Job Rotations for PIP Participants
Professional Intern Program (PIP) Level II Presentation
Cheryl D. Lee
December 15, 1999
Professional Intern Program (PIP) participants undergo a multitude of changes, both
personal and professional, during their participation in this program. Of the entry-level
administrative professional participants, many are clerical or administrative personnel entering
into a professional series classification for the first time. While the established training seeks to
address most of these changes, personal initiative must also play a part in the growth and
development of PIP participants.
Program participants attend mandatory training in career transition, an introduction to the
federal procurement system, simplified acquisition procedures, technology transfer, and a new
employee orientation. These courses are designed to enable participants to effect a smooth
transition from the non-professional into the professional workforce. Program guidelines require
each participant to give two oral presentations and prepare a written report. These presentation
are made to senior management for the purpose of demonstrating knowledge of your field, as
well as presentation and writing skills, both of which are essential to advance into the higher
As a PIP in the procurement field, additional training is required above and beyond that
of the PIP. This training is extensive and time consuming, but it is designed to develop and
enhance the procurement professional’s career opportunities. What are these requirements and
how do they affect PIP participants?
In 1991, Congress enacted the Defense Acquisition Workforce Improvement Act
(DAWIA). This act required the establishment of career development programs with mandatory
training in acquisition-related responsibilities for both entry level and promotion positions within
the DOD procurement workforce. DAIWA raised concerns that the civilian agencies’ workforce
were perceived to be markedly less professional than their DOD counterparts. As a result, the
Office of Federal Procurement Policy (OFPP) issued Policy Letter 92-3 in June of 1992, to
establish policies and a government-wide standard for skill-based training for the Federal
acquisition workforce. The OFPP policy letter established a set of contracting competencies and
required contracting professionals to complete course work and related on-the-job training in
order to attain an appropriate level of skill in each contract management duty. The policy letter
was implemented as a change to the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) 1.603-1, linking the
selection and appointment of contracting officers to OFPP’s standards for skill-based training in
performing contracting and purchasing duties. At the time, this guidance was perceived by some
to be a companion to the DOD effort. To further this end, the Maloney Bill, Public Law 93-400,
was enacted in 1995, amending the OFPP Act, Section 4307, to expand responsibility to include
establishing education, training, and experience requirements for civilian agencies comparable to
those established in 1991 for DOD.
The procurement process was becoming increasingly more complex. In 1994, President
Clinton signed Executive Order 12931, Federal Procurement Reform, and the Federal
Acquisition Streamlining Act. This Executive Order defined the Administration’s approach to
managing procurement and required agencies to establish career education programs for
NASA’s procurement training and career development certification program implements
the Maloney Bill. The requirement it places on acquisition personnel is designed to increase their
efficiency and effectiveness on the job, and potentially to enhance their opportunities in the job
market. The policy provides the procurement workforce with the information and guidance
needed to plan their career development to enable them to compete for higher-level procurement
Objective of the Program
This objective of this program is to provide procurement professionals a standardized,
consistent, and high-quality training program to help prepare them to meet the career changes
and challenges of the future. This policy shall be the sole NASA regulatory authority for
mandatory NASA-wide procurement training.
Roles and Responsibilities
The NASA Headquarters Office of Procurement, Analysis Division (Code HC), is
responsible for the overall management of the career development program for the procurement
workforce in contracting and purchasing positions. This includes scheduling, course
development, allocating funds to the centers to cover their participation in core courses, and
allocating the number of class slots for each center.
The center procurement office, in concert with the Center Training Officer, is responsible
for on-the-job training, Individual Development Plans, installation rotational assignments, and
determining the mandatory and desired/elective training needs in accordance with the NASA-
wide policy and their own center-specific needs. The Center Procurement Officer is responsible
for determining if an individual has met the required training to move to the next level.
Participants must take responsibility for their own career progression and development.
