September 11, 2003

Radio Days

By Tanya N. Ballard

On Sept. 16, the American Federation of Government Employees will launch a second radio campaign against the Defense Department's proposal for revamping its civilian personnel system.

"DoD employees protect America," AFGE President John Gage says in the ads. "We're civilians who keep our military prepared and strong."

The radio ad campaign is another effort by AFGE to stifle a plan included in the House version of the fiscal 2004

National Defense Authorization Act. That legislation includes sweeping changes to the Defense civilian personnel system: switching to a pay-banding system, creating a separate pay structure for managers, modifying job classifications, adding fast-track hiring authorities and changing reduction-in-force procedures. More than 700,000 employees would be affected by the changes it proposes. Currently, the bill is in conference committee.

Opponents of the measure say it gives the Defense secretary too much power and removes critical employee protections. The ads encourage Defense employees to "fight back against the attacks on DoD employees' rights and jobs." Radio stations in Washington, Ohio, Maine, Alabama, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, New York, Maryland, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri and Virginia will run the ads.

AFGE launched a similar radio campaign in May.

Passed Over at HUD

Several administrative snafus at the Housing and Urban Development Department caused five veterans to be passed over for jobs for which they were qualified, according to the Office of Personnel Management.

By law, veterans generally receive special consideration for federal jobs. Usually this means veterans get additional points added to their applicant rating score, which can send their applications to the top of the candidate pile.

At HUD, the department's delegated examining unit (DEU), which evaluates candidates' qualifications, failed to add the extra points to an applicant's rating, gave veterans' preference points to nonveteran applicants and overlooked veterans altogether, OPM found.

Now, the department must offer jobs to the five affected veterans, or give them priority status for future jobs. The hiring errors were discovered during a merit system accountability audit of the department's hiring practices and activities.

To eliminate these problems, OPM plans to audit hiring practices through the DEU back to Jan. 1, 2002. The human resources agency will also identify and audit the pool of applicants before job offers are made and work with HUD officials to implement an accountability system within the department's delegated examining unit.

"We owe a great debt to the men and women who have served our nation in uniform and I pledge to make HUD an even more effective and welcome environment for our veterans," said HUD Deputy Secretary Alphonso Jackson.

OPM is conducting merit system accountability audits at other agencies.