Letter to the Editor

If there is such a shortage of IT personnel in the U.S. government, why am I and several others that I work with having such a hard time getting one of these positions that are going begging? ["IT job front remains critical," Federal Computer Week, April 9, 2001.]

What we do here is Web database application development using Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp. products. Our databases are Microsoft SQL Server 6.5/7.0 and Oracle8i. Our products are highly visible throughout the Army and Air Force. Our staff is highly competent and trained in the latest cutting-edge Internet technologies.

Yet we send out resumes and are constantly rejected or overlooked.

Maybe this is our problem: Most of us are in our 40s to late 50s. But the federal government does not discriminate against age, sex, race or religion.

I can tell you that in 1985, when I was 42 years old and in very good shape, my wife was told by a GS-14 from Fort Belvoir, Va., that I was on an Army Civilian Career Evaluation System list but would not be chosen. The reason given was that they had some temporary duty with some equipment hauling involved.

At the time I had just spent a month at Fort Stewart, Ga., deploying the Army's Unit Level Logistics System to many units. An Army enlisted man and I had to carry 230-pound hardened computer cases from parked vehicles to buildings several hundred yards away. There was only one soldier who was strong enough to lift one end with me on the other end. I later deployed computers and software to Fort Clayton, Panama, for the Standard Army Retail Level Supply System.

This shows that not everyone in their 40s is physically and mentally useless, as the U.S. government assumes.

I have had a few positive interviews in which I felt the playing field was level. Those places are the exception to what a lot of us have encountered.

Also, the place where I work now, the U.S. Army 5th Signal Command in Europe, has shown me that hiring practices can be done fairly. They have a big job to do and hire people who have the right skills and are willing to work hard. Working here makes you feel like part of an extended family.

But a lot of agencies are so impersonal in letting you know that someone else was selected. All of us who take the time to apply for a position have to put in quite an effort just to meet the paperwork requirements just to be included in the selection process.

The U.S government is in a real competition for IT personnel. The people they have working for them now have already proven themselves in the workplace and also in their allegiance to the United States.

An effort should be made to retain them. The U.S. military has seen a lot of very good people get out. They are now redoubling their efforts at retention. This is a good example of what needs to be done.

After 27 years of designing, writing, testing and installing software for the U.S. government with many awards, letters of commendation and outstanding performance appraisals, it's very distressing to be facing two more years of work before retirement. It's especially disheartening when you are serving your country in a foreign land and being told you have to go back after five years, and you are not able to land one the several thousand jobs that are "available."

To compound that, I read articles that tell about what a tremendous shortage there is in the field you work in — a field where you have excelled in and have vast amounts of experience in. But then again, I am 58 years OLD. When I do retire and the powers that be need people like myself, I may be still be available but no longer interested.

Someone should look into the fact that the U.S. government discriminates BIG TIME.

Dennis Williamson
Army 5th Signal Command

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