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Civilians make up about 98% of the Army Corps of Engineers' 35,000 personnel. The jobs are highly specialized and it can be difficult for the Corps to recruit, develop, and retain employees.
The Corps has taken significant steps to address its workforce challenges.
DOD's more than 73,000 enlisted medical personnel serve in roles ranging from paramedics to imaging technicians, and must be ready to use their wartime medical skills to care for injured and ill servicemembers.
However, DOD could do more to define, track, and assess wartime medical skills.
Following two deadly ship collisions in 2017, the U.S. Navy looked closely at Surface Warfare Officers who command and operate surface ships at sea. The Navy made minor changes to the officers' career path, such as extending training and tours of duty.
The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program is intended to encourage people to enter public service. It forgives the federal student loan balances of eligible borrowers who have made at least 10 years of payments while in certain public service jobs.
DOD spends billions of dollars acquiring products and services. DOD's acquisition workforce (e.g., contracting officers) manages this process, but thousands of other DOD employees can be involved. For example, pilots are sometimes asked to oversee aircraft contracts.
DOD uses human capital flexibilities—including exceptions to the traditional federal hiring process—to hire and retain many of its personnel. For example, these flexibilities might allow DOD to more quickly hire a veteran, or pay a bonus to retain an employee with specialized skills.
Over 241,000 people work in DOD's health system, which reaches from the battlefield to large hospitals in the United States. The workforce includes active and reserve military, federal civilian staff, and private sector contractors.
Military pilots perform an array of national security operations, such as combat missions and reconnaissance. Consequently, retaining qualified pilots is important—both to fulfill missions and to recoup the substantial investments of time and money needed to train military pilots.
What GAO Found The Department of Defense's (DOD) laboratories (defense labs) have used the laboratory-specific direct hire authorities more than any other category of agency-specific or government-wide hiring authority for science, technology, engineering, and mathematics personnel.