Earl Rice


I hate dealing in staffing with non-staffers (and I detect a bit of that frustration in you also).

Staffing is a very much “so let it be written (5 USC, 38 USC), so, and instead of “let it be done”, “shall it be done” (in the directive sense).

Title 5 USC lays the ground work for a Merit System, with free and open competition. These legal requirements are codified in 5 CFR. And, bluntly every facet of staffing is governed by a rule of law. There is almost no flexibility. (Some small agencies are exempt, like the CIA, Defense Intelligence System, NSA, etc.) So if you think you are going to change the law, try again. Changing the staffing laws, well I am more interested in getting a continuance in January, and a Debt Increase in February (and the odds are higher on them also, and I am of the opinion there will be another shutdown).

In laymen’s term (and there are exceptions) everyone will get their fair shot at applying for a vacancy. By law, any time you open an announce to applicants outside you agency, you MUST post on USAJOBS, end of statement (oh, and allow Veterans to apply).

USA Staffing is used to construct the application you can see on USAJOBS. There is no bottle neck here. And the applicants can apply. After the first application, their documents are stored. After that first one, well it will take less than 10 minutes to apply (vast improvement from the past). There is no backlog here. There was one shift though. It is now the applicants’ responsibility to provide the required documents, rather than the staffer to obtain them from the applicant (after their selection). But, for the applicant, once their documents are stored, they can use them over and over. Still no bottleneck.

Rating the applicants. This is the bottle neck. Partly because of the sheer number of applicants (hundreds). And, partly because of the rules of law governing applicants. Basically, you have to look at each and every document the applicant submits. If the position requires a Bachelor’s degree, and the applicant submits 5 scanned copies of toilet paper, and then 1 real transcript, you have to look at each piece of toilet paper until you get to the real transcript (worse if they label the toilet paper transcripts, and the transcripts as other document). Now thrown into the mix, the Agencies networks, for the most part, are just not designed to handle the bandwidth requirements of USA Staffing and looking at the documents. My Agency’s network, well it will take 4 to 5 minutes to open just one of the applicant’s documents in USA Staffing. I will say, you do the math. 200 applicants times each one submitting 5 to as many as 10 documents, and each document taking from 3 to 5 minutes to open (and don’t forget you have to look at them), well it’s going to take a while. And this is all driven by rules of law. For the IT folks, what I need is a network that will give me more than 256k transfer rate (and more than 2 megs ram in the box). This is the part that causes the frustration. I have 3 generations newer computer and 80 times the network speed at home than I do at work. I have to say IT folks, give me the tools to reduce this bottleneck.

Interviews. For the most part, Agencies are good about this. They will get the interviews done and back within 2 weeks. Then comes the rest of the process. This usually is NOT a bottleneck.

The rest of the story (onboarding). Finger prints and SAC. Physical if one is needed. Background check (at least a NACI). Security clearance. Credentialing for medical folks. Some agencies had a Professional Standards Board to set grade and step (ergo pay). Working above minimum rate approval if that applies. This also become a bottle neck. There is no-one in the hiring process holding these people’s feet to the fire to get this done expeditiously (and they don’t work for HR). This is a bottleneck, but is outside of HR’s control.

And, it is a fact that Veterans have a leg up in this process. For merit promotion announcements Veterans can apply, Schedule A can apply, former Peace Corps and other “Corps” can apply. But not billy/suzy recent college grad. For delegated examination units that can announce to all US Citizens so that billy/suzy recent grad can apply….Veterans will block the lists, end of statement. Priority placement programs will block the list such CTAP/ICTAP for displaced government employees. In DOD you have the spouse programs. OK, let’s go to Pathways, a Veteran that recently graduated will block billy/suzy every time (and a huge number of the GWOT vets are going to college). And, a 30% or more disabled Veteran goes to the top of the list, end of statement. Bluntly you can’t bypass a 30% disabled Veteran without specifically, beyond a showdown of a doubt, proving to the Office of Personnel Management they are incapable of doing the job (and the chances on that are about the same as the survival rate of a snowball in Hades domain). Likewise, my Agency is very metrics driven. They measure everything and anything, with a lot of it never used (wasted bandwidth and FTEE). But, as these analyst pull down data from all over the US, they chew up bandwidth that I could be using to try and reduce the staffing bottleneck. (I was checking today, and the network speed to USA Staffing today was from 256k to maybe 400k, max, and it wasn’t on OPMs side of it).

So, let’s just talk about root cause here. Slow computers on a slower network, trying to harness the advancements of technology (makes me feel like I a driving a 1961 Ford Falcon at the Indy 500). Bluntly, until the government invests some money into rebuilding the networks, the major bottlenecks aren’t going to change. Some say the infrastructure of our country is old and rickety, well so is the networks run by the government. And throw in on top all the new security requirements caused by the Patriot Act.