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November 13, 2007
In Reply Refer To:
1400-300, 9210 (700) P
Instruction Memorandum No. 2008-029
Expires: 09/30/2009
To:                   ADs, SDs, and CDs
                        Attn: Human Resource Officers
From:               Assistant Director, Human Capital Management
Subject:            Change in Crediting Coursework for Meeting the Positive Educational Requirements for GS-401 Fire Management Positions DD: 11/23/2007
Program Area: Fire Management Specialist Positions
Purpose: This Instruction Memorandum (IM) transmits interim guidance and requirements regarding current employees in or being considered for placement into GS-401 Fire Management Specialist positions. Additional guidance and instructions will be forthcoming from the Department of the Interior (DOI) by December 2007.
Policy/Action: State Human Resource Offices (HRO) are required to review all employees currently in GS-401 Fire Management positions to ensure proper qualification determinations have been made regardless of their date of entry into the position. 
Following are the steps that need to be completed by each HRO for the complete review:
  1. Populate the attached spreadsheet with all employees in GS-401 Fire Management positions.
  2. Review each employee’s basic qualifications and annotate the spreadsheet if the employee meets the qualifications.
  3. If necessary, contact the employee for transcript and/or certificate documentation and ensure these are placed on the right side of the Official Personnel File (OPF). (OPFs need to contain a copy of official transcripts and/or appropriate certificate documentation for future accountability reviews.)
The qualification standards to be used for determining basic qualifications for these employees are as follows:
  1. Qualification Standards for General Schedule Positions, Group Coverage Qualifications Standards for Professional and Scientific Positions, Individual Occupational Requirements for General Natural Resources Management and Biological Sciences Series, GS-401.
  2. Supplemental Qualification Standard for the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Forest Service and DOI for GS-0401 Fire Management Specialist. 
  3. Supplemental Qualification Standards, GS-0401 Fire Management Specialist, Attachment 1 – list of acceptable related disciplines. Note: Attachments 2 and 3 are no longer valid and are not to be used in determining employee’s basic qualifications entering into GS-401 Fire Management Specialist positions on or after February 15, 2005.
  4. Technical Fire Management (TFM) Courses as documented on a transcript or a ‘Certificate of Completion’ from the accredited institution. (The Department has determined this to be an acceptable form of “equivalent documentation”). Specifically, the ‘Certificate of Completion’ document that many employees received as part of completing the TFM coursework through Colorado State University is worth 18semester hours of credit and is considered upper level course work.
This information will be gathered and the results emailed to Cindy Pogue at the National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) by November 23, 2007. FA-202 will consolidate the responses and forward them to WO-700. 
Background: The Department of the Interior met with the Bureau of Indian Affairs, BLM, National Park Service, and Fish and Wildlife Service, along with the USDA Forest Service and a representative from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) to discuss the impact of the change to the educational standards effective February 15, 2005 and to develop a strategy for helping affected employees.
OPM changed the Operating Manual for Qualifications Standards for General Schedule Positions, effective February 15, 2005, to address the “Acceptability of Higher Education for Meeting Minimum Qualification Requirements.” The OPM changes address Congressional concerns about the issue of diploma mills to meet positive education requirements. These changes have impacted positions covered by the Supplemental Standard for Fire Management Specialist positions in the GS-401 Fire Management series.
With this change from OPM and the pending guidance from the Department, you can only credit educational coursework that is listed on an official transcript or other acceptable documentation from an accredited institution. 
The BLM is required to verify to the OPM that we have reviewed all employees currently encumbering GS-401 Fire Management Specialist positions and have correctly identified the cases where improper basic qualification determinations have occurred. In addition we will be required to report periodically back to the OPM that we are working with employees who have been impacted by this change. 
Timeframe: HROs need to submit their information to Fire and Aviation, at NIFC by November 23, 2007.
Budget Impact: The budgetary impact is unknown until after the States have had the opportunity to review how the changes may impact employees.
Manual/Handbook Sections Affected: None.
Coordination: This document was coordinated with WO-400, WO-700, NIFC, and the State HROs. 
Contact: If you have any questions concerning this IM, please contact Janine Velasco, WO-700 at (202) 501-6723, Sandy Berain, NIFC at (208) 387-5514, or Cindy Pogue, NIFC, at (208) 387-5951.
Signed by:                                                                   
Authenticated by:
Janine Velasco                                                             
Robert M. Williams
Assistant Director                                                        
Division of IRM Governance,WO-560
Human Capital Management
1 Attachment

Last updated: 10-21-2009