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Classification & Qualifications Appeal Decisions

Washington, DC

U.S. Office of Personnel Management
Classification Appeal Decision
Under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code

Eric Nielsen
Program Analyst
Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief & Mine Action Branch
J3 Operations, Interagency Action Group, Counter Narcotics and Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief & Mine Action Division
U.S. Central Command Headquarters
Department of the Air Force
MacDill Air Force Base, Florida
Title at agency discretion

Robert D. Hendler
Classification and Pay Claims
Program Manager
Agency Compliance and Evaluation
Merit System Accountability and Compliance



As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), this decision constitutes a certificate which is mandatory and binding on all administrative, certifying, payroll, disbursing, and accounting officials of the Government. The agency is responsible for reviewing its classification decisions for identical, similar, or related positions to ensure consistency with this decision. There is no right of further appeal. This decision is subject to discretionary review only under conditions and time limits specified in the Introduction to the Position Classification Standards (Introduction), appendix 4, Section G (address provided in appendix 4, section H).

Since this decision lowers the grade of the appealed position, it is to be effective no later than the beginning of the sixth pay period after the date of this decision, as permitted by 5 CFR 511.702. The applicable provisions of parts 351, 432, 536, and 752 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, must be followed in implementing this decision.  If the appellant is entitled to grade retention, the two-year retention period begins on the date this decision is implemented.  The servicing human resources office must submit a compliance report containing the revised position description (PD) and a Standard Form 50 showing the personnel action taken.  The report must be submitted within 30 days from the effective date of the personnel action to the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) office which accepted this appeal. 


On June 30, 2014, OPM’s Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE) Atlanta office accepted a classification appeal from Mr. Eric Nielsen.  He occupies a position currently classified as Program Analyst, GS-343-13, but believes his position should be classified at the GS-14 grade level.  The position is located in the Department of the Air Force (AF), U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM), MacDill Air Force Base, in Tampa, Florida.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).


In 2012, the appellant and his then immediate supervisor submitted a request to the Air Force Personnel Center (AFPC), Randolph Air Force Base, to reclassify his position from GS-343-13 to GS-343-14.  This request was based on the appellant “assuming broader duties and responsibilities upon the vacancy of a military branch chief position.”  The AFPC reviewed the request and rendered a classification decision of GS-343-13, and updated the appellant’s PD incorporating the branch chief duties.  The appellant and his immediate supervisor disagreed with the classification decision of GS-13, and filed a dispute with AFPC requesting reconsideration which was unsuccessful.  The appellant subsequently filed a classification appeal with OPM.  We received the agency administrative report (AAR) on July 31, 2014.  The appellant did not comment on the AAR.

General Issues

The appellant states that sometime in 2010 a military branch chief left the division, and he was subsequently unofficially offered the position.  His workload expanded after he unofficially assumed the branch chief position.  It was his understanding that his PD would be re-written at the GS-14 level, and include the branch chief duties and responsibilities as well as his program analyst duties.  Additional work in and of itself does not influence the grade of the position unless it requires higher level knowledge, skills, and abilities and is a significant part of the overall position (i.e., occupying at least 25 percent of the employee’s time on a regular and recurring basis) and is officially assigned.  Also, volume of work cannot be considered in determining the grade of a position (The Classifier’s Handbook, Chapter 5).

The appellant raises various concerns regarding his agency’s position classification process.  By law, we must make our decision solely by comparing the appellant’s current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCS) and guidelines (5 U.S.C. 5106, 5107, and 5112).  In adjudicating this appeal, our responsibility is to make our own independent decision on the proper classification of the position.  Because our decision sets aside all previous agency decisions, the agency’s classification review process is not germane to this decision.

During our interview, the appellant’s current supervisor of record (Division Chief) stated his division has four branch chiefs, and three are GS-14s; the appellant is the only GS-13 branch chief.  He believes the appellant’s position operates similar to the other branch chief positions and should also be graded at the GS-14 level.  As previously noted, positions must be graded by comparing their duties, responsibilities and qualification requirements to the grading criteria in one or more PCSs and guidelines.  Thus, we cannot compare the appellant’s position to others, which may or may not be classified properly, as a basis for deciding this appeal.

A PD is the official record of the major duties and responsibilities assigned to a position or job by an agency official with the authority to assign work.  The major duties and responsibilities of a position comprise the work performed by the employee.  Major duties are normally those occupying a significant portion of the employee’s time.  They should be only those duties currently assigned, performed, identified with the position’s purpose and organization, and expected to continue or recur on a regular and recurring basis over a period of time.  It is the position that is classified, not the person assigned to it.  This means that the work to be performed and the requirements to do that work are evaluated.  Classification appeal regulations require OPM to decide an appeal based on the actual duties an

Position information

A Unified Combatant Command is a United States Department of Defense (DOD) command that is composed of forces from at least two military departments and has a broad and continuing mission.  These commands are established to provide effective command and control of U.S. military forces, regardless of branch of Service, in peace and war.  Each unified command is led by a Combatant Commander, who is a four-star flag officer.   Combatant Commands (COCOMS) provide operational instructions and command and control to the Armed Forces and have a significant impact on how they are organized, trained, and resourced.  Functional COCOMs operate world-wide across geographic boundaries and provide unique capabilities to geographic combatant commands and the Services, while geographic COCOMs operate in clearly delineated areas of operation and have a distinctive regional military focus.  There are currently nine COCOMs; USSOCOM: U.S. Special Operations Command, MacDill Air Force Base, FL; USSTRATCOM: U.S. Strategic Command, Offutt Air Force Base, NE; USTRANSCOM: U.S. Transportation Command, Scott Air Force Base, IL; USAFRICOM: U.S. Africa Command, Kelley Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany; USCENTCOM, MacDill Air Force Base, FL; USEUCOM: U.S. European Command, Patch Barracks, Stuttgart, Germany;  USNORTHCOM: U.S. Northern Command, Peterson Air Force Base, CO; USPACOM: U.S. Pacific Command, Camp H.M. Smith, HI; USSOUTHCOM: U.S. Southern Command, Miami, FL.

