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AFRL - Air Force Laboratory Personnel Demonstration Project

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Identify, develop, and test innovative personnel processes for AFRL's scientist and engineer (S&E) workforce, using the Laboratory Personnel Demonstration Project authority.


In the most general terms, a demonstration project provides a means for testing and introducing beneficial change in Government-wide human resources management systems. The DOD labs obtained the authority from the Office of Personnel Management to waive existing Federal human resources management law and regulations in title 5, United States Code, and title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, to propose, develop, test, and evaluate interventions for its own human resources management system to effectively manage its civilian workforce and shape the future of Federal human resource management.

The Air Force Laboratory Personnel Demonstration is a series of initiatives (called "interventions") covering the acquisition, sustainment, separation, and resource allocation of AFRL's civilian workforce. Several interventions were approved when Lab Demo was initially implemented for the Scientist and Engineers (S&Es), in 1997. In 2010, Lab Demo was expanded to include non-bargaining non-S&Es. Looking into the future, more initiatives may be sought to improve recruitment and retention of high-quality employees and to shape the Laboratory work force into a more flexible structure that can effectively respond to rapid changes in the technology market place.

Taken all together, the Lab Demo interventions define an employment environment that breaks away from many of the rigid rules and regulations of traditional government employment and replaces them with more flexible and efficient practices that allow AFRL to compete aggressively with other world-class technology producers. The paragraphs that follow outline the most significant interventions.

Simplified Job Classification --
One problem that Lab Demo addresses is the lengthy and cumbersome job classification system under Title-V. Realizing that local supervisors are better able to judge the requirements for specific jobs than distant "classifiers," lab managers have been given classification authority, a simplified classification method and a new classification document--the Statement of Duties and Experience (SDE)--created as a simplified classification tool. Each SDE contains job-specific information that addresses the unique requirements of the position. Menu-driven software also helps managers select the proper codes for traditional classification elements that are still required.

Broadbanding and the Contribution-based Compensation System (CCS) --
Lab Demo uses a broadbanding system with four broadband levels (I, II, III, and IV) in each of the four career paths that replaced the traditional GS structure. The four career paths are: S&E (pay plan DR), Business Management and Professional (pay plan DO), Technician (pay plan DX), and Mission Support (pay plan DU). Each broadband covers a large enough pay range to allow significant salary growth (see table below). For example, DR and DO broadband-I encompasses GS grades 7 through 11, broadband-II covers GS-12 and -13, broadband-III covers GS-14, and broadband-IV replaces GS-15. Like their GS counterparts, these broadbands have significant salary overlap. 

As an employee increases his/her contribution over the course of his/her career, he/she may advance through the broadbands without moving to a new position. Formal descriptors define in detail what level of contribution is expected at each broadband level. Over time, the contribution scores earned by each employee determine his/her broadband level. If individual scores continually increase, so too does the employee's salary and the employee will move upward through the broadbands. This is in stark contrast to Title-V, where one must compete for and be promoted into higher-level positions. Even with this difference, it is still possible to be competitively promoted to vacant positions under Lab Demo.

CCS is arguably the cornerstone of Lab Demo. It replaces the tenure-based grade and step advancement under Title-V with a pay-for-contribution system that rewards employees in relation to the value of their contribution to the AFRL mission. Monies that were used for grade and step-increases are now pooled and used to give employees annual incentive increases. These individual pay increases are primarily based on an employee's Overall Contribution Score (OCS), which are an average of factor scores in four key areas. These four factors have been determined to define valuable employee contribution toward the AFRL mission. Those factors are Problem Solving, Communication, Business Management or Technology Management for S&Es, and Teamwork and Leadership. Each factor has four levels of increasing contribution corresponding to the four broadband levels for each career path. These descriptors can be found in the Federal Register.

Demo employees are expected to contribute in each of these factors. Supervisors are instructed to interpret the factors broadly and it is up to the employee and the supervisor to establish expectations and opportunities for contribution across the spectrum of factors that produce meaningful results. However, it is also the employees' responsibility to seek out contribution opportunities on their own.

