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Insourcing contractor acquisition support

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http://federaltimes.com/index.php?S=4034200

What are everyone's thoughts about the proposal to "in-source" the myriad of acquisition-support contractor personnel, by converting them to federal employees? I see a variety of issues, such are existing HR flexibilities sufficient to make this happen? How will salaries be set?

I also wonder how many of these types of acquisition workers will want to be federal employees? For example, many contractor contract specialists are already retired federal employees or military-many I know of in this boat would rather just do something else than be a federal employee.

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I know a major focus of this is to convert in-place contractor employees to GS employees, and there are probably a lot of those people who do not want to convert. But there are also a lot of people in the commercial sector who would like to get into DoD contracting but have been blocked from doing so as many of the DoD contracting positions have been advertised as either "internal" or only open to candidates with "status". I never really understood why DoD did that, as they are typically stealing people from one agency (DoD or non-DoD) to fill vacancies in another and restricting bringing in "new blood". In my last job (non-DoD) I was a term civil service employee which didn't give me the necessary status to apply for a lot of DoD vacancies. Fortunately I eventually got my foot in the DoD door because I was a retired vet. I know some other people who previously spent time in DoD as term employees, took a job in the commercial sector because it seemed to offer longer term security over a term appointment, and are now having a hard time getting back into DoD because they don't have "status". Hopefully DoD will open up the doors a little wider with this new influx of civil service employees.

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http://federaltimes.com/index.php?S=4034200

What are everyone's thoughts about the proposal to "in-source" the myriad of acquisition-support contractor personnel, by converting them to federal employees? I see a variety of issues, such are existing HR flexibilities sufficient to make this happen? How will salaries be set?

I also wonder how many of these types of acquisition workers will want to be federal employees? For example, many contractor contract specialists are already retired federal employees or military-many I know of in this boat would rather just do something else than be a federal employee.

HR flexibilities is key. I know many agencies contract out because they claim the private sector can provide people quickly. In other words,a contractor can provide resumes, bring people in for quick interviews, and the government make an on-the-spot decision about the person. Plus the private sector can transfer and replace someone that doesn't work out.

If this needs to work, the government HR process needs some radical changes and I don't see that happening especailly with the influence of unions. Unions will worry about new hires coming in at higher pay than long standing Fedeal employees.

Federal salaries are competitive so I don't see that as a barrier, especially with the government fringe benefits.

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HR flexibilities is key. I know many agencies contract out because they claim the private sector can provide people quickly. In other words,a contractor can provide resumes, bring people in for quick interviews, and the government make an on-the-spot decision about the person. Plus the private sector can transfer and replace someone that doesn't work out.

If this needs to work, the government HR process needs some radical changes and I don't see that happening especailly with the influence of unions. Unions will worry about new hires coming in at higher pay than long standing Fedeal employees.

Federal salaries are competitive so I don't see that as a barrier, especially with the government fringe benefits.

I have seen what I consider a disturbing trend in an agency that I am familiar with. The acquiring of the services of a recently retired employee through indirect means: Solicit a contract for professional or temporary administrative support services and a firm is selected that will hire the recently retired person, and bingo, they are back on the job.

As I see it, this is motivated by two reasons.

1. An easy way to continue the services of the retired employee. But, hey, everyone retires, heck people transfer. It is not un-expected. And with the perceived slowness of the personnel (excuse me Human Capital Management) system there is a knee jerk reaction to point to that first as a reason to contract or to expedite. When more often than not it is the obtuseness of the project shops managers that no planning or setting in motion of personnel actions to fill that position were done given the expected retirement.

2. Coupled with a growing awareness of ...."hey, easy, no problem, we can contract them back!" And that is influenced by what I consider wrong headed thinking of people-pleasing contract folks who go along with such contracts to the extent of even promoting the practice: "No problem, we can do a sole-source 8a with a firm that will hire that person." or tailoring the evaluation criteria to the shoe size of the de-facto "key person".

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I agree and have seen the practice of hiring retirees as consultants or employees in directed subcontracts.

Not sure that I agree with the statement about federal salaries being cometitive, but I guess that depends on your geographic location. Some new hires just stick around the agency long enough to get up to speed and then jump ship to work at contractor's--attracted by higher salaries. Then the agency never gets an experienced workforce and has to train new hires over and over again.

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Recruitment in the government is a major problem and something Congress or the Administration doesn't want to touch.

The government keeps saying they want to "adopt industry best practices" and in many cases they do. But the HR system is a joke. Imagine any corporation following the governments? process for hiring.

Retired employees coming back as contractors happens because the government can't recruit a replacement that's nearly as good. Most agencies are finding it?s increasingly difficult to get solid performers as replacements when experience people leave. While OPM made a change that allows retirees to come back as re-employed annuitants without penalty, the OPM approval processes is so cumbersome and time-consuming, most agencies feel it's not worth it. So retirees come back as contractors, which cost the government a whole lot more money. Again it's a situation where no one wants to change or fix.

