Letters to the Editor

Feds not miffed

While we welcome your interest in the reimbursable records center program of the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), corrections are needed of a major...error and a misleading implication in your recent article about it ["NARA fees miff feds," FCW, Oct. 18].

It is demonstrably inaccurate [for John Vasca] to say that displeasure with NARA's records center fees and services are causing a "mad rush" by federal agencies "to place their records with commercial facilities." Only four federal agencies have notified us of intent to move records from our facilities to others, accounting for less than 1 percent of the 21 million cubic feet of records in our centers. Fifty-eight federal agencies have signed agreements to use our record center services for fiscal 2000. Many others have told us they will sign such agreements when their fiscal 2000 appropriations are approved. And our records center holdings overall continue to grow.

Also, the unelaborated statement that "the program will bring [NARA] $92 million a year in storage and retrieval fees" implies that such income could be used for any NARA purpose. All income from the reimbursable records center program goes into a revolving fund from which all of the program's expenses are paid. Payments by the agencies to NARA for records center services will be used entirely to finance those services.

Gerald George

Director of the communications staff

National Archives and Records Administration

***

Don't surrender on IT pay

I must admit that "Civilian IT pay thwarts Army" [FCW, Oct. 18] is an interesting article.

Being a network manager for the Army National Guard, I get job offers on a daily basis for much more money than I make with the military. I hate to admit it, but although "love of country" is high on the list of reasons why we IT workers stay, for most it's not the highest. The thrill for us in the IT world is the chance to work with new and exciting technology, solving problems in training and getting everyone connected so that they can share ideas and knowledge.

I don't mind that I get called on Saturday night at 11 p.m. to fix something that might take four to six hours to fix so that a weekend class my organization is teaching can still go on. These are challenges that we like. We also don't mind that we work a normal work week or more and then go home and spend another 20 to 30 hours a week studying to maintain our knowledge base and certifications.

With the industry changing as rapidly as it is, we have to maintain this pace or get left behind. This is what the leaders don't see. What drives many in our world is the chance to work for a company that has the latest "new, new thing" to offer and a great environment to work in. Maj. Charles Wells has some interesting comments, but he also misses the boat completely. "How can we not afford to compete with outside organizations?" should be his question.

If we don't commit to this, then we go back to relying on contractors to doing all of our work for us, not our soldiers. He doesn't have to worry that outsiders are being paid more than he is, because he's being paid as a major with Washington, D.C., VHA rates. Try telling an E-5 or below that, even though he could make $60,000 to $80,000 in the real world because of his skill sets, he needs to stay for the mission. I have a hard time believing this, especially if they have a wife or husband and kids to take care of.

I work for the Army National Guard full time and have to deal with the hiring nightmare daily. I can't find 74B Traditional Guard soldiers that are willing to leave their $10- to $25-dollar-an-hour job in the civilian market to come on board AGR for E-4/5 pay. They start laughing when I tell them what it pays. I also see many of our soldiers going through a revolving door. As soon as I get them trained, they leave usually because I can't offer them raises or incentives to stay like the civilian sector can. I can't and don't blame them when most have family obligations.

With the military relying so heavily on the IT arena to provide technical assistance on their projects, I just don't see how we can keep up the momentum if we don't adequately reward our IT soldiers. The systems that we work on are becoming more and more complex to the point that we have to have advanced schools to even operate most of them. We have to maintain training proficiency as well as certifications like many of our military counterparts that receive benefits for these certifications. I think that with additional compensation for these MOSs and certifications as well as recognition for our contributions, we can keep the military's IT ship from sinking. If we don't pay now, we will pay later.

1st Lt. Chris C. Rush

Army National Guard

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