four...

  12. CHAPTER FOUR Assessment Criterion C: Explanation of Performance Appraisal Flexibilities
    (pp. 19-20)

    AcqDemo’s Contribution-based Compensation and Appraisal System (CCAS) is intended to provide an equitable and flexible method for evaluating and compensating the workforce.¹ By linking compensation to an individual’s contribution to the mission, CCAS provides incentives for employees to improve performance and contributions and allows supervisors to work closely with employees to develop a clear line of accountability for the work being performed and its contribution to mission and goals of the organization. By rewarding high contributors and withholding incentives from low contributors, CCAS is expected to generate a high-contributing workforce with employees motivated to maximize productivity in support of the...

  13. CHAPTER FIVE Assessment Criterion D: Steps to Ensure Fairness and Transparency
    (pp. 21-22)

    The AcqDemo Program Office provides extensive training to both supervisors and employees on how the system works. Several of the SMEs whom we interviewed acknowledged, however, that employees struggle to understand the system prior to going through a rating cycle or two. Given that there will always be employees who are new to AcqDemo, it is unlikely that it will ever be transparent for all employees. In particular, the perceived complexity of CCAS is a longtime concern.¹ Chapter Seven addresses issues related to the newness of AcqDemo for most participants and the impact this may have on perceptions of transparency....

  14. CHAPTER SIX Assessment Criterion E: How the Project Helps Organizations Better Meet Mission Needs
    (pp. 23-28)

    AcqDemo was developed to support a key goal of DAWIA: namely, creating and sustaining a workforce consisting of well-qualified, multitalented professionals capable of supporting the acquisition mission. It was envisioned as a way to address hiring restrictions that stymied the federal government’s ability to vie for the best talent, policies perceived to make motivating and rewarding employees more difficult, and highly complex job classifications that limited movement of employees within their organization. The complex job classification system was particularly problematic given the dynamic acquisition environment and the move toward more fluid, team-based work (64Fed. Reg. 1426 [OPM, 1999]).

    In...

  15. CHAPTER SEVEN Assessment Criterion F: Application of Flexibilities and Barriers to Their Use
    (pp. 29-40)

    Our assessment of this criterion was informed by two main sources: (1) SME interviews and (2) quantitative and qualitative data from the AcqDemo workforce survey fielded in early 2012. In other words, we relied on perceptions of how AcqDemo’s hiring, appointment, and performance-related appraisals have been used and what barriers exist that may impede their use. Because the vast majority of employees managed under AcqDemo had been part of the system for one year or less at the time of this assessment (spring 2012), such data sources as personnel data (e.g., offer/accept ratios, the number of PRDs) and workforce data...

  16. CHAPTER EIGHT Assessment Criterion G: Process for Performance Appraisal Feedback
    (pp. 41-44)

    It is important for evaluation systems to facilitate dialogue between supervisors and employees and ensure continuous means of feedback. These feedback mechanisms allow employees to make continuous and meaningful improvements to performance while ensuring that employees feel they have a stake in the system under which they are evaluated. Structured feedback processes and continuous employee involvement can also help address concerns about transparency and fairness in performance appraisal systems. This chapter describes AcqDemo’s performance appraisal process, with a specific focus on elements designed to facilitate dialogue and feedback. First, we describe the timeline of the appraisal process, and then we...

  17. CHAPTER NINE Assessment Criterion H: Impact on Career Progression
    (pp. 45-50)

    The unusual history of AcqDemo’s population discussed in Chapter One creates a short-run challenge for this analysis because there are relatively few employees who have continuously worked in AcqDemo for several years. Further, as we show in this chapter, those who have remained in AcqDemo do not appear to be representative of the population as a whole. Thorough analysis of objective data on career progression will require the passage of time with more employees who have longer histories in the program.

    We begin with a comparison of the 2008 and 2011 AcqDemo workforce. We then address the question of the...

  18. CHAPTER TEN Assessment Criterion I: Appropriateness in Light of Complexities of the Workforce
    (pp. 51-54)

    As shown in Figure 2.3 in Chapter Two, AcqDemo civilian employees have higher education levels than the DoD civilian workforce overall. If higher education levels may be considered as a proxy for high levels of knowledge, skills, and abilities, this suggests that AcqDemo may be appropriate for many of the employees currently managed under this system. The SMEs we interviewed told us that AcqDemo’s complexity is considerably mitigated by the high skill and knowledge levels intrinsic to the acquisition workforce (i.e., the majority of AcqDemo civilian employees). In addition, according to one interviewee, the education-based qualities of the population make...

  19. CHAPTER ELEVEN Assessment Criterion J: Sufficient Protections for Diversity in Promotion and Retention
    (pp. 55-58)

    DoD and the federal government as a whole have a longstanding commitment to diversity in the workplace. As the U.S. population grows more diverse, so too does the need for both private and public sector employers to attract and manage a diverse workforce effectively. The federal workforce in particular has a special imperative to do this, given the longstanding recognition that all aspects of the federal government should reflect the diversity of its citizens (Kellough and Naff, 2004). The Civil Service Reform Act of 1978 (Pub. L. 95-454) is a prime example of the federal government’s attempt to promote such...

  20. CHAPTER TWELVE Assessment Criterion K: Adequacy of Training
    (pp. 59-62)

    Documentation from the AcqDemo Program Office, as well as SME interviews, show that the program office provides extensive training to human resource professionals, supervisors, and employees on how to implement the program. The AcqDemo Program Office standard is that 75 percent of employees be trained before an organization can join AcqDemo. According to one interviewee who is familiar with the training procedures, new organizations receive the following:

    a one-hour senior-leader overview training

    a day-long hands-on workshop for human resource staff

    a three-hour employee brief (typically lecture style)

    a one-day training session for supervisors on CCAS and employee assessments

    a half-day...

  21. CHAPTER THIRTEEN Assessment Criterion L: Process for Ensuring Employee Involvement
    (pp. 63-66)

    We learned about the process for ensuring employee involvement in the development and improvement of AcqDemo through interviews with AcqDemo Program Office staff, a review of program documents (e.g., AcqDemo’s notice in theFederal Register, the project’s operating manual [DoD Civilian Acquisition Workforce Personnel Demonstration Project Operating Procedures, 2003]) and data collection–related materials, and the April 2012 AcqDemo 2.0 conference, which we attended.

    First, the project has three oversight-oriented groups in place: the Executive Council, the TRAC, and the EARC. The Executive Council was established in 1999, and its members include program office personnel; the AcqDemo program manager from...

  22. CHAPTER FOURTEEN Conclusions
    (pp. 67-70)

    Although its calendar was legislatively prescribed, this is a notably poor time for an assessment of AcqDemo. After being sharply diminished in the 2007–2010 time frame, the program was rejuvenated by an influx of employees in 2011 following the elimination of NSPS. Indeed, the workforce managed under AcqDemo grew markedly in 2011, increasing from 3,069 employees at the end of 2010 to 15,250 employees at the end of 2011. Accommodating these new employees (albeit many experienced with AcqDemo from prior to the NSPS epoch) has been a major administrative challenge, and the AcqDemo Program Office and organizations with personnel...

  23. APPENDIX A Analysis of Survey Data
    (pp. 71-74)
  24. APPENDIX B A Propensity Score Matching Exploration of AcqDemo’s Impact on Retention and Compensation of Unionized Employees
    (pp. 75-82)
  25. References
    (pp. 83-86)