Oct. 15, 2014 -- HON Carson remarks at Dept. of the Army Civilian luncheon at AUSA

By HON Brad Carson, Under Secretary of the ArmyOctober 20, 2014

HON Carson remarks at Dept. of the Army Civilian luncheon at AUSA
Under Secretary of the Army Brad R. Carson says great strides are being made in career programs for civilians, but more needs to be done. He spoke at the Department of the Army Civilian Luncheon during the AUSA Annual Meeting and Exposition in Washin... (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

Thanks. I see old friends, new colleagues, men and women who have spent countless hours with me, discussing Army issues, making me smarter, helping me be better, and to whom I can only pay what is to me the ultimate accolade: you have taught me much.

It is an honor and privilege to speak you today. Last year's speaker, Bob Cone, is a man who I did not well personally, but whose reputation persists even in retirement, and I humbly today hope only that my voice can augment his stirring words from 2013, an indispensable if too often unsung component of our great Army: the Civilian workforce.

But Let me begin today by making two confessions, if you so permit. When I was asked to speak here, some few weeks ago, I wasn't sure about what I would exactly say. I know that I could give the usual vague homily to the genius of our Civilian workforce -- the kind of speech you might expect to hear at an occasion like this - and in so doing, I would not be uttering a single untrue word.

It is a fact: The Army could not function without the enormous and very real contributions of our more than 225,000 Civilian workers -- many more if you include those whose salaries are paid by nonappropriated funds.

And if the words would not be untrue, indeed even if such praise reached the tipping point of cliché, we should never consider that kind of praise so trite as to escape unuttered. No, the history and contribution of the Civilian workforce in the US Army does deserve restatement.

To that end: the Civilian Workforce has a long, rich tradition of service that is intertwined with the efforts of both our active and reserve components. The Civilian Corps traces its roots back to the Army's very founding when Civilian medical providers attended to the needs of the Continental Army. In 1775 (27 JUL) the Continental Congress established a medical department to support the fledging Continental Army. Although it provided a rudimentary health system for the new Army, the legislation did not designate military rank for medical personnel, nor did it specify governance or support relationships between the medical department and the army at large. Into this void some of the Army's very first Civilians carved out their place in our storied history. Like today's Army Civilians these Americans embodied professionalism and perseverance. They believed in the institution and sought ways to improve it outside of their own individual effort.

The two century history of the US Army is filled with men and women who have lived up to the example set by those early medical personnel. I think, for example, of John Garand, who served the Army as a Civilian firearms engineer from 1919 to 1953. As most of you know, or perhaps if that last name rings familiar, one of Mr. Garand's most significant achievements during his 30 plus years of service was the development of the M-1 Garand rifle - the Army's premier service weapon in both World War II and Korea. His rifle is known as one of the Army's greatest examples of innovation and experimentation. The great General Patton once referred to Garand's construction as the "…greatest battle implement ever devised." But Mr. Garand did not develop this mainstay of the American Soldier overnight. His design was forged through years of deliberate trial and error -- years rife with failure that enabled success. Like all of our Civilians here today and our Army Civilians worldwide, John Garand realized he was a critical piece of something greater than himself. To the Army's research and development community he provided expertise, wisdom, and experience.

And the story of John Garand is not of merely historical curiosity.

I think too of a young woman I know at the Pentagon -- Ashley Russell, who in her own different way is still in the tradition of John Garand. With a graduate degree from the University of Chicago, where she was studying for a PhD in anthropology, Ashley decided that, rather than a life in academia, she wanted to make a difference for our country, and so she applied for a job in the US Army. We offered her a job, after much labor on her part, as a GS-7. She now is part of our SHARP office, but I first met her when I recognized her team -- from a previous job in the Army -- for vastly improving the process for medical evaluation boards. Her improvements saved the Army millions of dollars. More importantly, her work made life better, simpler, easier, for injured Soldiers and their families -- and there is no price tag on that.

