Letters to the editor

Invest in IT Workforce

This letter references the editorial in the Aug. 13 issue of FCW ["A boost for techies"]. As a federal information technology worker, I felt compelled to write my opinion.

Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. stated that "federal IT workers probably are not the best the nation has to offer." His comment is as accurate as my statement that federal managers are not the best the nation has to offer. It is all relative: Both of these statements are opinion and probably have some truth in them. (I can back mine up with employee survey results.)

At the heart of the matter are intelligent, dedicated, hardworking individuals. And in spite of the fact that we are underpaid, undervalued and are very low on the training and professional development priority list, we choose to stay in federal service and mind the technology store.

If the government invested a little more resources in the IT workforce, it would see a positive return on its investment. Part of that return would be the ability to hire new blood as people retire. It is hard to stay on top of the ever-changing field of technology when you do not receive any (or very little) advanced training or other professional opportunities.

The "relief bill" introduced by Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) in which government and private-sector employees swap positions, is actually another smoke-and-mirrors "fix." The government can tout that it is doing something, while the core problem is not being addressed. The government will spend quite a sum putting together this Digital TechCorps program and hiring people to administer it, while that very same money could be used in any number of ways to better our own workforce with training, salary increases, cash or time-off awards.

Davis' program also seems to have individuals asking where ethics fit into all of this. Will employees be using public office for private gain? What effect will this sort of arrangement have on contracts or pending contracts between the government and that company? The company "swapping" employeeswould have an unfair advantage in some cases.

Furthermore, the government employees who are swapped to the private sector will leave government service, and the private-sector employees swapped into government jobs will not leave their jobs for government jobs. Members of the Digital TechCorps will become entrepreneurs — contractors knocking on government's door, asking for and receiving big money.

Carol Pellicott Computer specialist Allentown, Pa.

Shoring up Skills

This is in regard to the Office of Management and Budget director'scomment in "Daniels: Fed IT workers "not the best' " [FCW, July 30]. Someof us have opted to spend our off-duty time and money to keep our professional skill sets current. I have spent thousands of dollars and more than several thousand hours on my time and my dime honing my professional skills as acomputer specialist during the past three years. And I am not alone in doing this.

Some of us at my command teach Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc. courses at the local junior college. During the fall 2001 semester, for example, I will teach Cisco advanced routing for the Cisco Certified Network Professional certification and Windows 2000 Advanced Server for the Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer certification.

Oxnard College sent me to a two-week training course in advanced routing last year and paid for everything. I had to take 80 hours of annual leave to attend this training course, because my supervisor was unwilling to authorize any temporary additional duty no-cost orders. Stated reason: "Not directly job-related." Indeed, my team leader and I have received zero technical training during the past five to six years.

Mitchell Daniels Jr.'s observation is a classic case of blaming the victim. Federal computer employees in my experience have abundant pride and professionalism. They are greatly handicapped by incompetent leadership, inadequate training and grossly deficient funding.

Management expert Duncan Deming observed that about 95 percent of the personnel-related problems an organization faces stem from good people entrapped in a bad system. I respectfully suggest that Mr. Daniels address the root cause of the problem — lack of funding for technical training — rather than blame those who are at the mercy of a broken system.

To quote Winston Churchill, "Give us the tools, and we will do the job."

But, you must give us the tools.

Rodger Morris Computer Specialist Port Hueneme Division Naval Surface Warfare Center Naval Sea Systems Command

WRITE US

"Daniels: Fed IT workers not the best" [Federal Computer Week, July 30, 2001]

"A boost for techies" [Federal Computer Week, Aug. 13, 2001]

"Bill aims to form TechCorps" [FCW.com, Aug. 1, 2001]

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