Staffing woes spur Peace Corps move

The Peace Corps' decision to go to seat management was the result of several obstacles it knew it would be facing.

The first was caused by the agency's five-year rule, under which people are employed for an initial 30-month contract, which can be renewed for only one more similar term. As a result, the agency finds it difficult to recruit information technology professionals who may be looking for longer-term employment. A staffing analysis showed that the Peace Corps would lose as many as 14 of its already small IT networking and help-desk staff members within a two-month period, with little chance of being able to recruit enough qualified replacements given the higher-paid competition from industry for the same skills.

The agency also commissioned Harris Corp. to conduct a total-cost-of-ownership study of Peace Corps IT, which produced what John Hope, the agency's chief resource officer, called "eye-opening results." The qualitative analysis showed that the agency was not executing IT well, and the quantitative part of the study indicated a complete mismatch of the costs of IT compared with the value it was producing.

On top of that, the decision was made to move from an Apple Computer Inc. Macintosh system to a Microsoft Corp. Windows NT environment because new employees were being hired with far more PC-based skills than with Mac expertise.

"We got lease quotes for new machines, but without taking support into account," Hope said. "At the same time, we had been attending briefings on seat management and visited other agencies to look at their seat programs. Then Lockheed came in and gave a briefing on a seat-like vehicle along with ballpark numbers that were very attractive."

It wasn't an immediate sale — months of examination and analysis followed. Eventually, however, the decision to go to seat management seemed inevitable. So far, it's proved to be the right one.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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