While supervisors can provide guidance and opportunities for career growth, participants must
actively take charge of planning their own careers. Possible activities include: requesting
additional on-the-job training assignments and/or increasingly difficult assignments, entering
into a mentoring relationship, becoming involved in a professional association, seeking outside
education beyond NASA’s course offerings, and other job-related activities such as training to
improve computer and communication skills, supervisory training, job rotational assignments,
The Training Courses
NASA has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Defense Acquisition
University’s (DAU’s) Naval Center for Acquisition Training (NCAT) in which NCAT agreed to
provide instruction for this program. This partnership has significant benefits for NASA
procurement personnel, not the least of which is exposure to a wider range of procurement
practices and receipt of DOD course completion certificates.
The career path courses are comprised of core and desired/elective courses. Some of
these courses were developed by and are taught by procurement professionals in the DOD. These
courses have been tailored for NASA to include NASA FAR Supplement information, as
appropriate. Also, NASA has identified requirements for some NASA-unique courses and has,
jointly with NCAT, developed these desired or elective courses. Individuals are encouraged to
take these elective courses based on specific interest, needs, or work assignments.
An individual must meet the qualification standard requirement and have taken core
courses in each certification level in order to be eligible to progress to the next higher
certification level. These certification levels have been established as follows:
Level 1 – Entry
Entry level training standards are designed to establish fundamental qualifications and
expertise in an individual’s job series or career field. Development at the entry level lays the
foundation for career progression and is designed to prepare qualified and motivated personnel
for positions of increasing responsibility.
Trainees should be exposed to fundamental procurement procedures and the roles of
various support functions such as pricing, property administration, quality assurance, etc. In
addition to participation in education and training courses, it is extremely beneficial to rotate new
trainees through structured on-the-job assignments among a variety of functional offices.
There are two Level 1 core courses that take a combined 33 days to complete.
Level II – Intermediate
At this level, specialization is emphasized. Development continues, including on-the-job
rotational assignments, but the length of time an individual spends in each position generally
While specialization is emphasized at the beginning of Level II, individuals should begin
to broaden their background toward a more general expertise in the overall processes of his or
her career field. Development of a generalist normally involves establishing a good foundation of
experience in the individual’s primary specialty followed by lateral movement in a related
There are three required Level II core courses that comprise 39 days of training, with two
elective classes for an additional 10 days of training.
Level III – Advanced
By the time one reaches the senior levels of procurement, he or she must have completed
all of the mandatory training and education requirements leading up to this level and should have
advanced through a career pattern that has given him or her the in-depth knowledge in his or her
chosen functional areas and a breadth of knowledge across the entire procurement process.
Advanced procurement education and training become imperative for a more global
perspective. The lower level standards and courses form the basis for the next progressively
higher levels of procurement career development. The requirements are cumulative.
There is one core course for Level III that comprises 5 days of training and two elective
courses for 10 additional days of training.
The objective of the training is to provide procurement professionals a standardized,
consistent, and high-quality training program to prepare them to meet career changes and
challenges. However, being a true procurement professional does not mean simply that one must
merely know al the rules and how to play the game. One must also develop good business
management and judgement skills. There are a multitude of training courses offered by both
Headquarters and Center Training Offices to assist individuals in obtaining these skills.
Within the Grants Office, there are 3 levels of contracting officer warrants. The
requirements for each level are noted below.
Level 1 – limited to grants and cooperative agreements with a dollar value of $0 to
$200,000 per year; requires 1 year of experience; and thorough knowledge of the fundamental
requirements of the Grants and Cooperative Agreement Handbook.
Level 2 – limited to $500,000 per year; requires 2 years of experience; and a
comprehensive knowledge of the requirements of the Grants and Cooperative Agreement
Level 3 – unlimited dollar value; 3 years of experience; and a mastery of the
requirements of the Grants and Cooperative Agreement Handbook and a Level 2 Certification.
Relationship to PIP participation
As noted earlier, procurement training in the 3 certification levels comprises a required
77 days of training time with an option for 20 additional days. This does not include the
Goddard-specific courses, which would add an additional 51 hours of training.
Mandatory PIP training is comprised of 40 hours of formal training of which 24 hours
must be technical, plus 47 hours in required courses, on-the-job training and mentoring, and
other training for a total of at least 91 hours of training. There are elective courses here as well.