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Here at my work the HR folks are a joke and completely incompetent when faced with anything more complex than submitting a form. Even in that they make a mistake at least 50% of the time, particularly in dealing with benefit options.

They also have a practice of putting about 30% of new employees from other agencies in the "career conditional" category even when they were in the "permanent career" category before being hired. When we showed them in writing they were wrong, citing regulations, laws and rulings, they still refused to change, even when the supervisor over the HR shop admitted they were wrong. When we asked why he would not change an admittedly wrong action, he replied it would "upset" his workers, which he was unwilling to do.

And they wonder why the hiring process in the federal government is hosed up!!

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Guest Vern Edwards

shinaku:

Assuming that there is such a trend, which you probably can't prove, why is it disturbing?

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shinaku:

Assuming that there is such a trend, which you probably can't prove, why is it disturbing?

Why I find it disturbing.

When a person retires, it is generally established on the radar well before that last day happens. I have been assigned two ?requirements? where the project was to get that person back in their old slot, basically doing their old job. When I gently queried the project folks, none of whom were really ?in-charge? as management is immune from being asked those questions ? would not want to be put on the spot by a lowly contract specialist right? The bromide reply was in the vain of ?gosh, the HCM process is so difficult and slow and we really need this person back.? Did this just occur to you last week?

When I have drilled down further, I find, as I saw it, just plain lack of planning and attendant actions to mitigate the impending retirement. Heck, just as in contracting we have the PALT, the same applies for taking action to get one?s vacancy out and pro-actively working with HCM or taking other management actions or ideas into play. I also suspect that with the knowledge on both the retiree?s part and the project folks that ?hey, great idea, you can come back as a ?contractor?? is wrong and it feeds itself thus giving more impetus to not ?bothering? with the HCM process or other ideas in a timely way. Hey, buck up, do your job ? plan and take action. Oh, you find it difficult? I am so sorry ? give me a break.

I drill further and run this by folks I know in HCM and the excuse does not hold water as tightly as the project folks? excuse claims to be. A disconnect.

Now I am talking first hand accounts of my experience in an agency specific situation. I am well aware of the convoluted and arcane processes that exist in a many HCM departments.

And another point that this connects with. It further stymies the recruitment of new people, the advancement of others and short shrifts current folks who could have a chance, even if forced, to step up to the plate and do the retired persons duties, if even on an interim basis while they fill the position through the HCM process. I can see the next local job fair that my agency participates in where they really should say to people interested ?Oh, we fill our vacancies by contracting back to the folks who left them?so no real attrition here anymore.?

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shinaku,

Agencies want to keep GOOD people - people with expertise and experience that are viewed as valuable. As I said earlier, it's too bad OPM can't fix the problem with allowing agencies to bring back reemployed annuitants without penalities. So contracting for their continued support is the only option.

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shinaku,

Agencies want to keep GOOD people - people with expertise and experience that are viewed as valuable. As I said earlier, it's too bad OPM can't fix the problem with allowing agencies to bring back reemployed annuitants without penalities. So contracting for their continued support is the only option.

While I completely agree with you on that patently obvious statement it is not the only option nor should there be any singular course of action focused on because it is expedient. People- aka valuable experienced employees - have absolute certainties (as we all do) to grow old, get sick and die in addition to the optional aspects of retirement, resigning, or transferring.

A wild example to enhance my point; Lets start promoting cryogenic suspension for those "GOOD" people to be kept on "ice" (before dementia sets in...that is, while they are still "good"). We can work a legal tweak into establishing their re-instatement rights after the technology is developed to bring them back to life for another 30 year career.

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Guest Vern Edwards

Well, if slow performance by HCM is what bothers you, there's nothing new about that, and I would not call it a "trend."

There's a long tradition of bringing retirees back for limited periods of time. It's not a new thing, and it can serve a useful purpose.

Awarding contracts so you can bring them back as employees of the contractor strikes me as possibly stupid, depending on the rationale, but not "disturbing," as long as the contracts were awarded in strict accord with law and regulation. But this kind of thing is a matter of opinion, and if it bothers you, well, it bothers you. Everybody is bothered by something at some time or another.

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Hi, I own a small business that has about 25 people. We do almost all of our work for the federal government. Everyone else in the company except for me works on site directly supporting the customer. We go to great expense and effort to find and retain great people to support our customers. This includes extensive and expensive resume searches, interview after interview, and reference checks. We also have generous benefits, frequent social events and go to a lot of trouble to have the people stay on. This is backfiring now though as we have had two of our best employees hired by our customers over the last month. Also I know of at least 4 additional employees working under a couple of different contracts who our customers are trying to hire and probably will - unless I take some action. Obviously my company could literally be absorbed by the government if I am not careful.

