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Feedback Fridays

By Brig. Gen. Laura L. Lenderman | 502d Air Base Wing Commander | Sept. 13, 2019

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO, Texas —

Feedback Fridays is a weekly forum that aims to connect the 502d Air Base Wing with members of the Joint Base San Antonio community. Questions are collected during commander’s calls, town hall meetings and throughout the week.

If you have a question or concern, please send an email to RandolphPublicAffairs@us.af.mil using the subject line “Feedback Fridays.” Questions will be further researched and published as information becomes available.

Personnel Issues

Q. Recently, Maintenance Worker WG personnel received notice they would be getting a pay raise/COLA related. In the past several weeks, we have asked management and union member leaders the same question, and have only came to one conclusion – maybe we are not asking the right people.

Is it true that Maintenance WG personnel will be getting this pay raise? Only those working on the flight line arena were notified of such a raise. The same pay raise/COLA incentive excluded others of the same pay grade.

We keep hearing that the white shirts in the fight line of work are among the few that support their people in all aspects, especially when it comes to the COLA subject. The picture we get is that all other GS personnel are already getting a COLA incentive, so if it happened to others fine, if not, oh well.

Can you shed some light on this subject? Maybe this has already been addressed and several of us missed it.

A. Thank you very much for voicing your concerns, and giving us the opportunity to clear up any misconceptions.

The Office of Personnel Management, or OPM, may establish higher rates of basic pay for a group or category of Federal Wage System, or FWS, positions in one or more geographic areas to address existing or likely significant handicaps in recruiting or retaining well-qualified employees.

In this case, OPM authorized the establishment of special rates for aircraft maintenance positions in the San Antonio wage area. Special Rate Ranges for Aircraft Maintenance and Support positions were identified for the following organizations/locations: 149th Fighter Wing, 433rd Airlift Wing, 12th Maintenance Group, 575th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, and Camp Stanley Storage Activity. Applicable series/grades are further identified in the Department of Defense’s Defense Civilian Personnel Advisory Service, or DCPAS, website at https://www.dcpas.osd.mil/BWN/WageIndex.

Additionally, FWS employees are not included in the GS locality pay system, as they are paid under a separate, preexisting rate system that reflects private sector practices for setting pay at different levels or work for trades, craft, and laborer occupations.

Here is a link for additional insight into General Schedule vs. Federal Blue-Collar Schedule: https://www.dcpas.osd.mil/BWN/HistoryOfWage/#general. The Federal Wage System Schedule for the San Antonio wage area can be found by visiting their website at https://www.dcpas.osd.mil/BWN/WageIndex

If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding specific salary tables, please don’t hesitate to contact your servicing civilian personnel staffing specialist.

Q. When will the hiring practices be cleaned up in some organizations? This is in reference to the appointing authorities referenced in the Commanders Call Questionnaire of June 14, 2019, pertaining to the three appointing authorities when the rules are not really being followed?

For instance, when you have someone in a leadership position who is “cooking the books” and forcing supervisors to hire whomever that leadership wants in the position with minimum qualifications (good old-boy system at play), such practices include blacklisting individuals from ever getting into the system.

For example, I do not understand how sometime can be at a GS-8 position for less than a year and then get picked up as a GS-11 without completing the required probationary period. My understanding from the OPM directive online, one can only move up two steps at a time. Is there some gray area that is not visual to the civil service public at large? And why are individuals being blocked to apply for jobs?

A. Thank you very much for sharing your concerns regarding hiring processes at JBSA. Unfortunately, without specifics, we are unable to address the unfair hiring practices you mention occurring in some organizations.

However, all supervisors receive training on Equal Opportunity policy, Merit System Principles (Title 5 USC, Section 2301), and Prohibited Personnel Practices (Title 5 USC, Section 2302) after being assigned to a supervisor position to ensure fair and equitable hiring (Per AFMAN36-203, Chapter 2).

Some senior leaders choose to work with their hiring managers in the selection process, which is acceptable. That being said, a hiring manager has the authority to select a candidate for a position without the position being announced via USA Jobs when using one of several legal hiring authorities including: Expedited/Direct Hire Authority (hard-to-fill positions), 30 percent Disabled Veteran (DAV) Authority, and Schedule A Authority (candidates with severe disability).

Using these authorities, the hiring manager can find his/her candidate using any source, including internal candidates, and the selected candidate does not need to apply via USAJobs. However, the candidate may be qualified for a higher grade based upon military experience or experience gained outside of federal government.

For example, if a GS-08 is a 30 percent disabled veteran, then management could convert him/her to a GS-11 based on this appointing authority if he/she has outside experience that is equivalent to the GS-09 level without announcing or meeting time in grade.

