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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

[appellant's name]
Information Technology Specialist
(SYSADMIN/CUSTSUPPORT)
GS-2210-9

Recruiting Station [City]
[number] Marine Corps District
[Location] Recruiting Region
Marine Corps Recruiting Command
U.S. Marine Corps
U.S. Department of Defense
[City, State]
Computer Assistant
GS-335-8
C-0335-08-02

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

07/23/2014


Date

As provided in section 511.612 of title 5, Code of Federal Regulations, this decision constitutes a certificate that 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 CFR 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 corrected position description 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 OPM office which accepted the appeal. 

Introduction

On November 14, 2013, OPM’s Agency Compliance and Evaluation (ACE) Chicago office accepted a classification appeal from [appellant].  The appellant occupies a standard position description (SPD), hereinafter referred to as position, currently classified as Information Technology Specialist [IT] (Systems Administration/Customer Support), GS-2210-9, with Recruiting Station (RS) [Location] (ERR), Marine Corps Recruiting Command(MCRC), U.S. Marine Corps, in [City, State].  He believes his position should be classified as Information Technology Specialist, GS-2210-11.  We received the initial agency administrative report (AAR) on December 23, 2013, the appellant’s comments in response to the AAR on January 14, 2014, and the final revised PD and supporting documents from the agency on March 13, 2014.  We have accepted and decided this appeal under section 5112 of title 5, United States Code (U.S.C.).

Background and general issues

In June 2013, the appellant forwarded a classification appeal request to his agency HR office, who delayed forwarding it to the Department of Defense (DoD) adjudicating component because of the appellant’s refusal to certify PD accuracy.  Because of the delay, the appellant withdrew his appeal request with his agency on November 13, 2013, and appealed to OPM. 

When the appellant’s previous PD (number [#####]) was issued to the various RSs requesting them to submit personnel actions for reassignments, some offices erroneously changed block 1 of the OF-8 to a position number in their own internal numbering system.  As a result, a new SPD was prepared for use at all of the RSs and after the appeal was accepted by OPM, the agency submitted this revised SPD (# [#####]) and the SF-50 reassigning the appellant to it, effective December 15, 2013.  The new SPD was classified as Information Technology Specialist (Systems Administration/ Customer Support), GS-2210-9.  It is used for the 48 RS IT positions throughout MCRC.  There are no other IT positions in the RSs.  The next higher level of IT expertise is vested in positions located in the MCDs.

On December 18, 2013, the appellant’s supervisor certified that the new PD was current and accurate.  However, the appellant refused to sign the certification at that time, but later, during conversations with the OPM representative conducting the telephone audit with him, he agreed the PD accurately described his work, but disagreed with the agency’s evaluation of the factor level descriptions (FLDs). 

The appellant’s classification appeal request states the new SPD seems to remove some of the higher level duties that were described in his previous PD.  In his rationale, the appellant points to those duties using selected portions of language from the FLDs in the 2200 Job Family Standard (JFS) for Administrative Work in the Information Technology Group to support his rationale for a higher grade.  Critical to the correct application of position classification standards (PCS) is an understanding of the full intent of a particular factor or grade level.  Simply matching some of the duties of a position to words, phrases, or illustrations in the PCSs can lead to inappropriate interpretations and inaccurate grade-level determinations.  It is extremely important, therefore, to understand and apply the full content of the criteria provided for a particular factor level or grade level.  Moreover, it is essential to view illustrations and examples within the full context of the grading criteria for which they are provided.  The claimant’s rationale fails to meet these requirements. By law, we must make our decision solely by comparing the appellant’s current duties and responsibilities to OPM position classification standards (PCSs) and guidelines (See 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 appellant’s position in applying the full intent of these PCSs and guidelines. 

We find the PD of record covers the major duties assigned to and performed by the appellant.  A PD is the official record of the major duties and responsibilities assigned to a position or job by an official with the authority to assign work.  A position consists of the duties and responsibilities that make up the work performed by the employee.  Classification appeal regulations permit OPM to investigate or audit a position and decide an appeal based on the actual duties and responsibilities currently assigned by management and performed by the employee.  An OPM appeal decision classifies a real operating position and not simply the PD.  This decision is based on the work currently assigned to and performed by the appellant.

