Rethinking compensation

NAPA report PDF

Taking a cue from the private sector, lawmakers are considering a new strategy that would compensate federal information technology and acquisition employees based on what they are worth and what they deserve.

To promote better recruitment, training and retention in the federal IT and acquisition workforce, Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) will introduce legislation this month to establish a pay-for-performance system for those employees.

"People don't just want a job now," Davis said. "They're looking for a career path. [They want] not only a paycheck, but also to develop themselves."

The bill, currently in draft form, is called the Market-Based Acquisition and Information Technology Workforce Pay-for-Performance Act of 2001. Davis announced it at an Oct. 4 hearing of the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, of which he is chairman. "The legislative proposal that we will consider calls for ending the 'one-size-fits-all' approach for recruitment, compensation and retention of technology and acquisition employees classified as GS-5 to 15," Davis said. The bill has four main parts:

* The creation of a market-based, pay-for-performance system for the federal IT and acquisition workers who choose to use it.

* Enabling flexible and improved recruiting and hiring processes by bringing the new class of employees in as non-career employees who can be hired faster than via traditional methods.

* Expanding work/life options and other benefits illustrating the government's working conditions.

* Improving the government's training and education opportunities.

The proposal draws heavily on recommendations in a recent report, "The Transforming Power of Information Technology: Making the Federal Government an Employer of Choice for IT Employees," from the National Academy of Public Administration.

Besides the four main themes, Costis Toregas, Public Technology Inc. president, also stressed the need for strong managerial endorsement and participation for the program to be successful. Toregas represented NAPA at the hearing. "Additionally, agency budgets and management decisions must support full implementation of the system," Toregas said in his testimony.

Reps. Jim Turner (D-Texas) and Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) welcomed the Davis legislation. Horn called the workforce shortage "the most important actual policy issue of the last decade." Representatives from the General Accounting Office, the Office of Management and Budget and the Office of Personnel Management who testified at the hearing agreed that the IT workforce shortage should be treated as a long-term problem. However, they said the NAPA recommendations are only a starting point.

David McClure, GAO's director of IT management issues, said the culture of federal organizations must change. He advocated a "partnerial structure" rather than the traditional hierarchy and stressed a focus on results. Mark Forman, associate director for IT and e-government at OMB, said the NAPA recommendations and congressional legislation aimed at IT workforce improvements "will require changes in the way government does business."

In addition, knowledge management initiatives, especially e-learning programs, help create "communities of practice," which are essential for attracting and retaining young IT professionals, Forman said.

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