USCENTCOM is one of nine unified commands in the United States military described above.  Six of these commands, including USCENTCOM, have an Area of Responsibility (AOR) that is a specific geographic region of the world where the combatant commanders may plan and conduct operations as defined under the Unified Command Plan.  The USCENTCOM was established January 1, 1983.  USCENTCOM promotes cooperation among nations, responds to crises, deters or defeats state and non-state aggression, and supports development and, when necessary, reconstruction in order to establish the conditions for regional security, stability and prosperity.  

Within USCENTCOM, there are eight directorates.  The appellant’s position is assigned to the third directorate: J3 Operations, Interagency Action Group (J3-IAG), Counter Narcotics (CN) and Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief & Mine Action (HDM) Division.  Within this division, there are four branches.  The appellant is assigned to the HDM branch chief position.  The HDM branch has a 20-country AOR. Its mission statement is: “In coordination with USCENTCOM Components, the Interagency, and Partner Nations, conduct humanitarian activities to establish and maintain positive Partner Nation relationships, improve regional visibility, preserve access and influence, and support USCENTCOM Theater Campaign Plan Objectives.” 

The record reflects the primary and paramount function of appellant’s position is to provide fiscal oversight of a multi-million dollar HDM program budget, allocated by Congress each fiscal year.  Congress allocates Steady State funding (for planned projects) and Contingency Operations funding (for pop-up projects).  The budget is managed by the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD); the OSD is the principal staff element of the Secretary of Defense in the exercise of policy development, planning, resource management, fiscal, and program evaluation responsibilities, and the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA).  DSCA is the Department of Defense’s (DOD) lead agency for the execution of Security Cooperation programs, such as the HDM program that builds the capacity of partner nation civilian and military institutions to provide essential services to civilian populations through civil-military engagement.

DSCA directs, administers, and provides guidance to the DOD Components for the execution of programs for which DSCA has program responsibility.  DSCA ensures OSD interests are represented; communicates directly with the Heads of the DOD Components on matters over which DSCA has responsibility; and jointly establishes appropriate agreements and procedures with the COCOMS and Defense Attachés to provide guidance in accordance with applicable laws and regulations. 

The work of the HDM branch is supported by the budget managed by the DSCA and OSD.  Branch work is accomplished pursuant to guidance provided by DOD, OSD and the DSCA.  The branch utilizes support staff that is currently comprised of two rotating, detailed, active duty military officers, an O-4 Lt. Commander (Navy), and an O-5 Lt. Colonel (Army), as well as five contractors.  The appellant’s first-level supervisor’s position is classified as a GS-343-15.  As Division Chief, he is responsible for managing the J3-IAG CN & HDM Division, and reports directly to the Deputy Director of the Operations Division, whose position is in the Senior Executive Service.

The record reflects the appellant is currently assigned to Air Force Core Personnel Document #R12769, which is classified as a Program Analyst, GS-343-13.  He certified his PD accurately reflects the duties and responsibilities of his position, but he disagrees with the percentages of time spent on each major duty area.  The appellant’s PD of record reflects spending 50 percent (of time) serving as subject matter expert; 10 percent supervisory duties; 20 percent on contracting officer’s technical representative (COTR) duties, and 20 percent on liaison work.  The appellant’s supervisor estimated the appellant spends his time as follows:  25-30 percent on supervisory duties; 35 percent serving as subject matter expert; 20 percent on contracting officers’ technical representative (COTR) duties, and 15 percent on liaison work. The appellant disagrees with the “10 percent” of time spent on supervisory duties.  During our telephone interview, the appellant stated he spends “all day, every day” supervising his staff.  In his appeal request, he states:   

As a branch chief, my supervisory duties are inextricably linked to my “staff officer,” “program manager,” and “analyst” duties.  For example, assigning, allocating, and synchronizing work is a supervisory duty that is inseparable from the branch’s daily functions/mission tasks.  Similarly, supervisory duties such as training/orienting, mentoring, chairing meetings, evaluating products turned in by my employees/branch members, and providing a safe climate/work environment that fosters professional development are also not separable.  The complete answer is I am supervising (leading) my staff all day, every day, for the entire 8 hour work day (and often longer).  On the other hand, the strictly administrative/personnel duties I perform, such as personnel evaluations, counseling, review/approval of leaves/TDYs, and preparing awards and decorations, etc., consume about 1-2 hours of my day.  Given all of the above a quantifiable figure for “exclusively supervisory duties” is 6-7 hours of the 8 hour day, with 1-2 hours spent doing administrative actions as a subset of those duties.

During our fact-finding, the appellant further described his supervisory duties as conducting daily staff meetings, handing out assignments, ensuring an even flow of work, having subordinates report back to him, adjusting work assignments, reviewing and approving their projects, providing constant oversight, providing performance feedback, and providing input on annual performance appraisals as an initial rater for two military personnel.

The appellant’s PD of record describes a wide range of duties, such as serving as a subject matter expert on regional HDM activities; conducting comprehensive analyses, planning and programming; independently developing, interpreting, and implementing policies and procedures; performing COTR functions; and providing fiscal oversight of HDM projects.  Our fact-finding revealed the appellant’s duties and responsibilities are substantially more limited than reflected in the PD of record, which overstates the level of expertise required and exercised.  Many functions have been delegated to the HDM staff and are actually performed by them on a regular and recurring basis, and not by the appellant as stated in the PD of record. 