The appellant also makes reference to U.S. Department of Labor Fact Sheet 17 E, Exemption for Employees in Computer Related Occupations under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). However, as an FLSA exemption claim is not covered by the classification appeals process.  We informed the appellant of the correct procedures to file such a claim with OPM’s Merit System Accountability and Compliance for adjudication.

Position information

The MCRC is responsible to the Commandant of the Marines for the recruitment of qualified individuals in sufficient numbers to meet established officer and enlisted personnel strength levels for the Marine Corps and the Marine Corps reserve.  Its primary mission is to supply recruiters with the resources they need to spread the Corps’ message and enlist the best talent they can find for the Marines.  The MCRC, based in Quantico, Virginia, is part of the Supporting Establishment, a subdivision of the Corps that comprises the personnel, bases, training, and other activities that support the Corps’ combat operations.  MCRC consists of eastern and western RRs spanning three MCDs each.  Each of these six districts has eight RSs, for a total of 48 stations located throughout the U.S. and its territories.  The Marine Corps has about 500 career recruiters who use telephone and in-person recruiting techniques, and are evaluated on their ability to deliver effective presentations at high schools.  Marines who attain basic recruiter status are assigned to an RS, where they fulfill their tour of duty.

RS [City] is housed in a new facility based in [City, State], and covers a large area of [area].  The station is comprised of 12 substations, one officer selection station, and one Military Entrance Processing Station.  The staff of 14 supports more than 60 recruiters under the supervision of their commanding officer, a Marine Major. 

The appellant’s position serves as an extension of the MCD Headquarters S-6 section at RS headquarters.  Technical direction comes through MCD S-6 from the G-6 staff at MCRC.  The key contact at G-6 is the Assistant Chief of Staff, who is responsible for planning, organizing, managing, and directing the daily operations of the MCRC's Recruiting Command Enterprise Network (RCEN), remotely connected very small sites (VSS), and enterprise communications (e-mail, blackberry etc.) which includes servers, desktops, laptops, tablet PC's, software, networking hardware/software, telecommunications hardware/software, licenses, and maintenance support contracts.  She serves as the principal assistant (equivalent to a civilian Deputy Chief Information Officer) in all matters relating to communication-electronics and the management of information technology systems.  The G-6 staff develops plans and implements new systems to support the recruiting mission.  G-6 staff instructions are communicated to the appellant during a weekly telecom, and usually flow down through the MCD Headquarters S-6 section. 

The incumbent reports to the RS Executive Officer (XO), a Marine Captain, although his work is assigned by the MCD S-6 IT specialist.  The RS XO confers with the MCD S-6 IT specialist regarding critical elements, performance measurements, and final appraisals.  The appellant works independently, receiving daily direction from the RS XO to support the recruiting mission and keeps the local command group abreast of all IT initiatives and projects.

Additional direction comes from the DoD and the Department of the Navy (Navy).  For example, DoD Directive 8570 provides guidance and procedures for the training, certification, and management of all government employees who conduct Information Assurance (IA) functions in assigned duty positions. These individuals are required to carry an approved certification for their particular job classification.

The primary purpose of the appellant’s job is to provide IT administrative support to RS [location] in the execution of its mission by 1) monitoring the system for connectivity, and reporting any problems to higher echelons for resolution, 2) providing local IT support to RS managers and recruiters, and 3) implementing the required security procedures and safeguards.

IT Services 

The appellant provides IT services for the RS [location] area of operations which requires him to maintain current knowledge with respect to state-of-the-art technology, equipment, and/or systems, and DoD 8570 requirements.  The appellant is responsible for the installation and configuration of IT-related equipment to ensure continued operations of all software and hardware assigned to each recruiter.  The appellant installs software and helps maintain network operations.  He performs a variety of duties to support more than 80 work stations in the daily use of information systems, providing guidance in the use of computer hardware, as well as enterprise software and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) applications.  He conducts daily local backup and restore jobs.  He also provides user support to those RS employees provided government-issued Blackberry smartphones which relay email from a corporate mailbox.  He administers Blackberry services by creating and deleting accounts on the Blackberry enterprise server as well as activating accounts, resetting passwords, and monitoring data usage, as data overload due to switch failures has been identified as the cause of the service disruptions.  These duties occupy about 50 percent of his time.

