R. Allen Pittman

Veterans Affairs
R. Allen Pittman

Chief Human Capital Officer

After being appointed in June 2004 to manage human resources at the Veterans' Affairs Department, Chief Human Capital Officer R. Allen Pittman knew he faced a challenge. About 60 percent of VA's 236,000 employees were eligible for retirement, and he needed to ensure a smooth transition.

Dealing with a challenge, however, is nothing new for Pittman, who engineered several corporate turnarounds and co-founded two successful health care companies, most recently serving as chief administrative officer at U.S. Oncology, based in Houston. As CHCO, he is responsible for implementing the merit-based civil service reforms and planning for the potential loss of experienced employees. "We need to compete from a human resources standpoint with the private sector," he says.

Pittman has been focusing on attracting and developing entry-level talent; he called VA's career planning tools "somewhat lacking." He strongly advocates pay for performance, and believes greater personnel flexibility is necessary to recruit top applicants and retain employees. In order to keep lower and mid-level staff, he proposed development and training focusing on employees below the GS-13 level.

A decorated Vietnam veteran, Pittman hopes to recruit veterans returning from Afghanistan and Iraq. The Veterans Outreach Program tries to identify veterans who have skills suited to VA. He is working with the National Governors Association to allow veterans to search for VA jobs through state governments.

As a political appointee, Pittman's tenure might not last beyond President Bush's second term. But his status isn't preventing him from proposing big-picture ideas to streamline the VA workforce.

"I'm not oriented to short-term goals," he says. "We have things to get accomplished."

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