The record reflects the HDM branch contractors provide analytical and technical support to the HDM branch’s strategic planning, operational coordination, financial analysis, functional analysis, and administrative functions in managing the HDM program objectives to meet evolving and dynamic mission requirements.  The military personnel function as program officers.  They provide research, critical analyses, assessments, operational planning support, exercise support, and interagency coordination to support the USCENTCOM HDM Program. The staff performs duties such as: budget tracking and reporting; COTR functions; conducting research, coordination and analysis to assist in policy development specific to HDM; producing daily and weekly HDM inputs, briefings, reports, white papers and other executive-level documents; providing subject matter, analytical and technical expertise; and assessing progress in achieving program goals and objectives.

Based on the independence of action and freedom from technical oversight contained in military and contractor functional statements, we find the amount of time the appellant asserts he performs supervisory duties is not supported by the record.  We will address this issue in greater detail later in this decision.

This decision is based on the work currently assigned to and performed by the appellant.  In reaching our decision, we have carefully reviewed all information furnished by the appellant and his agency, including the appellant’s PD of record which we hereby incorporate by reference into this decision.  To help decide this appeal, we conducted a telephone interview with the appellant and had several follow-up discussions with him.  We also conducted a telephone interview with the appellant’s supervisor. 

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency has placed the appellant’s position in the Management and Program Analysis Series, GS-343, titled it Program Analyst, and evaluated it by application of the Administrative Analysis Grade Evaluation Guide (AAGEG).  The appellant does not dispute these determinations.

The GS-343 Management and Program Analysis Series covers administrative analytical and evaluative positions serving as analysts and advisors to management in evaluating the effectiveness of government programs and operations, the productivity and efficiency of the management of Federal agencies, or both.  Positions in the GS-343 series require knowledge of the substantive nature of agency programs and activities; agency missions, policies, and objectives; management principles and processes; and the analytical and evaluative methods and techniques for assessing program development or execution and improving organizational effectiveness and efficiency. 

Our fact-finding does not support placement of the appellant’s position in the GS-343 series as he does not perform the staff advisory functions covered by that series.  Specifically, the record does not reflect this position researches new management and business practices for adoption by the program; analyzes new or proposed legislation or regulations for program impact; identifies resources required to support varied levels of program operations; or analyzes and evaluates proposed changes in mission, operating procedures and delegations of authority.  

Rather than performing staff advisory services, the appellant’s position is operational in nature in that it oversees and carries out the line program mission functions performed by the HDM branch.  As such, this position is appropriately classified to the GS-301 Miscellaneous Administration and Program Series, which covers positions involving nonprofessional, two-grade interval administrative or management services.  This series includes positions the duties of which are to perform, supervise, or manage nonprofessional, two-grade interval work requiring analytical ability, judgment, discretion, and knowledge of a substantial body of administrative or program principles, concepts, policies, and objectives.  As branch chief, the appellant performs administrative and program-related duties in overseeing and administering the HDM projects and similar activities within the AOR.  The appellant’s work requires knowledge of the principles, concepts and objectives applicable to and supportive of the agency’s HDM program, including the budgeting process, contracting, resource planning and utilization.  Although his work does not require education in a specialized field, it does involve application of a number of critical skills; e.g., analysis, research, writing and judgment typical of two-grade interval administrative work.  

There are no prescribed titles for positions in the GS-301 series.  Therefore, the agency may construct a title following guidance in the Introduction.  

The GS-301 standard instructs that nonsupervisory work classified to this series be evaluated by reference to a specific occupational PCS involving analogous knowledges and skills, and that supervisory work be evaluated by reference to the General Schedule Supervisory Guide (GSSG).   The appellant challenged the agency’s evaluation of his position primarily due to the fact that the agency did not grade his position utilizing the GSSG.  The GSSG is a threshold PCS and requires that supervisory authorities must constitute a duty which occupies 25 percent or more of the employee’s time based on supervising Federal civilian employees, Federal military or uniformed service employees, volunteers, or other noncontractor personnel and must fully meet the intent of Level 3-2.  As explained in the following analysis, the appellant’s position does not meet either of these two conditions.

The appellant does not have a definable workforce that would require at least 25 percent of the work time on supervisory duties as the GSSG intends.  The appellant’s staff is comprised of two active duty military officers assigned to the HDM branch on a temporary, short-term and rotational basis, typically for 1 to 2 years and whose functional statements, as discussed previously, show they receive minimal oversight and supervision from the appellant.  The five contractors assigned to the HDM branch work as independent vendors not subject to the supervision and control of the appellant, and therefore cannot be credited to the appellant’s position.  Further, those positions are excluded from consideration in meeting the 25 percent threshold. 

Additionally, the appellant’s position does not meet either Level 3-2(a), which involves ongoing production-oriented work or Level 3-2(b), where work beyond that required to meet the threshold is contracted out.  The appellant’s position also falls short of meeting the full intent of the supervisory authorities described at Level 3-2(c) in that the appellant does not exercise them to the extent envisioned by the GSSG.  For a position to be credited at Level 3-2(c), the employee must fully carry out at least three of the first four and a total of six or more of the following 10 authorities and responsibilities.

  1. Plan work to be accomplished by subordinates, set and adjust short-term priorities, and prepare schedules for completion of work;
  2. Assign work to subordinates based on priorities, selective consideration of the difficulty and requirements of  assignments, and the capabilities of employees;
  3. Evaluate work performance of subordinates;
  4. Give advice, counsel, or instruction to employees on both work and administrative matters;
  5. Interview candidates for positions in the unit; recommend appointment, promotion, or reassignment to such positions;
  6. Hear and resolve complaints from employees, referring group grievances and more serious unresolved complaints to a  higher level supervisor or manager;
  7. Effect minor disciplinary measures, such as warnings and reprimands, recommending other action in more serious cases;
  8. Identify developmental and training needs of employees, providing or arranging for needed development and training;
  9. Find ways to improve production or increase the quality of the work directed;
  10. Develop performance standards.