IT Administration/Support 

The appellant establishes and manages network and e-mail accounts, rights, and access for all end users.  He provides informational training, IT advice, and assistance to ensure that all IT customers are able to obtain maximum capability from all provided resources.  He also enters remedy tickets into the MCRC Help Desk ticketing system for incident management.  He troubleshoots server connectivity, access, and speed incidents and other problems, contacting higher echelons for assistance when necessary.  He coordinates all handheld device issues with the MCD logistics section and ensures all site telecommunications issues are quickly and correctly handled and actions are completed in minimum time.  When directed by the command, he gathers, analyzes, and preserves forensic evidence used in the prosecution of computer crimes or misconduct.  This work occupies about 25 percent of his time.

IT Information Assurance (IA) 

In accordance with applicable directives, the appellant must immediately report any identified loss of Personally Identifiable Information (PII) to the RS and MCD Commanding Officers/XOs and the appropriate officials at ERR.  The appellant is responsible for ensuring that the organization is aware of IA issues and problems that affect the network and computer usage.  He briefs senior management on all IA issues and ensures that sound IA principles are reflected in the organization's visions and goals.  He plans, coordinates, tracks, and reports all initial and annual IA training necessary for each end user to maintain access to the network.  This work occupies about 25 percent of his time.

To help decide this appeal, we conducted telephone interviews with the appellant on March 31, 2014, and his supervisor on April 2, 2014.  We also conducted interviews with MCRC’s Deputy CIO of the G-6 staff and the S-6 IT specialist at MCD concerning the appellant’s receipt of technical direction.  In reaching our classification decision, we have carefully considered all of the information obtained from the interviews, as well as all other information of record provided by the appellant and his agency.  After a careful review, we find the appellant’s PD (SPD #[#####]) meets the standards of PD accuracy for classification purposes as discussed in section III.E of the Introduction and we incorporate it by reference into our decision as it contains the major duties and responsibilities assigned to and performed by the appellant.

Series, title, and standard determination

The agency placed the appellant’s position in the Information Technology Management Series, 2210, which is covered by the GS-2200 JFS, and the appellant does not disagree.  Part 1 of the 2200 JFS contains occupational information and guidelines for determining the correct IT series, and is intended for use by all agencies in evaluating administrative positions in the 2200 occupational group.  It provides series definitions, titling instructions, and detailed occupational information for this job family. 

The GS-2210 series covers two-grade interval administrative positions that manage, supervise, lead, administer, develop, deliver, and support IT systems and services.  It covers only those positions for which the paramount requirement is knowledge of IT principles, concepts, and methods in the assigned specialty area(s); e.g., data storage, software applications, or networking.  Information technology refers to systems and services used in the automated acquisition, storage, manipulation, management, movement, control, display, switching, interchange, transmission, assurance, or reception of information. Information technology includes computers, network components, peripheral equipment, software, firmware, services, and related resources.  This type of knowledge is used to evaluate and recommend adoption of new or enhanced approaches to delivering IT services, test and optimize the functionality of systems, networks, and data, and identify and define business or technical requirements applied to the design, development, implementation, management, and support of systems and networks.

The 2200 JFS distinguishes between specialist work and assistant work and notes that specialist positions may be established as developmental jobs with clear progression to higher grade levels as the specialist receives progressively more difficult assignments.  These assignments require the application of a broad knowledge of information technology principles, concepts, and methods, a high degree of analytical ability, skill in problem solving, skill in communicating effectively, both orally and in writing, and an understanding of the interrelationships between the different IT specialties.  In distinguishing between specialist and assistant work, the JFS also provides descriptive examples of positions whose functions should be excluded from the GS-2210 series because they do not require a regular and recurring application of knowledge of IT principles, concepts, and measures.  The JFS specifically excludes from the 2210 series positions with functions such as monitoring the operation of small networked systems, adding network users, updating passwords, installing or assisting users in installing COTS software programs, configuring hardware and software according to standard instructions, running scheduled backups, troubleshooting minor problems, and responding to less complex user questions.  This type and level of support work is assigned to the GS-335 Computer Assistant Series and is properly evaluated by application of the GS-335 PCS.

