Commentary: Transforming the Civilian Defender Program

  • Published
  • By Mrs. Heidi L. Scheppers, Deputy Director, Security Forces

U.S. Air Force leadership declared 2020 as the Year of Integrated Base Defense (IBD), focusing on how every Air and Space Professional fits into a layered defensive network. IBD is greater in scope than any single career field. It requires active participation between all Air Force Specialty Codes and ranks to operate as a cohesive fighting force.

As the Year of Integrated Base Defense starts, we are preparing for a future that will look significantly different than our past. The future is full of frequent disruption, not just from technology, but also from people and leaders who are looking to do things better, more fairly, and more responsibly. We need a force that is more lethal and ready.

Defenders, to include Civilian Defenders, are a critical part of the Year of Integrated Base Defense.

This year, we continue to invest in the Civilian Defender Program to create the most lethal and ready force. We have invested in human capital, training, retention, and career growth.

In February 2019, the Air Combat Command Security Forces Director requested assistance with right-sizing their squadrons and providing complementary Civilian Defender continuity positions for each of their units.  Specifically, the positions requested were Deputy Director, Assistant Operations Manager, Criminal History Data Analyst, and Civilian Defender Program Manager. These positions would serve as civilian growth opportunities, a sorely needed mechanism to leverage civilians in the human capital domain of each unit by developing specific functions and positions. 

Retaining existing personnel is a fundamental need in the Civilian Defender program. Security Forces leaders pursued efforts to incentivize staying in the career field, by upgrading the baseline position from a General Schedule GS-6 to a GS-7 level.  On September 23, 2019, the entry-level core foundational GS-0083-07 Standard Core Personnel Document (SCPD) was classified, published and posted in the Air Force Personnel Center SCPD Library for use.  Security Forces units have been actively upgrading their GS-0083-06 positions to GS-0083-07.  These officers, have on the average seen a salary increase of $4 – 5,000 dollars dependent on the unit’s location. 

Additional efforts to improve retention of Civilian Defenders include a career development pyramid that demonstrates the progression of steps showing opportunity for growth from the entry level GS-07 to Deputy Director Positions at the GS-13 level.  The use of the recruitment, retention and relocation (3R) and Special Salary Rate (SSR) incentives are available for used in Security Forces units.  There are currently 26 Security Forces units that receive SSR and three that are using 3R incentives. 

In association with AFPC’s Security Career Field Team and AFPC’s Classification Section, AFSFC continues to develop the necessary SCPDs to both meet ACC’s right-sizing efforts as well as grow a comprehensive career growth construct for Civilian Defenders Air Force-wide.

In addition to retaining personnel, Security Forces leadership recognized the need to hire the right people at the right time. As a result, in September 2019, Headquarters Air Force/A4S obtained Direct Hire Authority (DHA) from OPM for the 0083 police officer series throughout the Department of Defense. This effort helps expedite hiring activities and to date, approximately 245 Civilian Defender personnel have been hired under DHA.

Please refer to the Under Secretary of Defense (Personnel & Readiness) memorandum signed Sept. 30, 2019, and the Deputy Secretary of Defense memorandum, “Implementation of Direct-Hire Authority for Shortage Category and/or Critical Need Positions,” signed June 6, 2017 for details.

AFSFC in collaboration with VA-LETC launched the first 10-Week Civilian Defender Academy class in October 2019, to meet Peace Officer Standardization and Training certification.  On December, 20, 2020, 23 Civilian Defenders graduated the first 10-week class. A second class of 27 Civilian Defenders graduated on March 13, 2020.  

This partnership has enabled the development of three additional follow-on courses.  The follow-on advanced courses will be comprised of a five-day Deputy Director, 10-day Supervisor and five-day Field Training courses are in development and are in the planning phase to launch in FY21.  These follow-on courses will help provide Defenders with improved skills, ready to perform integrated defense missions at Air Force installations.

The National Defense Strategy states that our homeland is no longer a sanctuary. The communities we serve and the threats we protect them from are increasingly diverse and complex, necessitating a more sophisticated response to the challenges now and in the future. Transforming the Civilian Defender program will aid our ability to respond to those challenges.

Mrs. Heidi L. Scheppers, Deputy Director, Security Forces

DCS/Logistics, Engineering & Force Protection