This does not include time spent on research and preparation for the Level I and Level II PIP
presentations. It is a wonder how one finds time to learn their job.
One of the optional elements noted earlier to help develop procurement skills and
enhance one’s overall knowledge of the procurement process was job rotational assignments.
This is where personal motivation is a key factor.
I am intrigued by the opportunity to learn more about what goes on in the ―real‖ world of
contracting. In my current assignment, I am a Grants Specialist--I specialize in the processing of
grant awards. While there is no such thing as a ―routine‖ grant award package, the process is
pretty much the same among the various types of award—research, training, and cooperative
Currently, if I would like to rotate through another area of procurement, I would first seek
out an opportunity which interested me, speak with my supervisor to gain his approval, speak
with the new organization for their support, then approach Directorate management for
authorization and for processing the necessary paperwork. While I in no way claim to know all
there is about the grants award process or am a master in the Grants Handbook, the idea of
learning new skills and an opportunity to do so interests me greatly.
The Procurement Operations Division encourages rotational assignments within the
organization, or preferably within the Directorate. At present, there is an informal program in
place for these opportunities. If you are interested, all you need do is ask. If you have a particular
area or position in mind, Division management will do what it can to assist you in making
arrangements for a job rotation or detail.
Purpose of the Research
I wondered if other PIP procurement participants were aware of the opportunity for job
rotational assignments. I wanted to know if a job rotation would enhance my opportunities to
learn procurement, or if I were ―biting off more than I could chew.‖ After all, as a PIP, the goal
is to learn and grow. I decided to query the current PIP participants and their managers to get
their feelings on this issue. Those who responded provided insight and suggestions far beyond
Survey Responses - PIP’s
Since the heart of this matter may have direct impact on the PIP’s, their comments and
suggestions were considered crucial. Any recommendations I might make would be viewed by
them with a watchful eye to see what, if anything, would result from this research, and by
Division management as changes to consider or an opportunity to learn what is right with the
There were 36 GS-1102 PIP’s who responded. I asked 8 questions.
1) How long have you been in the PIP Program?
The range was from one month to two years, with an average of 10 months for those who
2) How long have you been in your current position?
All but one respondent is still where they were placed upon entering the PIP. Another
respondent did have an opportunity for a 120-day detail early on in the program.
3) Do you/have you had an opportunity to rotate job assignments? This would be a short-
term detail, etc.
While most of the respondents simply answered ―no‖ to this question, there were several
interesting comments. Many stated that they ―would be very interest IF doing so would enhance
their career.‖ Another would ―welcome the opportunity‖ and still another would ―be amenable to
it.‖ A less common response was a plea of ―trying to keep up with my current duties, how would
I find time to learn another job?‖
On the positive side, comments ranged from ―opportunity exists to rotate positions within
the office‖ to ―I have asked to do so once I complete Level II.‖
4) How would you feel about job rotation/short-term details while in the PIP?
Outstanding feedback was received for this question.
Many stated that this ―would be an excellent opportunity to learn more about the various
aspects of procurement‖ and doing so would ―help you grown as an individual and benefit the
organization at the same time.‖
Several individuals thought this would be a ―great way to get an overall picture of
procurement job responsibilities across the Center and provide invaluable cross-training.‖
It was also noted that many of the PIP’s thought that such an opportunity would be best
left to the individual to decide. Not everyone would benefit. Also suggested was that perhaps a
short-term detail of 90 days would not be long enough. It would ―take most of the 90-day period
to adjust to your surroundings and feel comfortable there enough to gain some confidence in that
area of procurement.‖
5) Would you be willing to participate in a ―rotation program‖ whether informally or
Other than the usual ―how would my work get done‖ comment, most answered ―yes‖ to
this question. The most notable response, however, was ―after completion of PIP Level II.‖
Overall, it appears that of those who responded to they survey, most would welcome the
opportunity to learn more about procurement positions Center-wide.
6) Do you have a mentor who provides advice/guidance at your current position?
