Letter: Agencies pay price for outsourcing IT support

Regarding "Advice from a talent manager": This is exactly the problem in the government right now. Although everyone is saying that government is tooooo big, they are not realizing that the workforce in place is leaving and the knowledge of the workforce goes with them.


A lot of the tasks that the government used to support in information technology are now being handed over to contractors and because the majority of the contracts are being given to small firms or given a fixed price, there is no incentive to make it work, only to make sure it doesn't break. It also seems that the contract staff have no incentive [to improve their skill levels] because if you can meet minimal service level agreement metrics, that is what is counted -- not actually thinking on how to save time and money and make the government work better and maximize the IT investment and technology to support the missions.


Another problem I see in the government is that when someone leaves and takes the knowledge with them, many times things break. There is not really a good way to foster [succession planning], only for the current person to build their own "empire." Once the empire has been built, I have often seen it crumble after the person leaves and it seems more and more that this is becoming the norm. When one of these empires crumbles, someone else picks up some of the parts and misses many of the important things.


The government is now leaving operations of their critical infrastructure to contractors which are generally staffing with low-dollar labor and that meet many of the minimum requirements. Although this may sound like a good idea, whenever the contracts turn over, a lot of knowledge is lost because of the rapid staff turnover due to a contract being awarded to a new company that met several of the small business needs of an agency.


I think that this is a larger issue than just losing old federal staff. I think that we need to figure out how government should run and if we want to hand over the critical information technology functions within the government to contract staff that has only one thought in mind: money and their bottom line.


Anonymous


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Reader comments

Thu, Oct 30, 2008 Jay Logan

Yes, the Government is too big. It is also too slow to adapt to change such as changing technology, methods, and materials. I came from the private sector 8 years ago and was amazed (and still am) at how much Federal management is lacking in technical knowledge. Political savvy is what it takes to get ahead in the Government so if they want something done requiring technical skills and knowledge, they often have to contract it out if they want it done well. The technically knowledgeable ones usually do not go far up the ladder so either they leave to the private sector or struggle to get a small part of their technical knowledge wisdom properly used.

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