Pentagon officials pledge to overhaul personnel policies

Pentagon officials are working on a plan to overhaul World War II-era personnel policies for military employees, David Chu, undersecretary of Defense for personnel and readiness, said Wednesday. By next spring, when the Defense Department submits its budget request for 2003, the department hopes to have the framework for a strategic human resources plan that could dramatically change the nature of career military service, for both uniformed and civilian employees, Chu told reporters at a Pentagon briefing. Since taking office in January, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has repeatedly questioned the wisdom of personnel policies that require people to change jobs every two to three years and force people to retire in their 40s and 50s, sometimes just as they're coming into their professional prime. "The Secretary is asking 'Do we have the right model for the 21st century?'" Chu said. The answer seems to be no. The high turnover of military personnel in key positions, inflexible up-or-out promotion policies, low morale and poor retention rates among some grades and positions have cast serious doubt on the effectiveness of the current personnel management system, he said. The current promotion system was established following World War II to prevent stagnation in the middle ranks. At the beginning of the war, it became apparent that the senior levels of the services were clogged with over-the-hill generals and admirals long past their prime. The solution was to create a system in which the ranks would be continuously refreshed with new talent. It is unlikely the Defense Department will jettison up-or-out entirely, Chu said, but the system clearly needs to be adjusted to reflect the realities of military service today. "To use the language of the [1993] Government Performance and Results Act, what outcome do we want to have? That's what we're asking." It may be that the department creates a winnowing point, say at the rank of captain, after which promotion rates actually increase and top performers can stay on as long as their contributions are needed--much as in a corporate executive development program, said Chu. It is not unusual for a career military officer to move 15 to 20 times over the course of a 30-year career, a situation that is tremendously disruptive to families and causes many people to leave service before they have to. "No major corporation would manage their talent this way," Chu said. Chu stressed that major changes are unlikely to occur quickly, saying "As you look back at historical changes in the U.S. military, rarely do these things happen all at once." But that does not mean such changes won't happen eventually. "We're very serious," he said.
Stay up-to-date with federal news alerts and analysis — Sign up for GovExec's email newsletters.
Close [ x ] More from GovExec

Thank you for subscribing to newsletters from
We think these reports might interest you:

  • Sponsored by G Suite

    Cross-Agency Teamwork, Anytime and Anywhere

    Dan McCrae, director of IT service delivery division, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)

  • Data-Centric Security vs. Database-Level Security

    Database-level encryption had its origins in the 1990s and early 2000s in response to very basic risks which largely revolved around the theft of servers, backup tapes and other physical-layer assets. As noted in Verizon’s 2014, Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR)1, threats today are far more advanced and dangerous.

  • Federal IT Applications: Assessing Government's Core Drivers

    In order to better understand the current state of external and internal-facing agency workplace applications, Government Business Council (GBC) and Riverbed undertook an in-depth research study of federal employees. Overall, survey findings indicate that federal IT applications still face a gamut of challenges with regard to quality, reliability, and performance management.

  • PIV- I And Multifactor Authentication: The Best Defense for Federal Government Contractors

    This white paper explores NIST SP 800-171 and why compliance is critical to federal government contractors, especially those that work with the Department of Defense, as well as how leveraging PIV-I credentialing with multifactor authentication can be used as a defense against cyberattacks

  • Toward A More Innovative Government

    This research study aims to understand how state and local leaders regard their agency’s innovation efforts and what they are doing to overcome the challenges they face in successfully implementing these efforts.

  • From Volume to Value: UK’s NHS Digital Provides U.S. Healthcare Agencies A Roadmap For Value-Based Payment Models

    The U.S. healthcare industry is rapidly moving away from traditional fee-for-service models and towards value-based purchasing that reimburses physicians for quality of care in place of frequency of care.

  • GBC Flash Poll: Is Your Agency Safe?

    Federal leaders weigh in on the state of information security


When you download a report, your information may be shared with the underwriters of that document.