Questions and Answers: The FSIS and Public Health Service Memorandum of Agreement to expand the number of Commissioned Corps Officers within FSIS
- What is the Memorandum of Agreement signed by FSIS and the Public Health Service?
- How will FSIS and PHS benefit from this agreement?
- How does the MOA help FSIS achieve its vision of becoming a world-class public health agency?
- Have Commissioned Corps Officers been detailed to FSIS before this MOA?
- What makes this MOA unique?
- How many Commissioned Corps Officers will be employed by FSIS?
- How will Public Health Service Officers be integrated into FSIS?
- Do Public Health Officers outrank their career FSIS employee counterparts since they (Commissioned Corps) wear uniforms?
- What are the qualifications needed to become a Commissioned Corps Officer?
- What types of positions will Commissioned Corps Officers fill within FSIS?
- What other Federal agencies utilize Commissioned Corps Officers?
What is the Memorandum of Agreement signed by FSIS and the Public Health Service?
In March 2003, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' Public Health Service (PHS) entered into a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA), which significantly expands the number of PHS Commissioned Corps Officers detailed to FSIS.
First, the MOA brings additional resources to fill critical job positions throughout FSIS - ones in which the Agency typically has difficulty in recruiting, such as nurses, medical officers to name a few. The diverse background and skills that the Commissioned Corps Officers bring to FSIS will nicely complement the skills of its current workforce.
Second, this agreement allows the Commissioned Corps Officers an opportunity for new tours of duty in another dynamic Federal agency, bringing with that career enhancements, and an attractive pay and benefit package.
Third, the MOA improves FSIS' coordination with sister agencies. The Commissioned Corps wants its officers to rotate among different Federal agencies. It enhances their potential for promotion and gives them an expansive Federal experience. The emphasis on coordination with sister agencies is a major goal of FSIS in its ongoing mission to improve food safety and public health.
Fourth, this agreement complements FSIS' current personnel system. It allows recruiters to offer potential new employees a choice of either General Schedule or Commissioned Corps.
Fifth, flexible deployment rules allow the Officers to respond instantly to emergencies and shifting priorities within the Agency. The Officers are on call 24 hours, seven days per week, which gives them the ability and flexibility to respond to public health issues immediately. This will further support FSIS' commitment to public health.
How does the MOA help FSIS achieve its vision of becoming a world-class public health agency?
The addition of PHS Officers will provide a level of expertise and professionalism in specialized areas that are key to protecting public health. More specifically, the addition of these officers will help FSIS achieve its public health vision by enhancing its efforts in:
- Homeland Security - For homeland security, Commissioned Corps Officers are on call 24 hours, seven days a week, which enhances FSIS' capabilities for rapid response during heightened security alerts or an actual threat to the food supply.
- Workforce Development - The Commissioned Corps Officers, with their level of expertise and professionalism, will help raise the standard of excellence for FSIS' workforce. Commissioned Corps Officers will share their scientific and technical knowledge with FSIS employees, which is vital as the Agency develops its workforce to have the skills needed to succeed in a science-based inspection program and operate within a public health-oriented environment.
- Meeting Critical Priorities and Needs - The Commissioned Corps Officers' flexible deployment rules allow FSIS to respond immediately to shifting priorities, such as outbreaks of foodborne illnesses.
Have Commissioned Corps Officers been detailed to FSIS before this MOA?
Yes. In January 1998, FSIS' Office of Public Health and Science entered into a agreement with the Public Health Service to have Commissioned Corps Officers detailed only to that particular office with FSIS. The number of Commissioned Corps Officers at any given time serving in FSIS since 1998 has been between five and 26.
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What makes this MOA unique?
This MOA significantly expands the number of Commissioned Corps Officers detailed to FSIS and these officers can serve in other program areas such as the Office of Field Operations, Office of Management, and Office of Data Integration and Food Protection. The other unique factor is that FSIS is the first agency within USDA to sign an agency-wide MOA with the Public Health Service.
How will Public Health Service Officers be integrated into FSIS?
FSIS will have mentors assigned to each new Public Health Officer detailed to the Agency. These mentors, who are career FSIS employees, will be in the same program area and will work closely with the new Commissioned Corps officers. Their purpose is to provide a complete orientation to the roles and responsibilities required of their position in the Agency, and they will be there to assist with any questions or concerns during their transition.
Do Public Health Officers outrank their career FSIS employee counterparts since they (Commissioned Corps) wear uniforms?
One should not automatically assume that since the Commissioned Corps Officers wear a uniform, they automatically outrank their FSIS counterparts. They will be held accountable to their colleagues and report to their FSIS supervisors who very well may not be in the Commissioned Corps — just like every other FSIS employee. The Commissioned Corps Officer ranks are comparable to the following GS grades:
- Lieutenant (0-3) = GS 9/11
- Lieutenant Commander (0-4) = GS 12
- Commander (0-5) = GS 13
- Captain (0-6) = GS 14/15
- Rear Admiral (0-7) = SES
- U.S. citizen;
- Under 44 years of age;
- Physically qualified;
- Must pass an initial suitability/background investigation;
- Must have an active current license; and An appropriate bachelor's degree or higher level (master's or doctorate) degree from an accredited university.
The particular degree required will be different depending on the occupation. For example, if FSIS wants to fill a Veterinary Medical Officer position with a Commissioned Corps Officer, that officer would have to hold a doctorate degree in Veterinary Medicine from a school accredited by the Council on Education of the American Veterinary Medical Association.
What types of positions will Commissioned Corps Officers fill within FSIS?
The Commissioned Corps has a variety of occupations that will help promote FSIS' public health mission. These Officers will serve in a various capacities across FSIS in specific areas where there is a greater demand for scientific knowledge and judgment. PHS Officers will work as permanent staff members alongside their FSIS counterparts as veterinarians, scientists, dietitians, environmental health officers, physicians, and nurses.
What other Federal agencies utilize Commissioned Corps Officers?
The Public Health Service Commissioned Corps Officers are frequently assigned to a broad range of career opportunities in the following agencies:
- Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality
- Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services
- Environmental Protection Agency
- Federal Bureau of Prisons
- Food and Drug Administration
- Health Resources and Services Administration
- Immigration and Naturalization Service
- Indian Health Service
- National Institutes of Health
- National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
- National Park Service
- Program Support Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
- U.S. Coast Guard
- U.S. Department of the Interior
- Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
- U.S. Department of Homeland Security
- St. Elizabeths Hospital, DC Department of Mental Health
- U.S. Department of Defense