The appellant’s planning of work to be accomplished by subordinates, setting and adjusting short-term priorities, and preparing timelines for completion of work does not reach the responsibility implicit at this level.  The record shows the appellant is delegated a few supervisory responsibilities such as authority to direct and reward employees and to effect minor disciplinary matters such as warnings and reprimands.  The record shows these authorities are routine in nature.  Furthermore, the ability to hire, transfer, furlough, layoff, recall or suspend employees are authorities and responsibilities of the Division Chief, who has the authority to exercise independent judgment in the interest of the agency.  Occasionally, the appellant may serve as a subject-matter expert on a hiring board panel and recommend a selection to his supervisor.  Further, the appellant may have initial input on performance ratings, but he does not develop performance standards or have the authority to make changes to the performance standards.  While the appellant performs parts of the Level 3‑2(c) elements, the position fails to fully meet the criteria required for the crediting of that level to his position  Thus, the appellant’s position does not meet the 25 percent threshold or the full intent of Level 3-2(c) for coverage of the GSSG.

We further evaluated the appellant’s position against the General Schedule Leader Grade Evaluation Guide (GSLGEG).  Part II of the GSLGEG is used to classify positions whose primary purpose is, as a regular and recurring part of their assignment and at least 25 percent of their duty time, to lead a team of other General Schedule (GS) employees in accomplishing two-grade interval work.  The appellant does not have GS employees on his staff, and is therefore excluded from coverage of the GSLGEG. 

The GS-301 series does not contain grade-level criteria.  As directed by the Introduction, an appropriate general classification guide or criteria in a PCS for related work should be used if there are no specific grade-level criteria published for the occupation.  PCSs used for cross- comparison should cover work as similar as possible to the work being performed with regard to the kind of work processes, functions, or subject matter; qualifications required to do the work; the level of difficulty and responsibility; and the combination of classification factors that have the greatest influence on the grade level.

The agency applied the grading criteria in the AAGEG, which provides criteria for nonsupervisory staff administrative analytical, planning, and evaluative work at grades GS-9 and above.  The agency credited the appellant’s position at Levels 1-8, 2-4, 3-4, 4-5, 5-5, 6-3, 7-c, 8-1, and 9-1.  The appellant disagrees with the agency’s evaluation of Factors 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7, as evidenced by the written record and telephone interview responses.  After a careful review of the record, we concur with the agency’s application of the AAGEG.  We also carefully reviewed the agency’s determination for Factors 8 and 9, and we concur and have credited the position accordingly.  Therefore, we will address Factors 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7.

Grade Determination

The AAGEG is written in the Factor Evaluation System (FES) format, under which factor levels and accompanying point values are assigned for each of the nine factors.  The total is converted to a grade level by use of the grade conversion table provided.  Under the FES, each factor-level description demonstrates the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  If a position fails to meet the criteria in a factor-level description in any significant aspect, it must be credited at a lower level unless an equally important aspect that meets a higher level balances the deficiency.  Conversely, the position may exceed those criteria in some aspects and still not be credited at a higher level.

Factor 1, Knowledge Required by the Position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts the employee must understand to do acceptable work (e.g., steps, procedures, practices, rules, policies, regulations, and principles) and the nature and extent of the skills needed to apply the knowledge.

Level 1-7 includes knowledge of pertinent laws, regulations, policies and precedents which affect the use of program and related support resources (people, money, or equipment).  Projects and studies typically require knowledge of the major issues, program goals and objectives, work processes, and administrative operations of the organization.  Assignments require knowledge and skill in adapting analytical techniques and evaluation criteria to perform such projects and studies.  Knowledge is applied in developing new or modified work methods, management processes, and procedures for conducting program operations.  

Level 1-7 is met.  Similar to Level 1-7, the appellant’s position requires knowledge and skill in applying analytical and evaluative methods and techniques in developing and disseminating strategies, procedures and methods for organizing, implementing, maintaining, tracking and reporting HDM-related activities and other administrative matters affecting the operational efficiency and effectiveness of the HDM branch.  The appellant provides advice and recommendations based on an analysis of existing information established by the DOD, OSD, DSCA and USCENTCOM policies, procedures, and objectives, such as the Unified Command Plan (UCP).  The UCP and associated COCOMs provide operational instructions and command and control to the Armed Forces and have a significant impact on how they are organized, trained, and resourced, areas over which Congress has constitutional authority.  The UCP is a classified executive branch document prepared by the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) and reviewed and updated every two years that assigns missions; planning, training, and operational responsibilities; and geographic areas of responsibilities to the COCOMs.  Also similar to Level 1-7, the appellant develops and communicates project rules and procedures, establishes deadlines, answers technical questions, and takes appropriate steps to comply with established agency policies and guidelines. 

