Agencies get mixed grades

The federal government gets good marks from its workers for introducing information technology systems into the workplace, but failing ones for neglecting to upgrade systems after they are put in place, said a new study released last week.

A lack of resources and problems that include neglecting to keep systems current and continuing to downsize the workforce have made working for the government difficult, according to a report by the Brookings Institution.

"Our survey clearly shows that the federal government spends too much time experimenting with the latest management fads and too little time providing its employees with the information, technology, training and staff needed to achieve the government's mission," said Paul Light, author of the report and director of the institution's Center for Public Service.

The report is based on a survey of 1,051 federal workers and 500 private-sector employees. It concluded that the government has failed to make the federal workplace attractive to the most talented Americans.

"Day after day, [the federal government] asks too many of its employees to do the nearly impossible," Light said. Of those surveyed, 59 percent said they rarely have the tools they need to do their jobs.

"We are seeing the effects of under.investing for two decades," Light said.

Paul Volcker, former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, agreed that federal workers are overworked, underpaid and often stressed to the breaking point. "There's a big crisis in public service," he said. "There's a lot to be done."

Nevertheless, IT was identified as the top reform in the federal government, even though agencies fail to keep systems up-to-date after they are installed.

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