An emphatic ―Yes‖ to this question from the PIP’s. One respondent not only has a
procurement mentor, but also participates in the Center’s Mentor/Protege program. All of the
respondents agree that their mentor is one of their best resources for work-related information
and career advice.
7) If you are NOT interested in short-term details, please tell me why…
One thing I certainly had not considered, ―what if I don’t like the detail assignment?‖ An
interesting aspect to consider.
The general comment for those who were not interested was similar to the response for
question # 3; ―it’s hard enough trying to adjust to a new profession, a new organization, and the
pressures of PIP presentations.‖ In general, PIP’s feel there are a lot of pressures placed on
them—program requirements, procurement rules and regulation, training, new managers…the
list goes on.
All respondents seemed to agree that a short-term rotation/detail is a wonderful opportunity
explore options within procurement and see what would work best for them.
General Comments – PIP’s
Overall, the comments on job rotations were very positive. I was impressed with the
thoughtful and detailed responses from the participants.
As a PIP myself, I agree that there are a lot of pressures, both external and internal. For
many of the PIP’s, this is their first position in a professional series. The course in career
transition is designed to create an awareness of the differences between the professional and non-
professional world, and to teach essential skills in making the adjustment. Most considered this
course in particular to be quite beneficial.
While the PIP program is generally designed to last just two years, the most-feared aspect
is the presentations. There were numerous comments about this particular aspect. These concerns
will not be addressed in this paper.
Survey Response – Managers
Of the 18 procurement managers in Code 210, 8 responded to the survey. I understand
that most professionals would consider this a good response rate. I can accept this. I believe these
are the managers who take an interest in their employees.
I asked 7 general questions relative to job rotations.
1) How do you feel about job rotation/short-term details—in general?
Comments ranged from an emphatic ―Definitely not while in Level 1‖ to ―…a good idea
if the individual is not sure of what they want to do over the long term career-wise.‖ Everyone
felt it would be just too overwhelming to even suggest job rotation to entry-level procurement
PIP, regardless of his or her grade level. It takes time to learn basic procurement skills, and there
is a lot to learn. It would be best for the individual to become well grounded in the basics of
procurement before attempting to learn new skills. Depending on the position, this can take two
years or more.
It was mentioned that the managers spend a lot of time training their new procurement
personnel, and then just as the person becomes productive, they’re gone. But this is part of the
agreement and the chance a manger takes in accepting PIP participants. Managers should
encourage rotations so the PIP’s don’t feel reluctant to ask.
On a positive note, rotations are considered a good way to broaden your knowledge, gain
experience, or to obtain a different perspective about the job that you are currently doing. You
can learn a new appreciation for another person’s ability.
2) Is job rotation/short-term details something you feel a PIP should be allowed
to/encouraged to do?
Responses were pretty similar to the previous question. It was also mentioned that each
manager has their own method of doing things. Even similar positions may have different
requirements, depending on the manager. One may become easily confused.
Many of the Procurement Managers feel they are generally understaffed for the
workload. Even with a learning curve in their favor, a PIP is generally out of the office more than
they are in the office. The training requirements are demanding--not only the program-required
training, but procurement training in addition to this leaves the managers with a feeling that a
PIP is generally not a good initial investment in the short-term, but may prove quite valuable
over the long-term—if you have the time to develop the individual. Rotation may be a good idea
if one rotates to a functional or project area in order to gain an understanding of the different
procurement areas. A suggestion here was a 1-to-2 week rotation through the different areas to
get a feel for the various aspects of procurement.
One manager suggested that even though they, as managers, invest a lot of time in
teaching PIP’s about procurement, they should ―get over feeling bad‖ when the individual seeks
3) Would you support/encourage job rotation as a PIP participant?
Overwhelmingly, the answer was ―no.‖ Again, the managers feel it is critical for the
individual to become well grounded in the basics first.
This might be a good opportunity to see other aspects of ―the big picture‖ of the Center,
the Agency, etc.
4) If no, when do you feel a job rotation/short-term assignment would be appropriate?
