The Department of Defense signed a memorandum of understanding with the Office of Personnel Management May 3 to cut down on redundant and outdated training programs offered to both service members and civilian employees.

The Pentagon will now join 22 other cabinet-level agencies on the USALearning platform, which offers contract vehicles for agencies to acquire online training courses that can be shared and streamlined across the government.

“Moving to USALearning platform will reduce the redundancy in common learning courses and allow us to move to a DoD-wide common course catalog,” said Lisa Hershman, acting chief management officer for the DoD at the MOU signing event.

“This reform will provide improved quality, more rapid acquisition and modernization outcomes, and more cost-optimized training and education products and services.”

The DoD currently offers more than 50,000 known learning courses, which are disparately managed in different ways under 161 distinct learning management systems.

For example, the Pentagon currently offers 500 different instances of Microsoft Excel training.

The change to USALearning is expected to save the department $22 million in 2020.

However, according to OPM acting-Director Margaret Weichert, the change is about more than saving money.

Federal employees and military servicemembers who transition to work at another federal agency or even another department within the DoD will no longer have to retake mandatory training courses that they already completed at their last job, and other, voluntary training can still be counted toward developing skills for a promotion or new job, rather than being lost in the transition.

“One of the challenges in DoD, and actually across government, is we all call courses different things, and a lot of those courses aren’t specifically designed at a competency level,” said William Peratino, deputy director for new and emerging HR technologies at OPM.

“One of the first things that we’re doing is distilling things down to competencies, because competencies are universal across the enterprise. So when people are doing a job search, or they want to progress in their current job, or they are looking to transition somewhere else, they can then assess their competency where they are, get information on what they need to do to achieve the next level of proficiency through those competencies, and then be competitive for their next job opportunity.”

According to Weichert, because the federal government is such a large employer of veterans transitioning out of service, the expansion of USALearning also helps those men and women to prepare for what job in the federal government they may want to take, and how the skills they have already trained in apply to that job.

Beyond better serving employees, the expansion of USALearning over to DoD also promises to give the government better data about how adults learn, and what kinds of training work best for different people.

“Having a population as large as DoD, having consistency and then having data behind the scenes will enable us to do so much in terms of learning how people learn and measuring outcomes,” said Weichert.

The agreement also enables the USALearning program to take advantage of training initiatives at the DoD.

“On the DoD side, they’ve got an initiative called the Advanced Distributed Learning Initiative, and what they do, essentially, is they explore a new and emerging line of technologies,” said Peratino.

“What didn’t previously exist before our relationship was a good way to take those technologies.”

The White House recently placed an emphasis on cybersecurity reskilling and training in the government with a May 2 executive order, and Weichert noted that there are “clear intersections” between what USALearing is trying to accomplish and the goals of reskilling programs.

“Overall we would like to have, if not a single platform, at least highly interoperable, interconnected platforms,” said Weichert.

Jessie Bur covers federal IT and management.

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