Skilled Civilian Workers Needed For Aircraft Maintenance

 WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator David Perdue (R-GA) today questioned the Honorable Matthew Donovan, nominee to be Under Secretary of Defense for Personnel and Readiness, about recruiting skilled civilian workers for positions within the Air Force’s maintenance depots, including Robins Air Force Base in Georgia.

The Department of Defense’s current 180-day rule prevents retiring servicemembers from accepting an equivalent civilian position at a military base until 180 days after their military retirement. With private sector competition and a quickly-retiring workforce, this rule limits the Air Force’s ability to recruit and retain the civilian workforce it needs.

 In addition, Perdue questioned Mr. Jordan Gillis, nominee to be Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, about how continuing resolutions affect military housing projects.

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 On Recruiting Skilled Workers For Depot Maintenance

Senator Perdue: “The interface between uniform service members and our civilian workforce is one of the key success factors of our Joint Force. We have a volunteer uniformed force and a civilian workforce that’s better than anything in the world. With an aging workforce, I’m concerned about the 180-day rule and how we fulfill our needs in a low-unemployment era. It’s getting harder and harder to find qualified civilian workers. As one example, we have three major Air Force depots, one of those happens to be in my state. Thirty-seven percent of the workforce at Robins Air Force Base is set to retire by 2023. By 2028, 54 percent will retire. That’s very indicative of the other depots as well. What is your impression of how we might use the 180-day rule and how we might amend it in this particular period of time when we’re facing a shortage of qualified and trained workers in the civilian force?”

Mr. Donovan: “That was one of my priorities as the Under Secretary of the Air Force – to drive down that time it takes to hire someone into government service. People need jobs, they apply for jobs, and then they wait so long they end up going to other industries. We’re all in competition for those same skills. That’s one of the things that we’re trying to do is drive down, simplify that, and stay within the rules of the Office of Personnel Management. We are making some progress. … It’s completely frustrating. As you mentioned, so much of our civilian workforce is entering into retirement age, and they’re going to need to be replaced with fresh, young workers.”

Senator Perdue: “In your opinion, do you think we need to revise the 180-day rule?”

Mr. Donovan: “If confirmed, I’ll work with the committee. I’m not sure yet if that needs to be revised. I do know that we need to work continuously on getting that time to hire reduced.”

On How Continuing Resolutions Affect Military Housing Projects

Senator Perdue: “We had a hearing here where the Secretary of the Army explained to us that because of the continuing resolution that was employed in October of last year, the first quarter of this fiscal year, 4,400 housing units were held up on various bases across the country. As a volunteer soldier, what’s your opinion about how we should look at the housing needs of a volunteer force?”

Mr. Gillis: “Typically, speaking from my Army perspective, what we do is look for the community first to see what they can provide in terms of housing the force. What we provide is the balance. Community first, military second. But from a prioritization standpoint within the military, whether it’s new construction or sustainment, at least in the Army, housing is one of the things that we prioritize, because that is something we owe to the soldiers and families of the Army. That’s something that, if not already in place, should apply across the department.”