- September 1, 1996
Two comments on "Career Transition Rules Build on Defense Lessons" ("Going Out of Business," May). The apparent reason why DoD has been successful in placing many of its RIF'd employees in other jobs through its Priority Placement Program was precisely that it was mandatory for other military organizations to accept qualified employees; and that a mechanism existed to match individual employees with suitable vacancies. That lesson seems to have been lost on Ed McHugh of the Office of Personnel Management when he says that individual employees have to take the initiative to identify and apply for vacancies in other agencies.
This policy ignores the fact that (a) just as the military, there are now few nonmilitary federal agencies which are actually hiring; (b) that what vacancies may develop in a particular agency from time to time are almost always filled from within the agency; (c) that there is no central repository (job bank) in which agencies are obligated to list all their vacancies, and which is readily accessible to all federal employees.
Finally, with recruiting and selection authority having been delegated by the Office of Personnel Management to federal agencies, there is really no effective way for OPM to motivate or control agencies to give outside applicants a fair chance in being considered, let alone selected for vacancies-other than making the usual, perfunctory reference to the "merit system," which really died decades ago.
OPM's policy on displaced federal employees responsible for finding their own jobs also has a definite Clintonesque ring to it: "I can feel your pain, but hey, so what?" There was a story circulating a few months ago that the President had signed an executive order directing nonmilitary agencies to fill vacancies with civilian employees from closing military bases. As it turned out, the President's "order" was but a friendly reminder to make use of all that talent being pushed out the door, but only if you really wanted to.
As to DoD's Priority Placement Program finding jobs in DoD organizations for about 130,000 of its displaced workers, I believe it would be unrealistic to expect that rate to continue. Since most displaced DoD employees would prefer to stay in the general location in which they have established themselves and their families, successful placement of the majority of displaced workers depends on whether other military installations in an employee's geographical area are still open and able to absorb displaced workers. That may have worked in 1981 and 1991, but is no longer the case. In Northern California, for example, the only Army base left is the Oakland Army Base, and it is slated to close during the 1997-99 time frame.
The minimum displaced civil servants expect from the brave new OPM policy of self-reliance is to come up with a comprehensive job bank in which all agencies must list all their vacancies and to provide ready access to that bank.
Expecting displaced workers to ferret out suitable vacancies in the labyrinth of the federal government bureaucracy is a cruel joke.
Klaus D. Grimm
ADCS for Information Management
Oakland Army Base
Travel Expenses: Spend to Save
In reference to your travel column in the July issue concerning hotels, why not try something that really motivates travelers to save the government money? Yes, this will require the government to make a really big paradigm shift to spend some money to save money.
First, give travelers half the difference between the per diem rate and their actual hotel cost when it is less than the per diem. Example: The per diem is $100, the hotel is $80, the traveler gets a $10 reward. The government saves $10.
Second, pay travelers half the per diem rate when they stay at a friend or relative's house-or on a park bench. The government saves half the per diem.
Since the one-half percentage is only my guess, and some Members of Congress may think it's a windfall for travelers, use one-third. This would also keep us sharper in math.
Sign Me Up
I just completed reading the article "Civilians at War" (July). All I can say is, it is about time. I have been trying to deploy myself. As an engineer with a Civil Engineer Squadron, I feel more than qualified to assist our forces overseas. Where do I sign up?
Chief, Systems Projects
Nellis Air Force Base, Nev.