Defense to clarify education requirement for contract specialists

The Defense Department plans to issue guidelines clarifying a controversial provision in the 2001 Defense Authorization Act that has threatened to send thousands of federal contract specialists back to school, according to a spokesman for Sen. John Warner, R-Va. Geoff Schwartzman, a spokesman for Warner, said the act's new education requirements for contract specialists at the GS-1102 level will not affect current employees seeking promotions or transfers. Warner is chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Defense officials and staff from the Senate Armed Services Committee met last month to discuss how to implement Section 808 of the fiscal 2001 authorization act. Section 808 requires contract specialists at the GS-1102 level to have a bachelor's degree from an accredited institution and at least 24 semester hours of business-related studies, regardless of work experience. "We anticipate [that Defense will use] clarifying guidelines. . .to follow through with Congress' intent, which is to grandfather those in current positions for promotions and transfers within the contract division," said Schwartzman. "They've made a commitment to that end, and we respect that." More complicated legislative fixes would be rendered unnecessary if Defense issued clarifying guidelines. Schwartzman said Congress originally intended Section 808 to apply to new employees, not current contract specialists. Despite Congress' original intent, there has been confusion throughout the Defense Department about how to apply the law. Glenn Flood, a spokesman for the Pentagon, confirmed that Defense officials had met with staff from the Armed Services Committee. He said the department is working on new guidance for implementing Section 808, and expects to issue the guidance soon. Section 808 of the fiscal 2001 Defense Authorization Act revises the educational requirements for contract specialists under the 1990 Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act. The act established education and training standards for the civilian and military acquisition workforces. Previously, contract specialists at the GS-1102 level could fulfill educational requirements either with a college degree, credits in business-related courses, or an exam demonstrating their skills in contract administration. Section 808 eliminates the exam option. The new education requirements took effect last Oct. 1.
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