SMDC leads way for hiring engineers
The U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center is able to leverage special authorities provided to directly hire engineers and scientists, veterans, support staff and students to fill critical and hard-to-fill positions for the command. (U.S. Army graphic) (Photo Credit: Allen Meeks) VIEW ORIGINAL

REDSTONE ARSENAL, Alabama – Having direct hire ability is leading Army technologies in the right direction.

In addition to direct hire authorities provided by the Office of Personnel Management and the Department of Defense, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command Technical Center is able to leverage special authorities provided to directly hire engineers and scientists, veterans, support staff and students to fill critical and hard-to-fill positions for the command.

“These authorities provide managers and supervisors who participate in career fairs and recruiting events the ability to extend tentative job offers and letters of intent to candidates during the events,” said Dr. Chad J. Marshall, USASMDC Tech Center Personnel Management chief. “Having this capability is very important as we work to diversify our recruitment efforts beyond the typical vacancy announcement.”

He said SMDC is a rare organization that is designated as a Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratory as well as a Major Range and Test Facility Base and can utilize direct hire authority.

“Many of our recently implemented hiring efforts stem from the Technical Center’s implementation of the STRL Laboratory Demonstration Project in 2020,” Marshall said. “The hiring efforts that we implement are done with the intent to align our processes with the Technical Center director’s priorities of building and retaining a quality workforce, sustaining long-term relevance for the Technical Center in our core mission areas, and focus on the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site operations and sustainment.”

Marshall said for many years, the Tech Center has used the DOD Science, Mathematics, and Research for Transformation Scholarship-for-Service Program to hire science, technology, engineering and mathematic talent. He added that beginning this summer, the Technical Center will host participants of the DOD Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority-Serving Institutions Summer Research Program.

The program provides motivated undergraduate and graduate students in STEM disciplines the opportunity to perform summer internships within DOD laboratories and provides a bridge between the classroom and real-world experiences.

“The Technical Center is one of 10 DOD organizations participating in the program,” Marshall said. “Earlier this month, the Technical Center was able to participate in the first STRL STEM Virtual Career Fair hosted by DOD. From that event, we are now in the process of hiring our first participants in the Technical Center’s STEM Student Employment Program, allowing us to bring in additional interns at the undergraduate and graduate levels and helping ensure we maintain a solid bench of science and engineering talent.”

He said it is vital for the Technical Center to be able to more quickly hire personnel to successfully compete for talent against other local government agencies as well as the more than 300 defense contractors operating in the Huntsville area.

“Many of these defense contractors are able to extend job offers on the spot and onboard personnel much more quickly than what is typically done in the federal government,” Marshall said. “Having these direct hire authorities is one of several flexibilities we employ to allow the Technical Center to better level the playing field with industry and academia.”

Marshall said the Tech Center engineers possess degrees in the disciplines of aerospace, electrical and electronics, or mechanical engineering, while scientists possess degrees in physics, computer science or mathematics.

“Roughly half of our engineers and scientists have advanced degrees,” Marshall said. “However we are not just pursuing scientific and engineering talent, we also require a strong support staff to ensure the Technical Center is prepared to maintain and advance technology. Many of our business staff possess degrees in accounting, business administration and finance.”

The Technical Center leader explained how important Marshall has been in making direct hiring possible for the command and how they will benefit in the future.

“Dr. Marshall is the ‘gold standard’ when it comes to understanding and implementing the authorities granted to us as a Science and Technology Reinvention Laboratory,” said Thomas E. Webber, USASMDC Technical Center director. “DHA is just one of those authorities, and Dr. Marshall ensures we implement it properly and in compliance with higher level guidance. Dr. Marshall is a critically important member of the Technical Center team and does an incredible job executing our personnel hiring authorities.”

Webber said that DHA is an amazingly beneficial tool that enables the Technical Center to recruit technical talent in the highly competitive market here in Huntsville, and it provides the flexibilities to rapidly bring skilled workforce from outside the government at the grade levels and salary commensurate with their industry experience.

“It’s imperative that we build and retain the technical skills necessary to ensure the Army maintains its technological superiority,” Webber said. “DHA is a powerful tool that when used appropriately will ensure we remain competitive and maintain the skilled workforce needed to develop future capability for the Army. I have been very impressed at the skill level and amazing talent we have brought in under DHA and look forward to continuing that trend into the future.”