CIOs' work force worries

Four top chief information officials say their biggest headache is the dwindling high-tech work force and figuring out what it will take to keep talented personnel in government.

"We face some daunting statistics in what's going to happen to our work force," Internal Revenue Service CIO Paul Cosgrave said at a Washington, D.C., luncheon April 6 sponsored by the Professional Services Council.

Compounding the problem of a constant brain drain to the better-paying private sector, the IRS expects 25 percent of its work force to retire in the next two years. The average age of an information technology worker in government is 47, Cosgrave said.

"It is an aging work force. If we don't do something soon, we'll be out of business," Cosgrave said.

Joseph Leo, CIO at the Agriculture Department, concurred; he has a work force that is "aging and declining rapidly."

Transportation CIO George Molaski said he hoped ideas such as the Federal Cyber Services proposal in the president's National Plan for Information Systems Protection would help infuse government with new workers ["Wanted: Digital defenders," FCW, Jan. 24].

Molaski also said that retention bonuses for IT workers may prevent flight to the private sector, at least for a short time.

The government is likely to outsource more high-tech work because of the lack of government IT workers, the CIOs said. However, NASA deputy CIO David Nelson said the space agency is reluctant to outsource much of its work because of its mostly sensitive and classified nature. "We're reluctant to give to you the mission control," Nelson told the vendors.

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