The appellant’s position does not fully meet the requirements for assignment to the GS-2210 series.  While the appellant possesses and applies a sound practical knowledge of hardware and software functions and capabilities in order to provide advice and assistance to personal computer users on various computer applications, his duties do not require (1) the in-depth knowledge of information technology principles, concepts, and methods sufficient to plan, analyze, design, develop, test, configure, implement, and maintain systems and activities or (2) the knowledge sufficient to provide comprehensive customer support functions and services to the extent described in the 2200 JFS.  Positions like the appellant’s that assist customers in installing and configuring desktop systems, monitoring the operation of networked systems, configuring hardware and software according to instructions, and resolving problems in accordance with established procedures do not meet the paramount knowledge criteria for coverage by the 2210 series.  The RS [location] network is small, and the duties do not require the in-depth knowledge of IT principles, concepts, and methods sufficient to plan, analyze, design, develop, test, configure, implement, and maintain the network systems as intended by the 2200 JFS.  The appellant’s position is further limited in scope because the responsibility for establishing command-wide systems, hardware and software requirements, and making decisions on the need for system upgrades and/or software migrations rests with positions at higher echelons within MCRC.

The GS-335 PCS provides that employees support or assist other employees who design, operate, or use automatic data processing systems applications and products, by performing work in one or a mix of functional areas.  This work requires knowledge of external data processing sequences, controls, and procedures, or user and programming languages, rather than in-depth knowledge of computer requirements or techniques associated with the development and design of data processing systems.  Such support work typically requires knowledge of the scope, contents, and purposes of program documentation.  The duties may also require a working knowledge of programming languages.  Some work may require knowledge of system hardware such as the number and kind of devices, operating speeds, amount of core capacity, and other equipment characteristics.  This knowledge may also be supplemented by knowledge of internal software routines. 

In addition, the appellant's work in coordinating the use of Blackberry smartphones with the agency email system does not meet coverage by the GS-391 Telecommunications Series as it does not require application of two-grade interval telecommunications knowledge and skill as defined by the GS-391 PCS.  Furthermore, the limited, practical automation interface and compatibility knowledge required to perform this work is secondary to the primary knowledge requirement for communications theories, principles, concepts, and practices and does not involve or require specific or in-depth knowledge of how computers work internally and/or how programs are developed.  Rather, we find the technical demands of this work are adequately covered and evaluated by application of the GS-335 PCS.  

The prescribed title for non-supervisory positions at grade GS-5 and above in the GS-335 series is Computer Assistant.  The appellant’s position is properly allocated as Computer Assistant, GS-335.

Grade determination

The 335 PCS uses the Factor Evaluation System (FES) under which positions are evaluated on the basis of their duties, responsibilities, and the qualifications required in terms of nine factors common to non-supervisory General Schedule positions.  Factor levels are assigned for each of the nine factors and credited with the accompanying point values, with the total points then being converted to a grade level by use of the grade-conversion table provided in the PCS.  Under the FES, each factor-level description in a PCS describes the minimum characteristics needed to receive credit for the described level.  Therefore, 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 the deficiency is balanced by an equally important aspect that meets a higher level.  Conversely, the position may exceed those criteria in some aspects and still not be credited at a higher level.  Our evaluation with respect to the nine FES factors follows.

Because the appellant’s grade level rationale rests upon application of the GS-2200 JFS which does not cover or apply to his position, we will not address his rationale further. 

Factor 1, Knowledge required by the position

This factor measures the nature and extent of information or facts a worker must understand in order to do acceptable work, and the nature and extent of the skills needed to apply that knowledge.

