DOD relies on civilian labor to fill technology gaps
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The Department of Defense is increasingly looking for civilians to meet its technical talent needs, but lawmakers fear that there will not be enough resources to fund uniformed services and procurement needs.
Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Calif.), Senior member of the House Defense Subcommittee, said the number of civilian and military personnel in the DOD was at an “all-time high” and “unsustainable.”
“I know that many civilian workers, especially in our depots, are needed to fulfill the DOD’s national security mission,” Calvert said during a hearing on the use of funds by the armed forces on October 26th. “However, the DOD’s bureaucracy has grown significantly. And I don’t see how we can afford to keep the current civilian workforce in the future if we are forced to offset these costs with procurement and the absolutely necessary research efforts.”
Gilbert Cisneros, the Undersecretary of State for Personnel and Prepared Defense, did not believe that any number or ratio could be used to limit the DOD’s civilian workforce.
“The civilian workforce we have in the Department of Defense is an integral part of our nation’s defense. They play a vital role in our mode of operation, “he said, adding that” it’s just not appropriate for us to put a number on it. “
The Army, which currently has a four-to-one military-to-civilian ratio, has also expanded its civilian hiring vectors, including a new scholarship program, said Christopher Lowman, who serves as the Army’s Undersecretary of State.
Lowman testified that the Army has launched a STEM scholarship program for civilians with the goal of recruiting 1,000 students over the next five years. The program will offset the cost of tuition and books with the requirement that 600 hours of work be done during school hours. The graduates would then have to do four years of civil service in the army.
“We believe the early acquisition will focus on STEM and cyber” [talent] is critical, “said Lowman.
The question comes as the Department of Defense struggles with a shortage of technical talent in specialist areas like cybersecurity and artificial intelligence.
“We need a way to find out what we are missing. There are a number of key issues that we have taken a broad approach to and we are now working to work them out: there are different areas of cyber, AI, writing. ”Collecting data, collecting data – we need in all of these areas Individuals … and we need specific expertise, ”said Cisneros.
Cisneros said the DOD’s civil careers website, launched in June, aims to centralize and promote civilian employment opportunities and career paths while working to “debunk the perception that the DOD service is uniformed only”.
The Deputy Secretary of Defense works council addresses a number of challenges and barriers faced by the workforce, including diversity, sexual assault and childcare.
“On September 30th, I gave guidance to DOD Components on how to maximize hiring flexibility, including direct hiring, which will enable us to attract and recruit civilian talent with expertise in AI, data science and software development,” said Cisneros.
Previously, Dr. José-Marie Griffiths, president of Dakota State University and former commissioner of the National Security Commission for Artificial Intelligence, said that “the government is neither organized nor funded to win the technology competition against a committed competitor, nor is it prepared” to defend against AI threats. “
Griffiths said there were several unmet needs for AI talent recruitment in the DOD, including the need to fund the recruitment and identification of existing talent as “we are not fully aware of what digital talent already exists” in the military and civil ranks.
“We are currently five years behind China and have to make up a deficit,” she said.
Lauren C. Williams is Senior Editor for FCW and Defense Systems, specializing in defense and cybersecurity.
Prior to joining FCW, Williams was a tech reporter at ThinkProgress, where she covered everything from internet culture to national security issues. In previous positions, Williams has reported on health care, politics, and crime for a variety of publications including the Seattle Times.
Williams graduated with a masters degree in journalism from the University of Maryland, College Park and a bachelor’s degree in dietetics from the University of Delaware. She can be reached at [email protected], or follow her on Twitter @lalaurenista.
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