The Foreign Service Journal, November 2022

THE FOREIGN SERVICE JOURNAL | NOVEMBER 2022 69 AFSA NEWS USAID VP VOICE | BY JASON SINGER AFSA NEWS Contact: | (202) 712-5267 USAID and a New Chief Human Capital Officer USAID has been seeking (again) a new chief human capital officer (CHCO) to oversee the Office of Human Capital and Talent Manage- ment (HCTM). By my informal count, this will be at least the fifth acting or permanent CHCO since 2013, for an aver- age of 1.8 years per CHCO. Even the AFSA USAID vice president usually lasts longer! Joking aside, I hope the agency hires a seasoned, smart, and dedicated profes- sional who knows develop- ment and U.S. government systems, and has deep expe- rience managing large, global, complex institutions. Indeed, the Office of the Inspector General’s May 2022 audit of strategic work- force planning opens with: “For nearly 30 years, USAID has worked to improve the efficiency and efficacy of its strategic workforce planning, yet despite these attempts, human capital management has remained one of the Agency’s top challenges.”A top challenge! It is a tough market for attracting talent. And, exac- erbating the situation, USAID does not endow the CHCO with the needed authority to carry out its statutory duties. This administration has fur- ther undermined the position by creating a political “assis- tant to the Administrator” for HCTM that sits above the CHCO and reports directly to the Administrator! The CHCO job announce- ment prompted me to consider the scope of this position. The Chief Human Capital Officers Act of 2002 outlines the CHCO’s responsibilities, including to advise and assist the head of the agency and its officials in selecting, devel- oping, training, and managing a high-quality, productive workforce, and to implement the regulations of the presi- dent, the Office of Personnel Management, and the laws governing the Civil Service within the agency. Congress laid out the CHCO’s authorities, includ- ing: (1) setting the agency’s workforce development strat- egy; (2) assessing workforce characteristics and needs; (3) aligning human resources policies with mission, strate- gic goals, and performance; (4) developing a culture of continuous learning to attract and retain employees with superior abilities; (5) iden- tifying best practices; and (6) measuring intellectual capital and identifying links to agency performance and growth. Here are some questions that I would ask if I were interviewing for the CHCO position: 1. Who does the CHCO report to? The CHCO Act says the CHCO advises and assists the head of the agency, but in November 2021, USAID created an “assistant to the Administra- tor for HCTM” who reports to the Administrator and is responsible for the manage- ment of the office and all personnel activities. Doesn’t this contravene the CHCO Act? Why did the agency create a political role? Shouldn’t the deputy Admin- istrator for Management and Resources oversee staffing? 2. Shouldn’t USAID, as a foreign affairs agency, have an FSO as CHCO? Until 2013, the USAID CHCO was a Senior FSO, and the State’s head of Global Talent Management is still an SFS officer. But USAID reserves the CHCO job solely for the Senior Executive Service. USAID’s mission is field- driven, so why does the agency exclude the Foreign Service from the CHCO position? Why not eliminate this policy, which limits the agency’s flexibility? 3. Does the CHCO have authority over USAID’s entire workforce? A friend told me that most of USAID’s 1,100-plus personal service contractors (PSCs) are hired directly by bureaus and mis- sions, with some bureaus operating parallel HR systems focused solely on PSC hiring and management; that hundreds of institutional support contractors are hired through bureau-level contracts; and that many FS Limited employee hirings are driven by bureau-level deci- sions and budget constraints. How can the CHCO carry out their duties without the authority to manage the entire workforce? How does USAID conduct strategic workforce planning with a fragmented workforce and no central authority? 4. What is the CHCO’s role in developing and advo- cating a culture of continu- ous learning? Continuous learning is critical to the professional development of FSOs. But USAID closed the Washington Learning Center, its dedicated training facility, and a lot of training is now only virtual. Did you consult with FSOs, FSNs, and the unions before closing the center? Was there an assessment of the impact of its closure on learning and professional development? 5. How does USAID implement the president’s executive order calling on agencies “to protect, empower, and rebuild the career federal workforce”? USAID’s Global Development Partnership Development Initiative (GDPI) seeks to “shift away from an overreli- ance on the use of term- limited, non-career, and often non-U.S. direct-hire (NDH) mechanisms.” What steps is the agency taking to integrate career employees into the bureaus made up of 80 or 90 percent noncareer hires? What is the agency doing to empower career FSOs, particularly in Washington where they are the minority? 6. Did I get the job? n