As at Level 1-7, the appellant performs various tasks including, but not limited to, administering and providing fiscal oversight of a multi-million dollar program budget.  Annual USCENTCOM Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster, and Civic Aid Appropriation (OHDACA) budgets are prepared and implemented under his oversight.  He oversees the spending/allocation of funds throughout the year and makes adjustments regarding the allocation of OHDACA funds as well as the specific spending plan for these funds.  The first step in the budget process is "concept" approval, where partially completed nominations for projects are sent to him for direct approval.  He must approve each concept for it to be included in the overall budget request.  The second step in the budget process is the post-budget request; the subordinate USCENTCOM organizations have to further develop their concept(s) into formal project nominations.  Proposed projects range from a few hundred dollars to over $1million, and they entail small purchases of supplies to construction of medical facilities, disaster management centers, and schools.  When the nominations are completed, he approves project nominations based on their meeting established program criteria, authorizes the funds to be disbursed, and directly approves the funding documents for submission to and review and approval by DSCA and OSD.  Each funding nomination contains items such as an Executive Summary, cost estimates, description of specific goals and objectives to accomplish, timelines, list of partners and contacts, potential pitfalls, formal requests from the partner nation, and coordination documentation with other agencies. 

Also consistent with Level 1-7, the appellant gathers information from various sources, provides administrative-related program and project guidance to the staff; and researches, compiles and shares information and identifies resources needed for a mission or project.  For example, in the Republic of Tajikistan, a subordinate USCENTCOM component desired to provide polio vaccine to the child population to meet a specific request of the Tajik Government.  The component could not find a simple and legal way to purchase the vaccine through another U.S. Government agency, so his direction was to contract the purchase directly with a vendor in country.  In providing this guidance, he had to weigh the emphasis the U.S. Ambassador was putting on the project, the humanitarian need, feasibility of a local purchase, and speed and financial risks associated with such a contracting action, and ensure his decision was consistent with guidance in DSCA and DOD policy, as well as Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR).  As another example, in the country of Yemen, a subordinate USCENTCOM component desired to buy medical supplements and supplies for a local population sect vulnerable to violent extremists.  The legal and policy guidance is vague on such purchases, and in that country the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) is typically the lead for such actions.  However, the appellant applied existing guidance and assessed the risk, benefits, and disadvantages in making a decision; he directed this project to be coordinated with USAID.  He approved the project, and authorized his staff to disburse the funds for the purchase.  

Similar to Level 1-7, his work requires him to make procedural changes to the administrative processes of the staff to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the HDM branch operations.  For example, to synchronize and conform to broad higher guidance on budget requests for Congress to evaluate, he established specific HDM-level processes and timelines for proposals to be developed, coordinated, and sent to him for his approval. 

Also consistent with Level 1-7, the appellant’s work requires considerable interpersonal skills to facilitate discussions with government employees at other Federal agencies, such as Department of State (State) and USAID, to assist in building partner capacity. HDM projects are intended to build the capacity of a partner nation and to improve DOD visibility, access, and influence in a partner nation or region while addressing humanitarian needs.   He is responsible for communicating with Government officials, gathering adequate and relevant information and acting timely. 

The appellant’s HDM program work does not meet Level 1-8.  Level 1-8 is creditable to positions with much broader program responsibilities than those assigned to and performed by the appellant.  In contrast to conducting studies geared to significantly change, interpret, and develop important public policies or programs, the appellant works at the program-delivery level carrying out a program formulated and controlled at the DOD, OSD, DSCA and higher USCENTCOM levels.  The OSD, as the principal civilian staff element of the Secretary of Defense, assists the Secretary in carrying out direction and control of the DOD in the exercise of policy development, planning, resource management, fiscal, and program evaluation responsibilities.  Congress writes the authorities, and the DOD, OSD, DSCA and USCENTCOM provide program guidance outlining processes, expectations and timeframes.  It is at these levels where translation of legislation into program policies, goals and actions found at Level 1-8 occurs.  Additionally, the record shows that USCENTCOM attorneys provide legal interpretation of complex congressional authorities that control program execution. 

The AAGEG describes Level 1-8 as an “expert analyst” having mastered a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methods for assessing and improving complex processes and systems.  The appellant’s assignments do not involve identifying and proposing solutions to problems characterized by their breadth, importance or severity as expected at Level 1-8; e.g., studies where the boundaries are extremely broad and difficult to determine in advance and studies to identify and propose solutions to management problems which are characterized by their breadth, importance, and severity, and for which previous studies and established management techniques are frequently inadequate.  As noted in the documents the appellant submitted in support of his appeal, DSCA and OSD review the analysis, evaluations and recommendations for HDM programs and projects “for potential influence on broad agency policy objectives and program goals or when they exceed the minimal cost threshold” discussed later in this decision.  It is positions in those organizations which apply the breadth and depth of knowledge found at Level 1-8 to assess the feasibility, desirability, and cost-effective of HDM’s proposals across the universe of such DoD-wide HDM proposals.  Whether or not the appellant’s proposals “are accepted without significant change” does not change the fact that the program functions assigned to the appellant’s branch and his position are operationally focused and do not provide him the opportunity to routinely work on program issues of the breadth and uncertainty requiring the application of Level 1-8 knowledge.  His work does not involve analyzing or evaluating a program, or require knowledge of broad agency administrative programs where legislation must be translated into program goals, actions, or services.  It does not require the work of an “expert analyst” to plan, organize, or direct team work where the proposals involve substantial agency resources or require extensive changes in established procedures.  The focus of the HDM branch is operational; overall direction and program control are provided at higher echelons within USCENTCOM, DSCA, OSD and DOD.  The appellant’s work situation neither provides the opportunity for nor permits  him to develop new program policy, comprehensive guidelines or major new systems characteristic of Level 1-8. 

Therefore, this factor is evaluated at Level 1-7 (1250 points).

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor includes how the work is assigned; what the employee's responsibility is for carrying out the work; and how the work is reviewed.  Factor 2 is designed to measure not only the degree of independence with which the employee operates, but also the extent of the responsibility inherent in the assignment.  

