IT workforce hurting e-gov

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One of the biggest things standing in the way of e-government is the quality of agencies' information technology personnel, said Mitchell Daniels Jr., director of the Office of Management and Budget.

The IT professionals in government are doing a good job, but "they are probably not the best the nation has to offer," Daniels said. "I'm not sure we have cutting-edge leadership."

The government's human capital problems—one of five items on President Bush's management agenda—are becoming clearer within the administration as OMB goes through reports that agencies submitted this year, Daniels said. Personnel problems are affecting matters ranging from the movement to e-government to agencies' ability to make the best contracting decisions, he said.

For the most part, the workers are doing what is asked of them, and they are doing it to the best of their abilities, Daniels said. But the federal workforce environment—from the old civil service structure to the broken recruitment and retention process—is ensuring that existing employees are not getting the training they need, and experienced people from the private sector are staying away, he said.

Every agency will not be expected to make the same changes because in areas like the IT workforce, a lack of skills usually is the problem, not an excess of personnel. But a new picture of the federal workforce is emerging as OMB leans toward an even smaller government than the one that exists today.

"What data we have suggests that the ultimate net effect will probably be reduction," Daniels said at a luncheon in Washington, D.C., July 25 sponsored by the PricewaterhouseCoopers Endowment for the Business of Government.

OMB officials asked agencies in their reports on human capital to account for what they believe they have, what they need and how to fill the gap. The reports range in quality and quantity, with one coming in at 300 pages and another at only three.

So far, especially when discussing the middle-manager level, the reports are "highly suggestive of excess," Daniels said.

OMB is going to try to make reductions "in a smart way" and not ask agencies to simply make across-the-board cuts regardless of context, he said. Of primary concern is providing training and incentives to keep skilled employees in place and to bring in new personnel from the private sector, he said.

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