Ash Carter: DOD Seeking to Learn 'Best Practices' From Companies Such As Amazon, FedEx

By Susan Jones | June 10, 2016 | 5:45 AM EDT

Defense Secretary Ash Carter announces new "Force of the Future" initiatives at the Pentagon, June 9, 2016. (DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Tim D. Godbee)

( - Defense Secretary Ashton Carter said on Thursday he plans to create a new "talent exchange program" so civilian DOD employees can learn better ways of doing things by spending time at private companies such as Amazon or FedEx.

"If we want to send a civilian from the Defense Logistics Agency or TRANSCOM (United States Transportation Command) to spend six months at a place like Amazon or FedEx to see what we might be able to learn, there's no formal mechanism for that. And the same goes for the opposite direction, if we want to host people from those or other companies.

"So we want to create a program to facilitate that, with all the proper ethical safeguards, of course. And being able to temporarily exchange civilian employees, talent and best practices with some of America's best and most innovative companies will help DOD stay on the cutting edge and be more efficient and effective."

That was one of several changes Carter announced on Thursday as part of his "force of the future" initiative.

Carter also announced that the Defense Department will seek authority from Congress to directly hire civilian employees from college campuses, instead of having prospective employees go through the cumbersome website, where it can take up to 90 days to get a response.

"This has the potential to be a real game-changer for us," Carter said. "Our civilian recruiters will be able to go to a campus job fair, do some interviews. And if they find someone who is the right fit, they can make a tentative offer on the spot, pending security clearance, potentially cutting down those 90 days to zero."

Carter also said he'll ask Congress to give civilian DOD employees paid maternity and paternity leave.

"Parental leave is fully paid for military personnel, and the same should be true for their civilian colleagues. This is important for retaining civilian talent, especially since we want to retain people who are experienced but not at the end of their careers, which is exactly the time people are having families.

"We can't afford to risk losing civilian talent just because private sector companies will pay them during their maternity and paternity leave, and we won't. So it's time to get this done."

For uniformed military personnel, Carter announced that the Defense Department will make "common sense improvements" to the officer promotion system, making it less rigid and fairer to people who take time out of the military to pursue higher education or some other form of advanced training.

"We can't have a system that inadvertently almost kicks out a Rhodes scholar just because the calendar tells us to," Carter said.

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