Generally, after the person has a strong background in his/her current position. A
suggestion here was that it was probably more appropriate at the GS-11 level. At this level, an
individual can be a valuable, contributing member of the team, generally from the first day.
Several commented that a 90-day detail might not be enough time, depending on the
assignment. One needs to be assigned long enough to get a feel for the organization in order to
make a better decision career-wise. Perhaps this was best left after completion of the PIP.
A particularly insightful comment was that short-term rotations ―could work from the
start of PIP-dom inside the procurement arena.‖ Rotations outside of procurement should wait
until after the PIP has graduated.
5) Do you mentor or provide a senior staff member to mentor your PIP participants?
An overwhelming ―YES!‖ Not surprising, since this is a program requirement. However,
almost all of those who responded indicated they mentor the PIP’s themselves rather than
delegating to another staff member. It is noted here, however, that other senior staff members are
encouraged to work with the PIP since this would give them exposure to another’s way of doing
6) Do you think such an opportunity should be more formal, or do you prefer the current
informality of job rotation/short-term details?
For the most part, the procurement managers all indicated that the current informal
method for job rotations is the best method for the PIP’s. However, many of the managers do
encourage job rotation, especially after completion of the program, or at higher grade levels.
These managers also strongly encouraged participants to document every learning experience
and to take advantage of each opportunity that comes their way. A suggestion was that perhaps
shadowing a higher-grade co-worker would be beneficial.
One manager suggested job swapping rather than rotations would make this idea more
palatable for them. This person felt that rotations are one-sided--letting an employee rotate was
one less person to help get the work done.
Another manager suggested that this informal method is best because a more formal
method might get ―cast in concrete.‖ It should be made clear to all PIP’s that rotations are
ENCOURAGED and that managers don’t hold such a request against individuals who requests
I was extremely impressed with the comments given by these managers. Their insight and
suggestions helped me step outside my position and see this from a manager’s perspective.
The topic of job rotation/short-term details was chosen for personal reasons. I wanted to
learn what other program participants thought about this subject and if they, too, felt they would
benefit from an opportunity to rotate throughout other procurement areas. The answer to this
question was a resounding ―YES!‖
The issue then became ―should there be a more formal program within procurement‖ for
doing so. Overall, those who responded do agree that there are many positive aspects in rotation,
but that the current informal method is best while one is a PIP. The pressures of being a PIP
coupled with learning a new field, adjusting to a professional position, and the multitude of
required training, all create feelings of being overwhelmed.
In comparing the responses from the PIP’s and managers in regard to job rotations, both
gave the same answer to the question but very different reasons for doing so. The PIP
participants tended to view the question in the short term. They are overwhelmed with training,
learning, establishing themselves within the office, etc. The managers, on the other hand,
considered the long term aspects. They invest a lot of time and talent into developing an
individual and they would like to keep them on the job and in the position in order to reap the
benefits of their investment. Both agree, however, than when it comes to job rotations, it is best
to consider the individual and the position when faced with such an opportunity. A manager is in
a good position, perhaps, to explain the type of work the individual may be considering and ask
detailed questions of the individual so as to guide them into making an informed decision.
I did formulate several recommendations as a result of this research. First and foremost,
keep the program just as it is – informal. Second, I suggest developing an outline of the various
positions within the organization and what each job entails. This would enable those considering
a rotation to ―zero in‖ on an assignment that interests them. I also recommend developing a plan
for short term rotations, 1-to-2 weeks in duration and after completion of PIP Level II, for those
interested in participating, throughout the various procurement areas to get a broader perspective
of all that procurement entails. And finally, encourage ―job swapping‖ within the organization
as a method of cross training.
As I mentioned earlier, personal initiative also plays a major role, and these individuals
have chosen a career field where there is so much to learn about the job that this has become
their primary focus. The issues of training and PIP presentations all play a secondary role. This
class of GS-1102 PIP’s are very dedicated to learning procurement and would embrace the
opportunity to learn all the various aspects. I have no doubt that this will be the next generation
of Division Chiefs.