At Level 1-5, employees carry out limited specialized projects and assignments using knowledge of fundamental data processing methods, practices, and techniques in work involving development, test, implementation, and modification of computer programs and operating procedures.  Employees also use knowledge of data content and output options for a variety of program applications processed on multi-program operating systems.  Employees use knowledge of time-sharing, remote job entry, batch and demand processing for work such as allocating core or writing new program documentation and operating procedures.  Work at this level involves using knowledge as the basis for analysis and decision-making in several fundamental settings.

At Level 1-6, in addition to the knowledge described at Level 1-5, employees use extensive knowledge of at least one multiprocessor and typically several single processor computer systems.  They monitor processing work flow and diagnose and resolve error and problem conditions involving many program interrelationships and interlocking computer systems.  The work at this level encompasses many of the problem solving aspects of specialist work concerned with effective program implementation and processing except those requiring programming corrections or equipment repair.  This work requires extensive knowledge of computer equipment, internal computer processes, applications, and utility programs and magnetic media.  It also requires knowledge of a wide range of analytical and diagnostic methods, procedures, and principles.  In addition, knowledge is required of some elements of programming systems analysis and equipment operations.  The knowledge is used to identify the nature and source of problems occurring during processing and to plan and implement solutions.  Employees at this level commonly use this knowledge to advise specialists in setting run instructions and developing effective operating methods.  Work at this level commonly involves taking action to order and interpret system dumps, order and implement back-up recovery procedures to replace faulty tapes or disks, reallocating equipment usage to work around equipment malfunctions, etc.

Level 1-5 is met.  Equivalent to work at this level, the appellant builds accounts for new employees based on the appropriate permissions to provide access to the applications that are required for the particular position.  The appellant uses knowledge of a variety of administrative and technical program applications to identify, research, and resolve problems or errors, within his assigned authority, and provides guidance and instructions to users who require assistance.  For example, he responds to problems based on a user or management-initiated request made by telephone or email.  The appellant documents the diagnosis and resolution of customer assistance requests into an automated trouble ticket system, which collects information from customers.  He applies IT solutions compliant with RS guidelines and DoD's IT security management procedures.  Requests which he cannot handle are referred to IT specialists at S-6 or G-6 for resolution.  While the appellant troubleshoots workstations which interface with the server, identification and resolution of problems are performed within established guidelines and procedures.  The appellant adapts, configures, and tests computer software and hardware within the context of established techniques and precedents as indicative of positions at Level 1-5.

The appellant’s position does not fully meet Level 1-6.  The record shows a major server migration was made last year.  The physical server is now a virtual server stored on a cloud maintained by the G-6 staff at MCRC HQ.  While the active directory and physical maintenance duties are gone, the appellant states that he is still responsible for maintaining proper updates for the end users’ shared drives.  He says this includes maintaining permissions for access at RS as well as managing the software administrative tools necessary for monitoring and maintaining the system.  He still retains responsibility for network connectivity and adhering to security requirements of DoD’s Security Technical Implementation Guide (STIG) methodology for standardized secure installation and maintenance of computer software and hardware.  In addition, his agency has signed a new contract with the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) for the leasing of new printers with maintenance and repair to be handled by vendors.  The appellant states he has just received the first 10 printers under the new contract, but still has responsibility for the attendant mapping, updating drivers, Internet Protocol (IP) addresses, and STIG security requirements associated with the older printers in inventory. 

While the work performed by the appellant does involve monitoring, diagnosing, and resolving error and problem conditions, the work does not involve a wide range of analytical and diagnostic methods, procedures, and principles typical of Level 1-6.  Assistants at this level typically perform more in-depth problem analysis and decision making than is evident in the appellant’s current work.  The computer knowledge required for the appellant’s work is also limited in scope by the presence of the IT specialists at the MCD (S-6) and at MCRC (G-6).  These resources are available to assist in resolving the more difficult, complex problems or error conditions involving an extensive knowledge of computer equipment, internal computer processes, applications and utility programs, or the wide range of analytical and diagnostic methods, procedures, and principles requiring knowledge above Level 1-5.

