In today's employment environment, the U.S. government must compete with other federal agencies and private industry to recruit and retain employees.

At the Security Assistance Command, personnel managers are turning to innovative Army programs to hire and develop new employees.

USASAC is responsible for managing security assistance programs and foreign military sales for the Army. It serves as the primary entry point for Army materiel, service and training related FMS requirements and is known as the "Army's Face to the World."

Because USASAC is faced with a growing number of employees reaching retirement eligibility, managers need to leverage various hiring initiatives to ensure a quality workforce.

In 2017, 7 percent of the USASAC workforce left due to retirement and 12 percent left for other reasons, giving USASAC an attrition rate of 19 percent, which is higher than the annual attrition rate for the Department of Defense, approximately 6.7 percent, and for the federal government, 9.1 percent.

Another factor to be considered is that 26 percent of the USASAC workforce has over 30 years of service and is or will be eligible to retire and could leave on very short notice. Though some attrition is healthy in any organization, the key is that the attrition rate is not too high, resulting in unacceptable loss of productivity, loss of institutional knowledge, and the additional time and effort required to hire replacements.

"USASAC had 12 employees retire on Jan. 3," Rick Calnon, USASAC's personnel director, said. "We're trying to offset those losses, which will continue to happen. We have to focus on building the base using student trainees, developmental positions and technical interns."

Calnon said supervisors are looking for new employees who demonstrate the Army values of leadership, duty, respect, selfless service, honesty, integrity and personal courage, and who are energetic, ambitious and self-starters with good attitudes.

"We want to hire and develop employees who can be future leaders by instilling values and great work ethics at the beginning of their service, setting the foundation of selfless service," he said.

As a subordinate command to the Army Materiel Command, USASAC supports the AMC commanding general's priority to sustain a ready and resilient workforce and develop adaptive Army leaders by providing professional development opportunities to maintain a ready and resilient force.

This effort to develop employees into leaders supports USASAC Commander Maj. Gen. Jeff Drushal's Human Capital Operating Plan with a specific workforce development plan and talent management requirements to build a bench of capable professionals postured for advancement. One of the plan's goals is to ensure that USASAC effectively recruits a workforce to meet current and projected USASAC missions. The command requires talented individuals with a wide variety of capabilities and skills.

"We started hiring a couple of different ways with a focus toward finding new talent and building the bench," Calnon said. "We are using three different programs, Student Trainee Program, Direct Hire Authority and the Army's Civilian Training, Education and Development System to find and develop the next generation of leaders."

The focus here is to build a cohort of new employees and then focus on our ongoing developmental training for the workforce, Calnon said. This allows us to develop some specific training for these new employees with the goal of growing them into the leaders the Department of Defense needs for the future.

"We changed our Pathways summer hire program into a Student Trainee Program," Calnon said. "This allows us to hire student trainees with some college and give them one to two years of training and a chance to come work with us. If it works out, they can transition to interns."

The program is an excellent opportunity to foster good work ethics through experience and promoting responsibility in preparation for future education and career goals.

Calnon said USASAC also is taking advantage of the Direct Hire Authority and ACTEDS programs to recruit for finance and cybersecurity positions.

According to the Office of Personnel Management website, Direct-Hire Authority gives federal agencies a way to fill vacancies when a critical hiring need or severe shortage of candidates exists.

ACTEDS takes an employee from entry level to key positions by providing work, training and self-development plans to help develop and sustain Army civilians, and development of technically competent and confident civilian leaders who are essential to Army readiness.

According to Calnon, now is the right time to be doing this.

Daniel Nolan, who joined USASAC July 9, 2018, is a student trainee in the logistic management field for the European Command/Africa Command section.

"The experience gained working as a student trainee with USASAC has helped broaden my knowledge of what the U.S Army and the government does overall with our foreign partners," Nolan said. "The skills and knowledge I have gained during this process have helped me not only become a better person, but have also helped me as an officer in the National Guard."

Nolan said he is learning and continuing to build upon his knowledge of the foreign military sales process and seeing how it affects movement and relationships around the world by building partner capacity.

"Since joining USASAC, my knowledge in logistics has improved significantly and that knowledge has helped me as an executive officer in the National Guard," Nolan said. "Also with all the admin work and memos I help write, my writing and administrative skills have improved, which has contributed immensely to my work at school in my field of study in business administration at the University of Alabama in Huntsville."

Nolan said he would most certainly recommend the Student Trainee Program to others.

"If someone were to ask me a question, 'Why USASAC?' I would have to respond with, 'USASAC's mission is diverse, and the people I have had the privilege to work with do awe-inspiring work,'" Nolan said. "While the process may seem simple, the amount of work, knowledge and dedication to this mission is amazing. The work we do not only helps our nation become stronger and a beacon of freedom and liberty, but it helps our allies and partners become better prepared to defend themselves. The relationships created during the work USASAC does can bring lasting friendships and a better view of the world.

"Because we have had great success hiring new employees through these programs, we will continue to use them to bring folks on board."

USASAC hired nine people for its Student Trainee Program and six people under the Direct Hire Authority, post-secondary (college) graduates in 2018.

"The command's goal is to maintain 15 student trainee positions each year," Calnon said. "USASAC has plans to hire 13 employees through the Direct Hire Authorities with a focus toward Cyber (Information Technology) and Finance areas as well as some post-secondary graduates for 2019.

"With the maturity and success of the Direct Hire programs, USASAC will continue to focus on building the bench for the future. Hires done today are the potential senior leaders of tomorrow."