Defense Digital Service Awards ‘Civilian Hiring as a Service’ Contract

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The Pentagon’s nerd squad is rethinking how it hires talent in fields like cybersecurity, computer science and user experience design.

The Defense Digital Service Tuesday awarded a contract worth up to $7 million to five companies to participate in a pilot program designed to revamp the way the Pentagon recruits top technical talent.

The Civilian Hiring as a Service Pilot, or CHaaS, was borne out of a necessity for the Pentagon to attract cutting-edge talent in cybersecurity, user experience design, product management and computer science to compete with foreign adversaries.

Today’s federal hiring system—anchored by the USAJobs.gov portal—is too passive and “isn’t meeting the growing need for talented technical people,” according to a statement from DDS. Tech recruiting problems are exacerbated by lengthy hiring times—the Office of Personnel Management lists the average hiring time at 105 days—lower public sector pay rates for techies and an aging federal tech workforce.  

“The government doesn’t utilize common private sector practices, and government hiring often creates hurdles, poor candidate experience, and lengthy timelines which can deter talented technical people,” DDS officials said in a statement. “Now we are working to help the DOD rethink how it approaches cyber hiring and pilot a new way to recruit tech talent and fill critical positions. If we are going to bring in the best talent, it must become far easier for these people to join.”

The companies selected for the pilot are Catch Talent, TeraSense, Foxhound Federal, Comtech and PrishanTek.

Those companies, under the direction of DDS, will actively recruit tech talent for the Defense Department based on need and vacancies, engaging job candidates at every facet of a process that begins at identification and ends with a job offer.

Specifically, the recruitment firms will “convey federal job opportunities using messaging and communication strategies that convey the importance of our mission and successful target the right skills,” meeting candidates “where they are, leveraging digitally-enabled, interactive components to attract them,” according to DDS.

Per the pilot, the firms are expected to deliver candidates that are superior to those who passively apply. In addition, the firms will be charged with filling a certain number of technical positions throughout the duration of the contract, which runs through April 2020. Finally, the contract allows for companies to compete to fill the highest-priority, senior openings.

“The competition for top technical talent has never been greater than it is today,” Foxhound Federal Chief Executive Officer Drew Riggs said in a statement. “Sourcing and enticing top talent to consider government service, then screening and ultimately hiring are what the program is all about.”