In contrast, the basic duties relating to daily and monthly maintenance of the automated systems require knowledge comparable to Level 1-5, in line with the type of assistance the appellant provides to local managers and recruiters in support of RS activities.  The move to a virtual server operated by G-6 at HQ in Quantico Virginia, and the new printer contract with DLA, has reduced his IT role.  Also, G-6 now performs reimaging of laptops and computers.  The appellant states that due to the server migration, the storage limit was reduced to the capacity of the laptop hardware hard drive, so all data could be lost if a local machine should go down.  He states that this requires him to have an in-depth knowledge of recovery and backup techniques.  However, recent innovations such as granular recovery applications have simplified this function. 

While the appellant’s work requires knowledge of a wide range of computer techniques, requirements, sources, and procedures, it does not require an extensive knowledge to operate the current system, as almost all software, operating systems, application software packages, policies and procedures are disseminated by the G-6 staff at MCRC.  The work also does not require extensive knowledge and troubleshooting skills necessary to monitor, operate, and maintain the MCRC’s information systems equipment.  The equipment supported includes, desktop and laptop workstation PCs, modems, and smartphones.  The appellant must possess knowledge and skills related to telecommunications, LAN connections, ports and switches in order to maintain and troubleshoot systems interfacing and communicating with remotely located systems.  However, the position no longer is responsible for the system file server which is now operated virtually through a cloud maintained by the G-6 staff at MCRC.  His responsibility for printer maintenance or repair is limited, as that work has recently been contracted out to a vendor.  Like Level 1-6, the appellant uses knowledge to identify the source of operational failures in the system and to take actions to resolve problems and restore operations.  This knowledge of the equipment and system requirements is used to coordinate the installation of new systems or the upgrading of system components or infrastructure.  But, the record shows that the G-6 staff is responsible for developing any new or revised operating procedures.  In addition, he rarely uses this knowledge to develop and provide MCRC management officials with recommendations for the acquisition of new equipment within the parameters of MCRC guidelines and procedures which are promulgated by G-6.  Although some of the appellant’s tasks and knowledge required to perform those tasks exceed Level 1-5 as shown in the PCS, they do not fully meet the intent of Level 1-6.  Therefore we evaluate this factor at Level 1-5.

Level 1-5 is credited for 750 points.

Factor 2, Supervisory Controls

This factor covers the nature and extent of direct or indirect controls exercised by the supervisor, the employee’s responsibility, and the review of completed work. 

At Level 2-3, the highest level described in the PCS, the supervisor provides directions on objectives and priorities for new work, deadlines, and deadline changes for new and established work.  The employee identifies the work to be done, plans and carries out the steps required, and submits completed work to users (programmers, operators, functional users) without supervisory review.  The employee independently deviates from instructions to provide for situations such as lower and higher priorities and other changes based on past experience and flexibility within processing specifications.  The employee commonly adapts or develops new work procedures and instructions for application by self and others.  The employee will seek supervisory assistance and discuss problems related to the work such as when processing requests appear to exceed system capacity or could have an adverse effect on other processing requirements.  Completed work is reviewed for conformity to deadlines and accepted practices.  Work methods are not normally reviewed unless a recurring common pattern of problems develops.

Level 2-3 is met.  As at Level 2-3, the appellant independently plans and carries out assignments without supervisory review.  However, the supervisor monitors the work to ensure deadlines are met and customers are satisfied.  The appellant deviates in the work assignments in accordance with instructions, policies, previous training, or accepted practices in the occupation, but he must meet the parameters of the IT security policy.  Similar to this level, the appellant works independently within the framework established by policies and procedures issued by G-6 as disseminated through S-6.  He notifies his supervisor of any directives or instructions received from higher program echelons if they affect his priorities or work schedule.  Since Level 2-3 is met but not exceeded, we evaluate this Factor at Level 2-3.

Level 2-3 is credited for 275 points.

Factor 3, Guidelines

This factor covers the nature of guidelines used in doing the work and the judgment that is needed to apply them.

At Level 3-3, the highest level described in the PCS, the employee works with new requirements or new applications for which only general guidelines are available.  The employee uses judgment in adjusting the most appropriate guidelines to fit new processing requirements or develops new methods for accomplishing the work.  Guidelines may require modification to provide for adding new forms of input, allowing for flexible scheduling, adjusting to new or conflicting requirements, or to adapt to new hardware/software capacity.

