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Leading in Innovation Through a World-Class Federal Science and Technology Workforce

The Fast Track Action Committee Federal Science and Technology Workforce (FTAC-FSTW) provides suggestions to help the Government build the future Federal S&T workforce.

The Federal Government promotes the Nation’s prosperity, health, and security through research and development conducted by the highly skilled scientists and engineers within its workforce. With S&T advancements and breakthroughs, the workforce that enables this progress must evolve as well. As it builds the future Federal S&T workforce, the Federal Government must consider trends in the supply of and demand for these workers: the number of retirement-eligible workers is increasing; public perception of civil service has declined, especially since the Space Race and Cold War eras; wages and flexibility are often lower for Federal S&T workers than in other sectors; and many applicants consider the workplace culture in other sectors to be more appealing than in the Federal Government.

In response to increasing demand for new Federal S&T employees and a dwindling supply, the National Science and Technology Council (NSTC) established the Fast Track Action Committee Federal Science and Technology Workforce (FTAC-FSTW) to identify solutions to these challenges.

Today, FTAC-FSTW is pleased to release “Leading in a Competitive Edge in Innovation through a World-Class Federal Science and Technology Workforce.” In this report, the FTAC-FSTW’s recommendations to help the Federal Government attract and maintain a highly skilled S&T workforce are organized into four priorities:

  1. Leadership for an Inclusive, Innovative Workforce Enterprise: Leadership at agencies should promote a world-class science, technology, and engineering enterprise through thoughtful, proactive leadership and embrace strategies to create a culture of S&T inclusion and innovation within their workplace environments. To do this, agencies should enable leaders to create a culture for inclusion in which employees’ skills are valued and rewarded. In addition, agencies should promote career flexibility and mobility by facilitating interagency exchange programs in which workers can enhance skill development.
  2. S&T Workforce Engagement in and Alignment to Mission: Agencies should cultivate strong connections between the Federal S&T workforce and their missions. Federal Government leaders should develop strategic plans to identify and align critical skills, engage the S&T workforce in the agency mission, and identify the workforce as a valuable contributor to that mission. Agencies should also analyze engagement data and assess feedback. Supervisors should conduct stay interviews to elicit feedback from employees and should perform acts of recognition to reward and incentivize employees.
  3. Effective Authorities to Enable a Flexible and Agile Workforce: Agencies should make use of successful human capital flexibilities to shape the Federal S&T workforce. One way to do this is to offer competitive pay. Agencies should ensure that compensation flexibilities are used to enhance the Federal Government’s ability to attract and retain top S&T talent. Agencies can also convert staff in temporary positions to permanent Federal service.
  4. Effective Relationships to Meet Strategic Workforce Needs: Agencies should improve collaborations between S&T professionals and their human capital counterparts (chief human capital officers or top human resource leaders at agencies) to strengthen human capital practices and enhance the quality, diversity, and movement in and out of the Federal S&T workforce. To do this, agencies can use external advisory committees, consistent with the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), to seek unbiased advice regarding human capital practices such as workforce and succession planning.

In working together to implement these recommendations, the FTAC-FSTW membership will be better able to support, develop, and maintain an S&T workforce that not only enhances innovation in the Federal Government, but also fosters the personal and professional growth of the S&T workers. The Federal Government aims to attract a future S&T workforce that has the tools and the skills necessary to achieve the Federal Government’s S&T goals, contributing to the growth and prosperity of the Nation.


Afua Bruce is the Executive Director of the National Science and Technology Council at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Chris Fall is Assistant Director for Defense Programs at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy

Jayne Morrow is a Senior Science Policy Advisor in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Materials Measurement Laboratory