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III. ISSUES REQUIRING FURTHER ANALYSIS The Committee on Scientists and Engineers in the Federal Government has examined the information available to decision-makers concerned about the overall competence and capability of the federal government to attract and effectively utilize a cadre of highly qualified scientists and engineers who can develop and implement federal S&E policies. Based on this preliminary study, however, the Committee believes that many questions remain unanswered. The Committee identified the following specific issues as candidates for further analysis: What mechanisms and scenarios for conducting federal S&E work could be employed on a wider basis to enhance recruitment, retention, and utilization of federal scientists and engineers? Within the federal government are many mechanisms, both formal and informal, lo enhance the recruitment, retention, and utilization of scientists and engineers. In addition, federal S&E work is completed under a variety of scenarios. However, to the Committee's knowledge no in-depth analysis has been conducted to determine the best mechanisms for government-wide application. Individual agencies have determined the routes by which their S&E work will be accomplished, but no systemw~de analysis of the effectiveness of these various scenarios in recruiting, retaining, and utilizing scientists and engineers is available. The Committee believes that a study of these mechanisms and scenarios would provide much useful information and strengthen the federal government's effectiveness. It wright compare civil service laboratories with demonstration projects, with program areas, and with contract facilities (M&Os) to determine the distribution of federal S&E work to each, differences in problems faced by scientists and engineers (as well as their managers) in each scenario, and improvements to federal S&E work that might be expected if there is greater reliance on a particular scenario. In addition, such a study might answer: . What can be done to enhance federal recruitment of scientists and engineers, especially women and minorities at the entry level, and retention of all scientists and engineers at the midcareer level? What institutional decision-making processes should be altered and in what way? Should the relationship between OPM and the individual federal agencies be different for scientists and engineers than it-is for other federal personnel? To more effectively recruit, retain, and utilize the federal S&E work force requires efforts both by the central personnel agency (OPM) and by the individual agencies employing scientists and engineers. Some activities must be centralized-for example, basic tools such as occupational and qualification standards. Other 29
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activities-for example, examination and hiring- should be decentralized, reflecting individual agency's needs.44 While agencies look to OPM for direction, it might be beneficial if they undertook self-assessments to ascertain what steps could be taken at the agency level. The Committee believes that insightful information could be gained by answering the following questions: What steps are (to be) taken to achieve its recruitment goal? How? What problems are encountered in meeting that goal? Why? What can be done to alleviate them? How does the agency retain its scientists and engineers, and how successful are these mechanisms? How are decisions made about job assignments, and how does job placement affect employee performance/productivity and morale? A number of personnel initiatives should be encouraged, continued, and implemented more broadly. Among the possibilities are those undertaken by the military services, including career management, enlistment and reenlistment bonuses, and continuing education and training. What steps must be taken to heighten the awareness within agencies of the mechanisms established by OPM to alleviate many of the problems that they encounter in recruiting and retaining scientists and engineers? One mechanism might be seminars designed to equip personnel officers and line managers with recruitment strategies that will attract qualified scientists and engineers; this would include clarification about direct-hire- authority and the special rates approved by OPM. Another means to heighten awareness might be to exchange personnel people between agencies experiencing recruitment and retention problems and those finding it less difficult to recruit and retain scientists and engineers. What criteria should be used to determine effectiveness? What aspects of each mode of operation such as salary, pay banding, fringe benefits, and the role of program managers-contributes to effective S&E work? What facilitated this effectiveness? (Why did it work?) How can effective aspects of recruitment, retention, and utilization be replicated systemwide? In addition, it would seem beneficial for greater interactions to occur between agencies encountering difficulties in their utilization of scientists and engineers and those that seem to have resolved these problems. How can the CPDF be more useful to agencies facing difficulties in recruiting and retaining scientists and engineers? 44MSPB has praised OPM's efforts at decentralization (see U.S. Merit Systems Protection Board, 1989c.)
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To assess the situation adequately, one must look at the agencies, their specific kinds of expertise, and what they are trying to accomplish. Agency-specific data will always be more sophisticated and more detailed, based on the agency's purposes. Nonetheless, aggregate data are useful for government-wide policy purposes. CPDF data, appropriately meshed with agency data, would enable agency people to determine whether any problems they face are systemic or unique to a specific agency. Thus, data systems on the federal S&E work force should be designed to enhance management of that work force and enable policy-makers to make sound decisions, and users of the CPDF must be made aware both of the CPDF's content and of its intended uses. Greater collaboration and coordination between OPM and the federal agencies employing scientists and engineers should facilitate more effective management of the government's technical work force. Because the CPDF contains only those data suppliecl by the agencies, many of whom also collect and maintain data for their own use, discussions should center around the types of data needed by each. It is unclear whether (~) the format by which the data are collected by OPM leads to dual data systems, (2) a computer network to make the CPDF accessible to agency staff wouIc3 be useful, or (3) further delineation and standardization of occupational classifications by OPM would provide more useful information both to the individual federal employers of scientists and engineers and to policy-makers. It is conceivable than an interagency group such as the Federal Coordinating Council on Science, Engineering, and Technology (FCCSET) might wish to investigate ways to make the CPDF more able to meet the needs of both OPM and the individual federal agencies employing scientists and engineers-focusing on what data are needed, the level of aggregation that should be used, and the degree of comparability of data between the public and private sectors. Are there too few scientists and engineers In the federal government? Or are there too few highly qualified federal scientists and engineers? To answer this question, the Committee believes that there should be a more systematic assessment of requirements, available supply, and measures that can be taken to meet requirements. This might be undertaken by the FCCSET Committee on Education and Human Resources. Individual agencies should determine the number of scientists and engineers necessary for agency missions to be fulfilled, and the federal government should examine measures used by industry and academe to assess whether the quality of scientists and engineers differs significantly from that of the past. The federal government's need for scientists and engineers is part of a greater problem the dwindling supply of U.S. scientists and engineers relative to the demand for their skills and knowledge in all sectors of the economy. But more analyses of a longitudinal nature and perhaps different data are needed to determine the severity of the federal government's problems in utilizing and managing its very critical human resources in comparison to the problems encountered by industry and academe. In addition, a closer examination of the different employment sectors seems warranted to answer the following questions: How is recruitment of scientists and engineers accomplished? If there are annual recruitment goals, how are they determined and what are they? What aspects of the employing organization that is, institutional decision 31
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. . making influence individual decisions of scientists and engineers to remain with or to leave a specific employer? To what extent do employers utilize scientists and engineers effectively that is, assign responsibilities commensurate with their education and experience? How do employers respond to shifts in supply and demand? What can be done to ensure that the politic appointment process enhances the recruitment, retention, and utiii~tion of scientists and engineers In the federal government? The Committee recommends a careful study to determine the underlying issues related to the work performed by political appointees, assessing the degree to which this work is policy oriented versus science and engineering oriented. To the extent that this work has sufficient policy content, such a study should examine Whether there is a need to improve the process by which individuals are recommended for political appointments; Whether the character of S&E work is such that using the political appointments process is inappropriate for selecting people to fill S&E policy positions in the federal government; and Criteria for determining how deep within each federal agency PAS (Presidential appointees requiring Senate confirmation) penetration should occur, reflecting individual agency needs. 32