Level 3-3 is met but not exceeded.  Like this level, the appellant has numerous guides available including agency standards and policies that detail MCRC’s standard IT architecture, operating manuals for operating systems and software applications, and internet technical support services.  In addition, technical specialists such as those responsible for agency-developed software are available to assist when problems encountered by the appellant involve unusually complex features or when guidelines have significant gaps.  Because the appellant’s guidelines do not always provide direct guidance in resolving a specific user or system problem, he must use seasoned judgment to interpret, select, and adjust program criteria to meet the specifics of the situation.  For example, when new software is released and an error is discovered, the appellant must implement solutions for which there may not yet be guidelines in addition to consulting with the district or command staffs.  Also, as technology is ever evolving, previously approved solutions to problems may no longer apply, therefore, the appellant is required to interpret past guidance to determine whether it remains applicable. 

Level 3-3 is credited for 275 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 4-3 of the PCS, the employee performs a variety of tasks involving discrete methods and procedures or a variety of related tasks requiring a sequence of actions involving differing methods and procedures.  Decisions on what is to be done results from study of each assignment or problem situation.  Actions to be taken differ according to the equipment or program system appropriate to satisfy the request.

Level 4-4 is distinguished from 4-3 by the variety and complexity of operating systems monitored, the nature and variety of problems encountered and resolved, and the nature of independent decisions made by the employee.  At this level, the employee typically monitors the operations of several major computer systems.  Programs run on these systems are a mix of independent and interdependent applications.  Specifically, employees at this level perform problem-solving duties involving a wide range of problem or error conditions in equipment, program data and processing methods and procedures.  This diagnosis and resolution of error and problem conditions involves equipment configurations having different operating characteristics, a wide variety of data and programs and many different processes and methods to arrive at solutions or develop new procedures.  Also at this level, the employee makes decisions and devises solutions based on program, equipment, and systems knowledge.  This involves interpreting considerable data to identify the problems, planning and implementing solutions, and refining or designing operating methods or techniques. 

Level 4-3 is met.  As at Level 4-3, the appellant performs a variety of tasks involving varying methods and procedures.  The appellant provides technical support to RS computer users, while minimizing downtime.  He resolves operating problems involving network hardware and software issues, limited hardware support, and installs software and parameters according to system specifications.  The MCRC computers are Windows-based and primarily use the Microsoft Office package and a variety of COTS, government off-the-shelf (GOTS), and agency-developed programs.  Actions to be taken differ according to the equipment, program, or system affected.  However, if confronted with incomplete or conflicting data, the appellant will notify and refer questions or problems to specialists at higher echelons within MCRC.  The appellant’s position fully meets Level 4-3 for this factor. 

Level 4-4 is not met.  Unlike at Level 4-4, where substantial analysis is used to resolve issues and recommend solutions to meet system network requirements supporting multiple organizational levels, the appellant focuses on monitoring the network system.  When unusually complex situations are encountered, the appellant has several sources of technical assistance at both the district and command levels.  The appellant’s duties do not rise to the level of resolving problems or making recommendations that would fundamentally change major system configurations.  Any modifications he makes to the system must be within its current design.  Furthermore, his duties do not involve the wide variety of data and programs or the independent decisions including development of new procedures or designing operating methods or techniques as typical of Level 4-4.  These responsibilities are typically retained by the G-6 IT staff responsible for the entire MCRC network. 

Level 4-3 is credited for 150 points.

Factor 5, Scope and Effect

This factor covers the relationship between the nature of the work and the effect of the work products or services both within and outside the organization. 

Level 5-3, the highest level described in the standard, is distinguished from Level 5-2 by the addition of requirements for solving problems and answering technical questions about control, scheduling, and/or direct support functions.  The problems encountered are conventional to data processing although solutions are not always covered by established or standardized procedures.  Results of the work affect the efficiency of processing services and adequacy of products used in subsequent activities and processing procedures and methods. 