These are just two examples, drawn from long history, but I myself see the John Garands, the Ashley Russells, this type of person throughout our Civilian workforce. I see them up and down the halls of the Pentagon, mustering in our formations, and serving alongside our uniformed men and women in combat. In fact, I had the opportunity to meet a few of these great Civilians on a recent trip to Afghanistan. There I encountered Army Civilians serving their second, sometimes third yearlong consecutive tour. Currently the Army has over 1,000 of its Civilians deployed in Afghanistan, among the more than 16,000 Civilians who have deployed to Afghanistan over the last 5 years. These folks were facing many of the same dangers our men and women in uniform face, and as the drawdown in Afghanistan continues we will see not a reduced, but a greater demand for Civilians in that theater.

For, as General John Campbell would tell you were he here today, the skills of the Army's Civilian workforce are as much needed as those brought by our formidable military personnel -- logistics, budgeting, PPBE -- it is in these domains that the real competitive advantage of the US military lies, and the expertise here is found as much in Army Civilians as it is in those who wear the uniform.

Today, as we speak, we prepare to deploy Soldiers to West Africa to provide support against the perilous scourge of Ebola. The Army will gladly bear the brunt of this duty, it is what we do. …I have no doubt that Army Civilians will play a role, too. For it's our Civilians who possess those skills necessary to serve in positions like Ministry of Health Advisor, contract specialist, lawyer, engineer, or safety official.

Whether in Afghanistan or Sierra Leone, or many dusty places in between, this is not easy work, and it is not going away. For today the Army, the country is confronted with as uncertain and challenging world it has ever encountered, and the institutional knowledge, extensive experience, and determined leadership resident in our DA Civilians are absolutely crucial as we confront the challenges of today's ambiguous world. The fiscal uncertainties associated with approaching sequestration, the emerging and adapting threats in the Middle East, a resurgent Russia, and the perilous Ebola virus are just the passing indicators of this permanent phenomenon.

But I said that I was here today to make not one, but two confessions. If the first is that I was unsure what to speak about, the second is more specific and more to the point.

We, as an Army, as an institution, myself as a senior leader, have not provided to our Civilian workforce the context in which talents could be best developed, have not created a personnel management system in which those talents could be nurtured, encouraged, and have not given the kind of comprehensive attention to the Civilian workforce that we routinely give to matters of military personnel.

Now, it is not that many efforts are not underway to remedy what amounts to a historic deficiency. And it would be grossly unfair to many people, including some in this room, to say that we have ignored the issue. Indeed, much effort has been spent to make life better for our Civilian workforce.

Three years ago, my predecessor Joe Westphal, stood at this exact podium, and underscored the shift the Army had made in four specific areas. First, we decided to focus on hiring the right people. Second, we would manage the entire workforce in career fields. Third, we would train and develop that workforce. Finally we would care for that Civilian workforce.

And The Army has made strong strides towards these goals. Today all of our DA Civilians are assigned to one of 31 career field programs, a significant improvement from the 40% in 2010.

The Army introduced career maps to Army Civilians in over 450 occupational series.

We hired professional staffs to assist career program managers.

The Army provided Army Civilians with access to Army Career Tracker. This allows Soldiers and Army Civilians to better plan their career track.

More recently, in the last year, the Army launched the Civilian Acculturation pilot program at multiple installations across the Army. The shorter term goals associated with this program are to better welcome our new Civilians and ease integration over their first year. In the long term we aim to improve employee job satisfaction levels, as well as, retain talented individuals.

Since 2012, we have tripled the number of leader development programs and courses offered across the Army. We added courses like TRADOCs Civilian Intermediate Leadership Development Program focused on leader development gaps between the GS-11 and 13 levels. We initiated the "HR for Supervisor" training at many of our medical centers and much has been done.

But all of these things are not enough.

In many ways, despite our efforts, the generating force looks much like it did in the 1970s. This, of course, is not simply a problem for our Civilian workforce; the uniformed side of the institutional army has been given short shrift in the extensive modeling of Total Army Analysis, a matter now being remedied under the able leadership of Forrest Crain at the Center for Army Analysis. But we have not really begun to deal with the even larger Civilian part of the generating force. Not begun to improve the tedious, technical, but vitally important process for validating generating force requirements.

Mentorship, so important a part of contemporary business practice and valued so highly by uniformed personnel, is still not routine, not a matter of habit much less regulation, in the Civilian workforce.