If an employee is selected non-competitively under a Direct Hiring Authority, it is considered a “new” appointment, and the time in grade is not a factor. However, the specialized experience is considered. Moving from one position to another under a “new” appointment without meeting the 52-week time in grade requirement is legal, as long as they have the specialized experience.

Regardless of authority used, all hiring managers are expected to follow and be held accountable for adherence to Merit System Principles. Merit System Principles can be described as the core values that should be expressed in every human resources decision.  

A few of these principles include: Recruit, select, and advance on merit after fair and open competition (authorities addressed above are exempt from open competition but must still be merit based and fair); Treat employees and applicants fairly and equitably; Maintain high standards of integrity, conduct, and concern for the public interest; Manage employees efficiently and effectively.

If you have additional questions/concerns regarding specific recruitment practices, our Civilian Personnel staffing specialists are wonderful resources. I also encourage you to share your concerns with your chain of command for their awareness.

In addition, the Inspector General is a valuable resource and help you file a formal complaint so we can identify areas of non-compliance and ensure everyone is treated fairly and justly throughout the hiring process.

Installation & Facilities

Q. I would like to bring to your attention my deep concern for the hazardous condition of the running track at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston.

As someone who participates in the utilization of the track, I have witnessed the deterioration of the surface over time. As of Aug. 2, there are massive patches of grass growing in the pavement, large holes and cracks in the asphalt, long strips of loose tar, and pieces of asphalt separated from the layer beneath. The worst was a huge hole (at least 6 inches deep) in the center of the track with a large, orange cone placed in the hole.

I was told that Civil Engineers were unaware of the condition of the track and no work order had been submitted and that someone would look into it. I checked the track several days later and found the large hole still there, but the cone was missing.

On Aug. 15, I observed that the hole had been filled and patched. When I walked the complete track the following morning, I observed no further improvements to the deteriorating track, so my concern continues.

I would appreciate a response to this concern. Is there something I can do to assist in getting this situation remedied?

A. Thank you for your concern of the safety of those utilizing one of many JBSA running tracks. The safety and well-being of our members is a top priority.

JBSA has many running tracks and our Civil Engineers have identified a need for running track repairs across JBSA. CE is actively developing a contract vehicle to provide reoccurring maintenance for the tracks.

While contracted repairs cannot be executed until fiscal year 2020, our CE team is prioritizing the major repair work required, targeting the worst conditions first. In the meantime, CE has been and will continue to make minor repairs as necessary and will continue to monitor and address issues as soon as possible until the contract effort is in place and funded.

Q. I work on JBSA-Randolph, and we are having a serious problem with housing residents and Air Force Personnel Center employees using our dumpster as their personal trash receptacle.

Our dumpster is overloaded with things such as mattresses/box springs, HHG boxes, packing paper, sofas/broken furniture, aquariums, bikes, personal yard waste, etc.

As you can imagine, this is an eyesore to a building that we take pride in, not mention it takes up the space that we need for our building trash.

Is there a place that housing residents/community employees can take their HHG boxes, packing paper and trash other than our work center? Thank you in advance!

A. Thank you for bringing this concern to our attention. We want to make sure that all of our JBSA locations are looking their absolute best!

As part of the move-in process, housing residents are informed on how and where they are to dispose of their trash and recyclables. Recyclables, to include cardboard, can be taken to the Recycling Center and placed in a trailer located outside the fence.

Residents and organizations can also make arrangements to drop off their recyclables inside the Recycling Center by calling the main line at 210-671-4800. The work center at this number can also answer any additional questions and assist in all recycling needs for all JBSA locations.

To address these concerns directly, CE will be sending another reminder to residents on proper procedures and will develop a plan to install signs with “No Residential Dumping” in identified areas. We’ll also work with our mission partners to ensure we have enough dumpsters available near their workspaces.

Q. I am curious why the organization controlling gate access does not provide a message or information on gate closures. Frequently, gates normally open to incoming morning traffic are closed on “training” holidays as well as real holidays.

Coming to work, it is very frustrating to get to a gate on a regular workday/”training holiday” and find it closed. I could understand if the access control was conducted by military members, but most often access control is provided by Air Force Civilian police.

This morning all four lanes going through the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston Walters Gate were backed up to Interstate 35. There are a lot of DOD civilians and contractors working on JBSA-Fort Sam Houston that still work on “training” holidays and the single entry point creates a greater hazard for incident or accident.

Opening the normal gates on these days, even for a shorter time, would be extremely beneficial to the JBSA-Fort Sam Houston working community.

A. Thank you for your question, and I do apologize for the inconvenience you and many others experienced this past weekend. We do our best here at JBSA to keep our installation accessible while also maintaining high levels of security. I understand how the gate hours on different holidays and training days may be confusing.