At Level 2-4, employees work within a framework of priorities, funding, and overall project objectives (e.g., cost reduction, improved effectiveness and efficiency, better workload distribution, or implementation of new work methods).  The employee and supervisor mutually develop a project plan that includes identifying the work to be done, the scope of the project, and deadlines for completion.  Employees at this level are responsible for planning and organizing the study and conducting all phases of the project, including the interpretation of regulations, procedures, and application of new methods.  The employee informs the supervisor of potentially controversial findings, issues, or problems with widespread impact.  Completed assignments are reviewed by the supervisor for compatibility with organizational goals, guidelines, and effectiveness in achieving intended objectives.

Level 2-4 is met.  The appellant works independently in planning and carrying out work assignments and providing advice and guidance to staff.  He is accountable to and works under the general administrative supervision of the Division Chief, who provides broad policy and administrative direction.  Within those parameters, the appellant is responsible for planning and organizing the projects, estimating costs, coordinating with staff and line management personnel, and conducting all phases of the project(s).  The appellant informs the Division Chief of potentially controversial findings, issues, or problems with widespread impact.  Level 2-4 work is carried out with a high degree of independence and recognized expertise and as such fully represents the manner in which the appellant’s position operates.  

At Level 2-5, the employee is a recognized authority in the analysis and evaluation of programs and issues and is subject only to administrative and policy direction concerning overall project priorities and objectives.  The employee is typically delegated complete responsibility and authority to plan, schedule, and carry out major projects concerned with the analysis and evaluation of programs or organizational effectiveness.  Analysis, evaluations and recommendations developed by the employee are normally reviewed by management officials only for potential influence on broad agency policy objectives and program goals.  Findings and recommendations are normally accepted without significant change.

The appellant’s position has some similarities to Level 2-5.  For instance, he is a recognized authority in the analysis and evaluation of HDM branch programs and issues and is subject only to administrative and policy direction, as at Level 2-5, but his authority is limited to the HDM branch’s studies and projects.  This does not meet the guide’s intent of major project(s) from a major command (USCENTCOM), agency or department (DOD) perspective.  The appellant’s assignments are of lesser magnitude than envisioned for Level 2-5, in that he performs operational level work within the parameters of policy and program controls vested in the aforementioned higher level organizations.  The record does not support the conclusion that the appellant’s completed work is normally only reviewed for potential influence on broad department policy objectives and program goals as is intended at Level 2-5.  Implicit at Level 2-5 is a significant degree of program management responsibility; i.e., authority over the use of funds and personnel.  The employee is responsible not only for individual performance of certain assigned tasks, but also for the overall conduct of a broader program or function.  At Level 2-5, the program or function must be of sufficient size and scope to permit the implementation of new systems or projects requiring consideration of funding and staffing needs. 

Unlike Level 2-5, the appellant’s administrative and other program functions are controlled by USCENTCOM, DSCA, OSD, DOD and the Division Chief level.  It is at these levels, and not the appellant’s level, that hold responsibility for implementation of new policy or projects that directly affect the broad agency programs as contemplated at Level 2-5.  We note that under CCR 12-1, the appellant’s authority is limited to approving “minimal cost projects” of $75,000 for certain countries or lesser amounts.  While this limitation is not dispositive in evaluating this factor, we also note that the 2014 Federal small purchase/simplified purchase threshold is $150,000.  The limited size and scope of the HDM program and staff serves to limit the scope and complexity of the appellant’s program functions and authority.  This, in turn, precludes the appellant from routinely having to control the scope of funding and staff envisioned at Level 2-5. 

Each position performs part of the mission of the organization in which it is located.  The positions created to perform the assigned mission must be considered in relation to one another. The PD (#519S603) of the Division Chief to whom the appellant reports, certified as current and accurate by competent management authority, indicates that he exercises both technical and administrative supervision over his staff, including the appellant.  The PD states, in pertinent part, that the Division Chief provides staff with (1) “direction and advice…[on] policies, procedures, and guidelines,” (2) “[a]ccepts, amends or rejects work of subordinates,” and (3) [r]eviews work and management techniques of subordinates.”  Although the appellant works independently and has been delegated responsibility and administrative authority to plan, schedule and carry out HDM programs and projects, and he exercises discretion and judgment in determining whether to broaden or narrow the scope of HDM projects, the nature of the appellant’s work and the authority vested in his supervisor’s position are not such that they would permit the exercise of the level of responsibility and authority found at Level 2-5.

Since the position does not fully meet the overall intent of Level 2-5, this factor must be evaluated at Level 2-4 (450 points).

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor considers the nature of guidelines and the judgment needed to apply them.  Typically, Level 3-5 is the highest level assigned for administrative analytical positions. 

At Level 3-4, guidelines consist of general administrative policies and management and organizational theories which require considerable adaptation and/or interpretation for application to issues and problems studied.  At this level, administrative policies and precedent studies provide a basic outline of the results desired, but do not go into detail as to the methods used to accomplish the project.  Administrative guidelines usually cover program goals and objectives of the employing organization, such as agency controls on size of workforce, productivity targets, and similar objectives.  Within the context of broad regulatory guidelines, the employee may refine or develop more specific guidelines such as implementing regulations or methods for the measurement and improvement of effectiveness and productivity in the administration of operating programs.

The appellant’s position meets Level 3-4.  The record reflects program policy functions are controlled by USCENTCOM, DSCA, OSD, DOD and the Division Chief levels and provide the appellant with broad agency guidelines covering basic roles and responsibilities, overall tasks and activities, timelines and basic strategies.  Depending on the nature of the humanitarian initiative, certain projects are funded by steady state funding, or pop-up projects that require contingency operations funding.  Within the rapidly changing nature of the HDM branch’s projects, the appellant reviews existing regulations, directives and policies and determines how they should be applied within short timeframes.   Consistent with Level 3-4, guidance is readily available, outlines program responsibilities, and provides guidance for identifying, developing, nominating, approving, funding, coordinating, and executing HDM projects and activities. 