And we have yet to spend the requisite time in training our Civilian leaders to be just that: leaders, capable of supervising, engaging, coaching. Yes, our Civilian workforce is filled with people who do these things, but they do these important activities with little institutional support and no systematic training.

Despite our many initiatives, we still have no persuasive enterprise-wide Civilian human capital plan. Our Civilians are not routinely included in the long-term Army planning processes, and we have yet to reach consensus on exactly what capabilities we are going to even need in the future. In short, we have not yet succeeded in effectively and efficiently synchronizing all of our initiatives into a doctrine-based, comprehensive talent management program.

Despite great efforts to improve the fill time for key positions in our Civilian workforce -- and progress must be acknowledged, and kudos to CHRA on this front -- we still do not even come close to practices in the corporate sector.

While we have made much progress in managing our senior executives -- measuring capabilities, rotating jobs, grooming for succession (CSLMO should be acknowledged here) -- we do not do the same level of planning for senior GS employees, much less those at lower grades.

Despite the rhetorical homage paid to talent management, we still do not have a definition of that important phrase that commands universal assent, that can be readily articulated, and talent management is not infused into every single leader development effort.

Despite our efforts to provide educational opportunities to GS employees -- such as those now offered at Leavenworth, where I recently had the chance to talk to the Army Staff Management College- spaces are still too few, the wait times still far too long, the ability to decamp for school still not fully supported by the culture.

And of course there are the sinister effects of sequestration. Hiring freezes, last year's layoffs -- these things are hardly conducive to high morale. And they haven't been. According to the 2013 Best Places to Work in the Federal Government Survey, the Army is ranked 17 of 19 among large federal agencies. And the trends are negative.

We have taken notice of these trends and are acting. In June, the Army hosted a senior leader conference with many of its key Civilian SES leaders in attendance. This conference focused on the management and development of the Civilian cohort.

We are working to better integrate our Civilian and uniformed components. In the next fiscal year 20 DA Civilians will attend resident Command and Staff College. Although this is a small step, it is a unique step and the first of its kind aimed at improving cultural understanding among our active, reserve, and Civilian components. Also the Army Management Staff College (AMSC), at Fort Leavenworth, now offers an elective for Army majors attending CGSC. This new elective aspires to train our active and reserve mid-level leaders towards understanding the nuances of our Civilian cohort. Armed with this understanding, these field grade officers will make better teammates and supervisors for our Civilian workforce.

We developed our Senior Talent Management Program focusing on the GS -14 and 15 levels. We are now creating an Enterprise Talent Management Program concentrating on our GS-12 and 13 level Civilians. Also we will develop additional professional development opportunities aimed at DA Civilians at the GS-12 level and below. This is essential for improving supervisory leadership and building a pool of professionals prepared to assume the more challenging leadership roles within our major commands and here at the Headquarters Department of the Army.

When John Garand was brought into federal service the world was a very different place -- WWI had just ended, modern capitalism was developing, and the management theories of Frederic Winslow Taylor -- scientific management, with time and motion studies and such -- were the rage. Garand himself had very little formal education, brilliant though he was, his engineering prowess was mostly acquired on his own, working as a machinist, at textile mills, after he dropped out of school at age 11. The alternative for him to working at the Springfield Armory were probably quite limited -- we are lucky that he found in the US Army a medium for his art. He spent his entire adult life there. His story, as remarkable as it is, is not the story of Ashley Russell -- multiple masters degrees, part-ways to a PhD, from the best universities in the world, emerging into the workforce at a time when thousands and thousands of business would love to have her and would hire her in a matter of days if not hours, motivated to government employment not ought of necessity but out of a love for public service, with an expectation not of lifetime employment, but like many young people, anticipating many job moves over the course of a career.

John Garand and Ashley Russell do have one thing in common: a profound thing, and one shared by all in this room -- the desire to make a difference, in a cause larger than himself or herself. We must develop a Civilian workforce strategy that proves itself worthy of these Civilian workers themselves.

So I began by promising a confession, or two. But I did so with this hope. All confessions, a preacher once told me, are just the first words of a plea for help. I need your help in this effort, your ideas, your passion, your commitment, in designing this system if it is to work. And if you give these things, I believe that we in the Army can do some revolutionary things.

Thanks and god bless you all.

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Under Secretary of the Army