Level 5-3 is met.  The appellant is responsible for supporting RS [location] networked computers and smartphones which interface with the RCEN network at MCRC.  However, higher echelons within the agency have responsibility for establishing service-wide systems, hardware and software requirements, and making decisions on the need for systems upgrades and/or software migrations.  As at Level 5-3, the appellant provides assistance to local users of the systems in the event of a system problem.  He also provides advice and assistance to users on operating problems and provides or arranges for informational training on various systems and applications.  The services provided by the appellant affect the local computer operations of the organization.  For example, last year he was responsible for the installation and testing of a new system within RS [location] which made connectivity wireless.  However, he only rarely makes recommendations to higher levels for additional equipment and software, ensuring compatibility with present systems, costs, and effectiveness in meeting the station’s needs.  The appellant’s work meets but does not exceed Level 5-3.

Level 5-3 is credited for 150 points.

Factor 6, Personal Contacts

This factor includes face-to-face contacts with people not in the supervisory chain.  Levels described under this factor are based on what is required to make the initial contact, the difficulty of communicating with those contacted, and the setting in which the contacts take place.

At Level 6-2, the highest level described in the PCS, contacts are with specialists and other recipients of services who are employees of the same agency, but outside the data processing organization; or, contact with employees of other agencies or non-governmental organizations who contract with the data processing organization; or, contacts with contractors’ representatives such as vendor repair technicians or customer engineers.  The contacts are structured and routine and the role of each participant is readily determined.

Level 6-2 is met but not exceeded.  The appellant’s primary contacts are comparable to those discussed at Level 6-2.  He supports a wide variety of customers including MCRC employees, military service members, and contractors.  The appellant may contact technical specialists such as those responsible for agency-developed software when he encounters problems involving unusually complex features or when guidelines have significant gaps.   

Level 6-2 is credited for 25 points.

Factor 7, Purpose of Personal Contacts

The purpose of personal contacts ranges from factual exchanges of information to situations involving significant or controversial issues and differing viewpoints, goals, or objectives.  The purpose of the contacts should relate directly to the level of contacts selected under Factor 6.

At Level 7-2, the highest level described in the PCS, the purpose of contacts is to plan or coordinate changes in scheduling requirements or priorities due to data or equipment related problems; to participate with users in planning and coordinating new or modified requirements when the work fits generally within system options, schedules, etc.; or to plan user participation, methodology, and deadlines for new projects.

Level 7-2 is met but not exceeded.  Similar to Level 7-2, the purpose of the appellant’s contacts is to exchange and provide factual information, coordinate work, explain options, clarify instructions, resolve hardware and software problems, and provide technical advice, guidance, and training to new and existing users on a range of hardware- and software-related issues.

Level 7-2 is credited for 50 points.

Factor 8, Physical Demands

This factor covers the requirements and physical demands placed on the employee by the work assignments.

Like Level 8-1, the appellant’s work is generally sedentary although there may be some walking or standing for short periods of time and carrying light loads that require only moderate physical ability and physical stress.  Contrary to what is described in the SPD, his work does not regularly require the physical exertion described at Level 8-2 for prolonged standing, stooping, or crouching or for carrying supplies and equipment that may weigh as much as 45 pounds.

Level 8-1 is credited for 5 points.

Factor 9, Work Environment

This factor considers the risks and discomforts in the employee’s physical surroundings or the nature of the work assigned and the safety regulations required.

Like Level 9-1, the appellant’s work environment is comparable to that found in a typical office setting.  He performs work in an office with adequate light, heat, and ventilation.  In contrast to Level 9-2, the appellant’s work environment does not involve the level of risk or require special safety precautions, special clothing, or protective equipment as expected at this level.

Level 9-1 is credited for 5 points.

Factor Level Points
1.  Knowledge required by the position  1-5 750
2.  Supervisory controls 2-3 275
3.  Guidelines 3-3 275
4.  Complexity 4-3 150
5.  Scope and Effect 5-3 150
6.  Personal Contacts 6-2  25
7.  Purpose of contacts 7-2  50
8.  Physical demands  8-1    5
9.  Work environment 9-1    5
Total points 1685

The total of 1685 points falls within the GS-8 range (1605-1850 points) on the grade conversion table provided in the GS-335 PCS.

Decision

The position is properly classified as Computer Assistant, GS-335-8.

 

 

 

 

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