IT workforce counting on contractors

If predictions by industry and government are correct, more federal information

technology jobs will be outsourced to the private sector in coming years — the only question is whether the numbers will be modest or mammoth.

Look for "steady, moderate growth" in government agencies' use of contract

IT worker in the next five years, according to Input, a Virginia-based market

research company.

By 2005, Input projects that the federal government will be spending $40.3

billion each year on information technology services and systems — $10 billion

more than is being spent this year. And much of that new money is likely

to be used to hire contractors, said Kevin Plexico, Input's vice president.

Some of the increase will probably be used to bolster agency IT staffs,

but more of it will be spent to hire contractors, Plexico predicted. But

he said he does not envision federal worker layoffs. "There is not wholesale

support for getting rid of [federal] employees and starting over" with contract

workers, he said.

But the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts a shrinking federal IT workforce.

The bureau's projections, which cover 1998 to 2008, are for a loss of 164,000

federal IT jobs, shrinking from 1.8 million workers to 1.6 million.

At the same time, the bureau projects a 117 percent increase in private-sector

IT employment.

Growing competition with private employers for IT workers is one of the

toughest problems federal IT managers face. In a survey earlier this year,

federal chief information officers agreed that IT outsourcing would increase.

The CIOs conceded in the survey that the federal government "is not likely

to have the skilled technical workforce required to implement and support

electronic government. This will increase the reliance on industry partners."

That's already evident at the Treasury Department, said Fred Thompson, program

manager for IT workforce improvement. Two Treasury subsidiaries — the Internal

Revenue Service and the Customs Service — "are planning major IT initiatives

and are looking for significant contractor support," Thompson said.

"I don't see dramatic cutbacks or layoffs" among federal IT workers, but

to fill new jobs, Treasury is counting on contractors, he said.


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