In his appeal package, the appellant identified existing, hierarchical regulations, policies and directives from which he then authored HDM guidance, USCENTCOM Regulation CCR 12-1.  CCR 12-1 established its own body of guidance for the HDM branch.  He determines whether to revise CCR 12-1, leave it unchanged or rescind.  This is consistent with Level 3-4 where within the context of broad regulatory guidelines, the employee may refine or develop more specific guidelines such as implementing regulations.   We also note that authoring one regulation is not considered a regular and recurring duty.  Recurring duties are those performed in a continuous, uninterrupted manner, or performed at regular and recurring intervals.  One-time only or non-recurring duties do not affect or control the grade level of a position. 

Also similar to Level 3-4, the appellant, within the context of existing, hierarchical guidelines and the CCR 12-1, develops and refines specific HDM rules and practices as well as supplementary guidance such as checklists and compulsory processes to be followed by the HDM staff.  He considers and applies unique dynamics of the USCENTCOM AOR such as operational objectives and intent, availability of resources, risks and threats.  The appellant’s guidelines are not always applicable to his work, but they are readily available and more specific and detailed than the general statements of intent described at Level 3-5. 

The appellant’s position does not meet Level 3-5.  At this level, employees review proposed legislation or regulations that would significantly change the basic character of agency programs, the way the agency conducts its business with the public or with private industry, or which modify important inter-agency relationships.  Program policy functions are controlled by USCENTCOM, DSCA, OSD, DOD and the Division Chief level as discussed previously.  It is these levels, and not the appellant’s level, that hold responsibility for review and implementation of new policies or guidelines that directly affect the agency programs as contemplated at Level 3-5.  The appellant’s position requires him to stay current on HDM policies, procedures, and the plans produced by USCENTCOM, DSCA, OSD and DOD, to consider the impact on the role, function, and/or training of the HDM staff.  He reviews and provides comments and proposed edits, when necessary, to higher (OSD, DSCA) policy guidance/directives from which USCENTCOM HDM policy guidance is then derived.  He reviews proposed changes to legislative guidance proposed by DSCA or OSD that affect funds or activities associated with HDM projects.  However, unlike Level 3-5, this and other HDM work does not equate to agency level program functions as described at Level 3-5.  

Since the position does not fully meet the overall intent of Level 3-5, this factor is evaluated at the next lower level, Level 3-4 (450 points).

Factor 4, Complexity

This factor covers the nature, number, variety, and intricacy of tasks, steps, processes, or methods in the work performed; the difficulty in identifying what needs to be done; and the difficulty and originality involved in performing the work. 

At Level 4-5, the work consists of projects and studies which require analysis of interrelated issues of effectiveness, efficiency, and productivity of substantive mission-oriented programs.  Typical assignments require developing detailed plans for the long-range implementation and administration of the program.  The work is complicated by such factors as conflicting program goals deriving from changes in legislation or regulatory guidelines or productivity, variations in the demand for program services, and the need to deal with subjective concepts such as value judgments that are not readily susceptible to verification (e.g., assessing the relative advantages and disadvantages).  In some instances, the work may be complicated by the need to develop data about workload and program accomplishments which are currently unavailable, and current measurements of program effectiveness may be ambiguous and susceptible to widely varying interpretations.

The appellant’s position meets Level 4-5.  Comparable to Level 4-5, the appellant’s position has a wide spectrum of assignments within HDM’s mission-oriented operations.  As described at Level 4-5, his typical assignments require the planning, organizing and completion of activities pertaining to HDM projects.  Assignments require him to assign portions of activities for review to various functional experts/stakeholders, coordinate the efforts of the group, and consolidate results into a completed HDM project nomination.  He is responsible for resolving all concerns during project coordination that range from administrative, technical, political, economic, cultural, fiscal, legal or safety-related issues.  Similar to Level 4-5, his assignments involve situations wherein he evaluates and determines courses of action; considers a wide range of issues to direct HDM branch team efforts over short- and long-term projects; and evaluates effects on the host nation, other U.S. Government programs and/or private citizens in the affected country.  He ensures HDM’s long-range and short-term projects within the AOR do not overlap or duplicate existing humanitarian projects at USAID or Department of State to avoid adverse impact on productivity and resources.  Due to short timeframes in emergency situations, this can require consideration of facts not readily verifiable.

The appellant’s work does not reach Level 4-6, where the employee plans, organizes, and carries through to completion analytical studies involving the substance of key agency programs.  In these studies, there is extreme difficulty in identifying the nature of the issues or problems to be studied, and in planning, organizing, and determining the scope and depth of the study.  Difficulty is encountered in separating the substantive nature of the programs or issues studied into their administrative, technical, political, economic, fiscal and other components, and determining the nature and magnitude of the interactions. Difficulty is also encountered in discerning the intent of legislation and policy statements, and determining how to translate the intent into program actions. The work typically involves efforts to develop and implement programs based upon new or revised legislation requiring consideration of the immediate sequential and long-range effects, both direct and indirect, or proposed actions on the public, other government programs, and/or private industry. The employee doing program evaluation studies is normally faced with the need to develop new ways to measure program accomplishments, results, and effectiveness.  As noted previously, the appellant is involved with operational programs under the purview of the HDM branch, and these do not provide the appellant the opportunity nor permit him to deal with the substance or intent of key agency level programs or deal with the range of analytical complexities described at this level.

Therefore, this factor is evaluated at Level 4-5 (325 points).

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of the work; i.e., the purpose, breadth, and depth of the assignments, and the effect of work products or services both within and outside the organization.  

