CIOs address brain drain

Members of the Education and Training Committee of the CIO Council have begun work on recommendations to address the information technology "brain drain" facing the federal government in the coming years.

Committee member Emory Miller, director of professional development at the General Services Administration, said the committee's work represents the government's first effort to examine how the shortage of IT workers will affect federal agencies.

"The whole issue of brain drain has been one that we in the IT community have talked about for a long time," Miller said. "But we in the federal government haven't done much to focus on the issue.

"We on the Education and Training Committee thought we needed to bring attention to this," he added. "We want to make this a process in which the end result is real reform."

The initiative, the IT Federal Workforce Challenge, will bring together the IT, education and human resources communities to develop meaningful federal work force reforms, Miller said. He said five interagency teams will focus on issues surrounding national work force strategies, federal work force planning, recruitment, retention and development.

These focus teams will present their findings during the Virtual Government Conference sponsored by the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association in February. Miller said the committee will solicit feedback from conference attendees, and team leaders will then meet to develop and propose specific action items for CIO Council's consideration.

According to a CIO Council document, the national work force strategies team will gather research gleaned from similar initiatives already under way within individual agencies. The federal work force planning team will examine how factors such as the civil service retirement system and federal downsizing affect agencies. The recruitment team will focus on how to find and attract employees. The retention team will look at how to reward employees and create a "technology-friendly workplace." And the development team will examine how the government can cultivate the next generation of federal IT executives.

In a letter sent to team leaders in late June, Jim Flyzik, CIO at the Treasury Department and CIO Council vice chairman, said work force issues are among the council's major priorities. "I encourage you to look for new ideas— ideas which may or may not be inhibited by current policies, rules and regulations," Flyzik said.

After the committee completes its work, the CIO Council may use the recommendation as a basis to seek changes in regulations or laws or to request additional studies, Miller said.

"We do feel comfortable that as a result of this effort, we will make some very good suggestions as to how the government can reform to address these issues," Miller said. "We are not just paying lip service."

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