In an effort to continue to provide top-notch customer service to all of our members, our website has a page dedicated to Federal Holiday, Air Force Family Day, and Army Training Day hours at https://www.jbsa.mil/holiday-gate-hours/, or go to our website at www.jbsa.mil, click on “Visitor Information,” then click on “Holiday Gate Hours.” This page also has the phone number for the respective installation’s 24-hour Base Defense Operations Center so you can voice specific gate concerns in real-time to allow us to respond quickly and appropriately.

For future holidays and training days, we will make sure to coordinate with our Public Affairs team to get the word out ahead of time for all upcoming gate changes.

Q. I occasionally will take walks and/or runs around the parade grounds on JBSA-Lackland for exercise during my lunch.

I have noticed on multiple static aircrafts that there are wasp nests attached to the engine intakes or under the wings. Is it possible to get pest control out to take care of the nest? If it hasn’t happen yet, it is only a matter of time that one of the many visitors to the parade grounds weekly may get stung or bit.

A. Thank you for considering the safety and well-being of our many guests visiting our installation. This will always be one of my top priorities, and it’s thanks to concerned citizens like you that we are able to stay on our toes and ensure a safer JBSA.

The 502nd Civil Engineering Group is tracking the issue and plans on developing a recurring inspection and spray routine to remediate the wasps and other hazardous insect-life on the static aircraft.

Miscellaneous

Q. Would it be possible to push computer system patches on weekends or after normal duty hours? Sometimes systems lock up, and my understanding is that patches being installed is the problem. I am at JBSA-Lackland and a co-worker came all the way from JBSA-Randolph so I could give him some OJT. While we were working, my systems locked up. We lose a lot of productivity when systems lock up.

A. That is a great question, and thank you for bringing this concern forward as many others may be experiencing the same issue.

Nearly all system patches are controlled at the enterprise level through the 561st Network Operations Squadron, and there are two different types of patch schedules — routine and critical. Critical patches require immediate installation because they are designed to target specific vulnerabilities in the system. Routine patches target a larger pool, but are still equally important for security.

Patches are normally installed outside of business hours, as long as the computer remains turned on and connected to the network. If you frequently take your computer home overnight, the only other time the patches can be loaded is during business hours when you reconnect to the network.

A good habit to adopt in order to avoid this situation from happening would be to leave your computer on the network overnight at least once a week so that the patches can be loaded and installed.

Many patches also require one or more system restarts to take effect, so you may get a pop up stating you need to restart your computer. In this case, a restart is very different from shutting down and turning the system back on, so please make sure that you are hitting “Restart” and not “Shutdown” for proper installation of the patches. The best practice would be to pull your CAC out of your computer (NOT shut down) before you go home at night and restart your computer before logging in when you arrive in the morning.

If you need more information, please contact your squadron’s Client Systems Technician (CST) or the 502nd CS Communications Focal Point at 210-925-COMM (2666).

Q. Why does the Air Force and Army run separate bus shuttles from JBSA-Lackland’s Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center to JBSA-Fort Sam Houston? The buses are late and lack air conditioning most of the time in the evenings.

It seems that those in charge do not work hand-in-hand to provide better services to customers in a joint base system. Most people riding the buses thought that everything was consolidated.

A. Thank you for bringing this concern forward as this is the perfect time to announce one of our newest developments. As of Aug. 20, the 502nd LRS partnered with BAMC Logistics, who previously operated all but two route times on its own.

The 502nd LRS now operates all of the afternoon shuttles beginning with the noon departure from BAMC, and BAMC Logistics provides the morning portion beginning at 6 a.m. from BAMC. Additionally, the 502nd LRS is still operating the 6 a.m. departure from WHASC to support medical students. They also added additional drivers during heavy traffic hours to help keep departures on time.

During most of the day, a one-way shuttle between these facilities takes 20 to 30 minutes; however, during rush-hour traffic it can take up to 50 minutes to make the trip. Previously heavy traffic would cause a domino effect with subsequent routes falling farther behind schedule until traffic allowed the shuttle to catch up.

As part of this change, the 502nd LRS reviewed the ridership records and conducted customer interviews to help determine ridership needs.

Based on this data, the additional 7 a.m. shuttle departing from WHASC was eliminated Sept. 3, as ridership data indicates ample space on the 6 and 6:30 a.m. departures. Revised bus schedules have been posted near the bus stops along with information on who is running any particular route and the corresponding contact number.

The 502nd LRS will continue to monitor ridership numbers to ensure our level of support matches the space-required passengers who utilize this service.

Lastly, we understand how uncomfortable a hot bus ride can be, and I assure you we are doing everything we can to make the ride as comfortable as possible. However, if you notice the air conditioning is not working at all, please report this to our dispatch office at 210-671-3317, and provide the date/time/bus plate number so we can ensure it is immediately corrected.