Letters to the editor

Train Civilians, Too

I just finished reading "Sailors return from IT duty" [FCW, July 28]. I am impressed that the Navy has this training program in place. I would love to see a similar program in place for the federal civilian information technology workforce as well.

I've been with the government for 10 years and in IT for four years now, but have not yet taken the exams. I've learned most of what I know from a couple of mentors, on-the-job training, reading, trial and error, and co-workers.

This type of program for federal civilians would greatly benefit the government. Let's hope not only Defense officials but also civilian officials will see the light.

Charles Olin Western Arctic National Parklands National Park Service

Federal Workers Worry

Upon reading "White House: No competition goals" [FCW, July 28], I was surprised by the statements attributed to U.S. Comptroller General David Walker and Angela Styles, administrator of the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Federal Procurement Policy. I think Sen. Daniel Akaka (D-Hawaii) and federal employee unions have valid concerns about fears and unease among federal workers.

Walker reportedly said that an agency that wins a competition would have to recompete the work if the organization was not meeting performance standards.

But as I understand OMB Circular A-76, officials may grant exemptions in the form of extensions to high- performing organizations only up to three years. At the end of that period, organizations are required to recompete.

The table on the same page belies Styles' claim that more than half of all positions are closed to competition. If the table is correct, only the Department of Health and Human Services has more than half of its commercial positions closed to competition, while at least three departments have 33 percent or less designated as closed.

Marianus Ekka Defense Commissary Agency

Project Managers Should Wait

I recently passed the Project Management Professional exam. I have a master's in the management of information systems and the certification now. The certification process requires applicants to document and quantify years' worth of experience in the arena of project management.

Yet because I was hired under the Outstanding Scholar Program, I cannot leverage the certification, my degree or validated experience to get promoted or even moved into a project office.

Because I am not able to work in the field of program management — I thought I was proving myself to be proficient when I took the exam — I have decided to move on, and I am actively seeking a job outside government. So my advice to all certified program managers thinking about government service is to wait until changes are made in the personnel hiring and promotion process before even considering it.

Name withheld by request

Certify Now

The government wants to move toward having government project managers with contractors as the "worker bees." Sounds good in concept. In practice, most government managers don't have basic project management skills or the technical competence to guide their teams. There are a few exceptions, and I'm happy to work with several of them.

So: Certification, yes! And the next step or grade increase should depend upon successfully completing certification.

Name withheld by request

Beyond the Diploma

Program managers need training beyond the degrees they get. They need to understand that government programs can often be complex, widely based and unclear on goals and thus hard to judge for simple success. And there are hundreds of federal personnel laws that prevent quick movement.

Workshops on problem-solving and administrative think tanks are needed to help prepare the next manager.

On-the-job training is usually the venue, but it would be comforting to know that the government wants to help its program managers.

Robert Thorson Forest Service Agriculture Department


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FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.


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    How DOD embraced bug bounties -- and how your agency can, too

    Hack the Pentagon proved to Defense Department officials that outside hackers can be assets, not adversaries.

  • Shutterstock image: cyber defense.

    Why PPD-41 is evolutionary, not revolutionary

    Government cybersecurity officials say the presidential policy directive codifies cyber incident response protocols but doesn't radically change what's been in practice in recent years.

  • Anne Rung -- Commerce Department Photo

    Exit interview with Anne Rung

    The government's departing top acquisition official said she leaves behind a solid foundation on which to build more effective and efficient federal IT.

  • Charles Phalen

    Administration appoints first head of NBIB

    The National Background Investigations Bureau announced the appointment of its first director as the agency prepares to take over processing government background checks.

  • Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.)

    Senator: Rigid hiring process pushes millennials from federal work

    Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said agencies are missing out on younger workers because of the government's rigidity, particularly its protracted hiring process.

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

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