At Level 5-4, the purpose of work is to assess the productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency of program operations or to analyze and resolve problems in the staffing, effectiveness, and efficiency of administrative support and staff activities.  Work involves establishing criteria to measure and/or predict the attainment of program or organizational goals and objectives.  Work at this level may also include developing related administrative regulations such as those governing the allocation and distribution of personnel, supplies, equipment, and other resources, or promulgating program guidance for application across organizational lines or in varied geographic locations.  At Level 5-4, the work has the effect of contributing to the improvement of productivity, effectiveness, and efficiency in program operations and/or geographic locations within the organizations.  Work affects the plans, goals, and effectiveness of missions and programs at these various echelons or locations. Work may also affect the nature of administrative work done in components of other agencies (e.g., in preparation and submission of reports, in gathering and evaluating workload statistics, or in routing and storing official correspondence or files).

The appellant’s position meets Level 5-4.  Like this level, his regular and recurring work involves assessing the productivity, effectiveness and efficiency of the HDM branch’s administrative operations that affect the accomplishment of specific and pop-up project goals and objectives within its 20-country AOR.  Similar to Level 5-4, his work requires managing, evaluating, assessing and tracking HDM’s budget and projects to ensure compliance with law and DOD and DSCA  policy and guidance.  As at Level 5-4, the appellant’s work focuses on delivering services at the operating level but may also affect the nature of administrative work done in components of other agencies, such as Department of State and USAID.     

At Level 5-5, the purpose of work is to analyze and evaluate major administrative aspects of substantive, mission-oriented programs.  This may involve, for example, developing long-range program plans, goals, objectives, and milestones, or evaluating the effectiveness of programs conducted throughout a bureau or service of an independent agency, a regional structure of equivalent scope, or a large complex multi-mission field activity.  This level anticipates work of major significance, developing recommendations that considerably change major administrative aspects of agency missions and programs (i.e., beyond an organization mission and programs).   Work involves identifying and developing ways to resolve problems or cope with issues directly affecting the accomplishment of principal goals and objectives. 

Unlike Level 5-5, the appellant’s work is mainly concerned with the issues and conditions directly impacting the HDM branch program operations, projects, resources and policies.  The appellant assesses HDM strategies and programs, and writes standard operating procedures and supplemental guidance regarding implementation of agency policies and briefings for use within the HDM branch.  However, the effect of these and other responsibilities do not reach the scale envisioned at Level 5-5 that affect major administrative or program aspects of USCENTCOM.  The appellant’s responsibilities do not have the far-reaching purpose or impact comparable to the products serving as the basis of new administrative systems, legislation, regulations or programs described at Level 5-5.  This level covers USCENTCOM positions with broader program responsibilities and impact than the appellant’s, such as the Division Chief’s and higher.  We note the appellant’s efforts and assignments in responding to the 2011 Fukushima Tsunami and subsequent partial authorship in an After Action Report.  However, work that is not expected to occur on a regular and recurring basis as a continuing function of a position cannot affect the assignment of a factor level or the grade of a position.

Therefore, this factor is evaluated at Level 5-4 (225 points).

Factor 6, Personal contacts and Factor 7, Purpose of contacts

Factor 6 includes face-to-face contacts and telephone and radio dialogue with persons not in the supervisory chain. Under Factor 7, the purpose of personal contacts ranges from factual exchanges of information to situations involving significant or controversial issues and differing viewpoints, goals, or objectives.  

            Personal contacts

The appellant’s highest level regular and recurring contacts are with counterpart and program officials within USCENTCOM several managerial levels removed, and with representatives of other Federal agencies, which most closely matches Level 3, where the contacts are with persons outside the agency in moderately unstructured settings.  The appellant’s contacts do not meet Level 4, where contacts are regularly with top congressional staff officials, other agency heads, and mayors of major cities or executives of comparable private-sector organizations.  Factor 6 is evaluated at Level 3.  

          Purpose of contacts

The purpose of the appellant’s contacts is to enhance and coordinate planning and budget prioritization issues.  He promotes guidelines that prescribe processes for allocating budget, material and personnel.  This is comparable to Level c, where the purpose of the contacts is to influence managers or other officials to accept and implement findings and recommendations on program effectiveness.  Resistance may be encountered due to such issues as organizational conflict, competing objectives, or resource problems. The purpose of the appellant’s contacts does not reach Level d where the purpose is to justify or settle matters involving significant or controversial issues; e.g., recommendations affecting major programs, dealing with substantial expenditures, or significantly changing the nature and scope of organizations.   As discussed previously, such responsibilities lie with higher echelons with USCENTCOM, DSCA and OSD.  Specifically, the Division Chief’s PD states, in pertinent part, that the appellant’s supervisor “[e]stablishes, develops and maintains direct liaison and coordinates with senior level officials at national-level agencies,” (2) “meets with key US Military, US Government agencies, Supported commanders, Coalition partners,” and (3) “[i]nterfaces on a daily basis with national- and theater-level counterparts” in carrying out his organization’s program responsibilities.  Thus, Factor 7 is evaluated at Level c.  

Therefore, these factors are evaluated at Levels 6-3 and 7(c) (180 points).


Factors Levels Points
1. Knowledge Required by the Position 1-7 1250
2. Supervisory Controls 2-4   450
3. Guidelines 3-4   450
4. Complexity 4-5   325
5. Scope and Effect 5-4   225
6. Personal Contact and 6-3
7. Purpose of Contacts 7(c)   180
8. Physical Demands 8-1      5
9. Work Environment 9-1      5
Total 2890


A total of 2890 points are credited.  In accordance with the grade conversion table, the points fall within the GS-12 range (2755 to 3150). 


The position is properly classified as a non-supervisory GS-301-12.  The title is at the agency’s discretion.

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