Bill aimed at workforce 'crisis'

Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) is introducing legislation aimed at giving agencies new management tools to reverse the "human capital crisis."

The Federal Human Capital Act of 2001 was unveiled Oct. 23 at a panel discussion and press conference hosted by the newly formed Partnership for Public Service. The legislation is designed to enable agencies to recruit and retain skilled workers and better manage those already on board.

In light of the recent terrorist attacks, a highly skilled and competent federal workforce to replace those about to leave is essential, Voinovich said. More than half of all current feds will be eligible for regular or early retirement by 2004.

Among the bill's highlights is the creation of a chief human capital officer in major agencies to oversee management reforms and plan for future needs.

The bill doesn't address information technology specifically, but Voinovich did acknowledge after the panel discussion that a lack of IT workers is a major challenge agencies face. Federal salary schedules that aren't competitive with the private sector keep many potential IT workers away from government, he said.

Voinovich's bill also aims to shorten the waiting period for some federal positions, and it features several measures designed to improve agency recruitment and management, including:

* Improving employee accountability and streamlining reviews for poor performers.

* Allowing Senior Executive Service members to participate in private and nonprofit programs to enhance their skills.

* Enabling agencies to set up training programs to groom employees for management positions.

* Amending the tax code to offer tax-free college loan repayment incentives.

Voinovich said he didn't expect his bill to pass the Senate "before the end of the year," but parts of it could become law before then. Rep. Connie Morella (R-Md.) is introducing companion legislation in the House of Representatives.

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