Recruitment, Relocation, and Retention (RRR) Incentives --
An OSD waiver, dated 15 Dec 96, delegated approval authority for RRR incentives under the Federal Workforce Flexibility Act (formerly known as Federal Employee Pay Comparability Act FEPCA) to the Lab Commander. Under Lab Demo, authority to use these recruitment and retention tools has been delegated to the laboratory technical directors. Typically, this authority may be used to make relocation economically feasible for new hires or to retain star employees who might otherwise be lured into the private sector.

Award Authority --
Before Lab Demo, significant cash awards required approval at a level outside the Laboratory. This intervention delegates approval authority to the Lab Commander and below. It is now practical to bestow substantial awards (up to $10,000) at the time of an employee's significant accomplishment. In addition to these noncompetitive cash awards, Lab Demo has retained historically significant competitive awards that have been used to honor "the best of the best" in scientific achievement within the Lab.

Expanded Developmental Opportunities --
Before Lab Demo, a varied assortment of opportunities such as full-time scholastic training and training with industry were already available to AFRL employees. These professional developmental activities are retained under Lab Demo along with other developmental opportunities. The spectrum of activities available under DOP is limited only by the constraint that potential contribution to the organization's mission exists. Over a specified period of time a researcher can now devote full time to writing technical papers, articles or books, or take a sabbatical to teach at a college or university. However the time is spent, the objective of the Developmental Opportunities Program is to provide renewed vivacity and motivational change of pace. Approval authority for taking advantage of opportunities under this initiative rests with the technology directors.

S&E Extended Probationary Period --
Under the Title-V system, the probationary period for new employees is one year. For many occupations, this is sufficient. However AFRL recognizes that for the type of work performed by its S&Es, one year is typically not long enough to effectively assess a new employee's potential in the Research and Development (R&D) environment. Since most R&D programs typically run several years, the probationary period for new hires under Demo has been extended to three years. After that time, employees successfully accomplishing mission-related work are no longer considered to be in a probationary status. Also, Lab Demo does away with career conditional status that employees under Title-V must initially serve. New hires into Lab Demo are given career appointments immediately.

Voluntary Emeritus Corps --
Realizing that in a research laboratory environment much of the real brain trust is in the experience of our most senior workforce, the Voluntary Emeritus Corps (VEC) was formed. VEC ensures continued quality research, mentoring, on-the-job training, support, and program management while reducing the overall basic pay line by allowing experienced employees an opportunity to retain a presence in the Laboratory community after their retirement or separation. As a VEC member, they are provided office and/or laboratory facilities to conduct research and/or act as mentors to the younger work force. While VECs are not paid a salary, they do have travel and other necessary expenses paid by the government. This is a win-win situation in which the members can continue to pursue interesting support/technical issues and the Laboratory retains a valuable resource without encumbering job positions that could be filled by younger up-and-comers.

Relocation Incentives for Co-operative Education Students and Internship Program Students --
Current recruitment of students is basically limited to the local commuting area because college students frequently cannot afford to relocate to accept job offers within the Laboratory while continuing to attend school in a different commuting area. The authority to pay relocation incentives is expanded to allow management to pay an incentive each time the student returns to duty to the Laboratory. This authority applies to all positions in AFRL and provides management the ability to expand recruitment to top universities and incentivize mobility by paying additional expenses to students accepting employment outside of their geographic area.

Accelerated Compensation Authority --
The accelerated compensation authority for S&E and Business Management and Professional broadband level I employees enables management to adjust basic pay outside of the assessment cycle when it is determined that the employee has demonstrated contribution at a level higher than his/her expected score.


·Federal Register -Vol. 75, No. 167, 30 Aug 2010 - (Approval & Legislative Authority to conduct Lab Demo)
·2016 Lab Demo DR Broadband Salary Ranges, 10 Jan 16
·2016 Lab Demo DO Broadband Salary Ranges, 10 Jan 16
·2016 Lab Demo DU Broadband Salary Ranges, 10 Jan 16
·2016 Lab Demo DU-MP Broadband Salary Ranges, 10 Jan 16
·2016 Lab Demo DX Broadband Salary Ranges, 10 Jan 16
·AFRL Manual 36-104, 1 Sep 2011

For additional information on the Lab Demo Project, please contact AFRL.LabDemo@us.af.mil or call (937) 904-9600.