Mandate for IT training

President Clinton's plan to help protect the national computer network from

attack focuses rightly on the key means of defense: the creation of the

Federal Cyber Services, a corps of highly skilled and mostly youthful workers

trained in the technology, management and policies of information assurance.

Without the right people — and many of them — no amount of intrusion

detection gear is going to maintain the information privacy of the Republic.

Of course, the federal government is a high-tech labor sieve. Ironically,

in the weeks leading up to the announcement, no less than a half-dozen senior

federal information technology managers announced they were leaving public

service, some for dot-com Valhallas.

To address this problem, the plan calls for spending $25 million on

a slew of programs, including high school IT conferences, curriculums and

even summer camps for teenagers, to begin the job of selling the benefits

of a federal career in the information security arena.

Such measures, particularly those directed toward young people, will

be vital to the plan's success. The commercial sector will nearly always

win the competition for jobs, especially in the computer industry.

Perhaps the time has come for government to spend less time worrying

about staunching the exit of IT workers and more time training young people

to replace them.

Training a new generation of workers for the Federal Cyber Services

is a step in the right direction. For those workers, passing muster at such

programs could become a gateway to expertise and economic opportunity in

the private sector. If so, federal agencies would rarely lack new IT workers.

In the end, government could act as a permanent training academy for

government IT workers. That would certainly be a worthwhile investment.

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