By Alex M. Parker
November 9, 2009President Obama on Monday signed an executive order designed to boost the number of veterans in the federal workforce.
The directive creates Veterans Employment Program offices in federal agencies, to match veterans with job openings and help them navigate the application process. The offices also will give veterans guidance on how to adjust to civilian life after they are hired.
"This initiative is about more than repaying our debt for their courageous service and selfless sacrifice," Obama said. "It's also about continuing to fill the ranks of federal employees with men and women who possess the skills, dedication and sense of duty that Americans deserve from their public servants. And few embody those qualities like our nation's veterans."
In addition, the executive order establishes a Council on Veterans Employment, to be chaired by the secretaries of Labor and Veterans Affairs. It requires the Office of Personnel Management to develop a strategic plan in consultation with other agencies, such as the Defense, Homeland Security, Labor and Veterans Affairs departments.
The order comes as the number of military members re-entering civilian life is ballooning.
OPM Director John Berry has emphasized the hiring of veterans, saying government should take a more proactive role in recruiting former military members and preserve veterans preference during the selection process.
"We are going to honor our veterans and increase their employment in our domestic agencies," Berry said during Government Executive's Excellence in Government conference in July.
The percentage of veterans in the federal workforce has increased just slightly in recent years. According to the Office of Personnel Management's most recent report, it rose 0.5 points from 25 percent in fiscal 2003 to 25.5 percent in fiscal 2007.
Veterans groups and some managers praised Obama's order.
"The federal government is really no different than any business when it comes to hiring quality people," said Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars. "They want educated, responsible and motivated people who are loyal to the company and to each other. With the boomer generation beginning to retire en masse, it just makes good business sense for the federal government to do whatever it can to recognize and recruit this talented pool of job-ready employees."
Pat Niehaus, Federal Managers Association chapter president and labor relations officer at Travis Air Force Base in California, said having an agency contact could be valuable to veterans re-entering civilian life.
"In so many agencies, [the hiring process] is so computerized," Niehaus said. "If they had someone to help, I think it would be very beneficial to them. The civilian world is significantly different from the military world."
By Alex M. Parker
November 9, 2009