As an example and in the most recent case we had a 5 year contract for one person. They liked the person we had working there so much they converted the position to a government billet and basically forced her to take the civil servant position doing the exact same job. Then they cancelled our 5 year contract for convenience - in the middle of the first option year and giving my company less than two weeks notice of the termination. Thus they basically used my company as a recruiting company without paying a recruiting fee - which is often some major percent of one years salary. I was planning on earning back the recruiting expenses etc over the 5 year period but now will be lucky to break even and will probably lose money on this contract. Also I have had several business development opportunities affected by losing this past performance and it sure doesnt help the morale of the rest of my people - and is a dangerous precedent that encourages everyone to consider doing the same.

I asked for some kind of consideration such as an equivalent position somewhere else at the command but was rebuffed. I am submitting an invoice/final settlement proposal within a few weeks. If someone has an idea of what I can include in this invoice would appreciate it.

Of course the bigger question is what can be done to keep my customers from hiring the best of my remaining employees - which is definitely about to happen.

Thanks!

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Guest Vern Edwards
[W]what can be done to keep my customers from hiring the best of my remaining employees[?]

Offer the employees better jobs and more money.

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Aronson,

I got a kick out of your post. After years of industry snapping up the best and brightest from the Government's ranks, the pendulum seems to swinging the other way. Expect the current trend to continue for another 5-10 years. Then, we'll start hearing how the size of Government is too big and that we should be outsourcing more acquisition positions.

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.

Aronson,

do you require employees to sign a NDA/ Non-compete agreement ? If so, add this to it.

.

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Guest Vern Edwards
Aronson,

do you require employees to sign a NDA/ Non-compete agreement ? If so, add this to it.

Having once been the victim of a noncompete agreement that I foolishly signed and that was subsequently broadly interpreted by a former employer with more money to litigate than I had, and having suffered terribly for it for two years, I say that if Aronson makes his employees sign such agreements I hope that every single one of them leaves his employ and I advise others not to work for him. Hopefully, he does not use such potentially coercive measures.

Brian: I hope that you can guess what I think of your suggestion.

To others: Do not sign any noncompete agreement before you consult an attorney. Better yet, do not sign any noncompete agreement.

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As a young 1102 some years ago, more than a few contractors tried to hire me away from the government. I stayed because the government offered me something the contractors couldn't. You should offer your employees what the government can't. Short of that, you could see if it's possible to negotiate into your contracts a recruitment fee, payable if the agency hires your employee.

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Guest Vern Edwards
As a young 1102 some years ago, more than a few contractors tried to hire me away from the government. I stayed because the government offered me something the contractors couldn't. You should offer your employees what the government can't. Short of that, you could see if it's possible to negotiate into your contracts a recruitment fee, payable if the agency hires your employee.

No competent contracting officer would sign a contract that provided for payment of such a fee. What if the employee responded to a public announcement of a government job and turned out the be the best qualified candidate? The government should pay a fee to the contractor because its employee decided to seek public employment? The government should deny a public job to a qualified someone who seeks it because some idiot contracting officer agreed to the payment of such a fee? Dumb idea. Really dumb.

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That's why I said to see if it's possible. I didn't say that it would be smart, or even possible. If a CO was to sign a contract including such a fee, though (however unlikely), it seems the arrangement would satisfy the presenting concern.

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Guest Vern Edwards
That's why I said to see if it's possible.

You said to see if it's possible because it's really dumb?

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Having once been the victim of a noncompete agreement that I foolishly signed and that was subsequently broadly interpreted by a former employer with more money to litigate than I had, and having suffered terribly for it for two years, I say that if Aronson makes his employees sign such agreements I hope that every single one of them leaves his employ and I advise others not to work for him. Hopefully, he does not use such potentially coercive measures.

Brian: I hope that you can guess what I think of your suggestion.

To others: Do not sign any noncompete agreement before you consult an attorney. Better yet, do not sign any noncompete agreement.

I don't know what experience you have running a business, Vern, but it costs money to recruit, screen select, hire and train people.

Do you think that a vendor ought to give up assets, like their investment in personnel, in order to help an Agency overcome poor HR management within the Government, and get no consideration in return ?

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Guest Vern Edwards

Brian:

I run a rather successful business. I have employees. I know that what you get in business, and the assets that you keep, are reflections of your competence and hard work. There are no guarantees. I think a business should compete for labor like it does for sales. I do not ask my employees, who are very highly paid, to sign noncompetes.

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From my personal observation, non-compete agreements are rarely used just to keep a former employee from going to a competitor. For one thing, courts don't like them because they limit an employee's right to earn a living.

Another thing is they scare potential new employees, especially if you are the only employer they talked with that uses them.

Good employers also (including the government) wants employees to be happy, learn, and gow. They recognize employees leave for a variety of reasons and shouldn't hinder that.

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Most non-competes are written in a way that the court won't uphold because they are too broad. BUT contractors performing acquisition support better be signing non-disclosure agreements or else we're going to spend all our time dealing with procurement integrity/perception/protest issues instead of making smart business arrangements.

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