Letters to the editor

Doing a Good Job

I would like to respond to a Sept. 24 letter to the editor, "Improve USA Jobs." The writer suggests that adding a "keyword search" to USA Jobs — the government's one-stop shop for federal employment — would make it easier to attract young people into public service and match them (especially information technology specialists) to appropriate jobs.

Many government IT positions require more than just IT skills. For example, a computer scientist may coordinate numerous projects, provide technical guidance and negotiate work agreements in addition to using technical skills. The government's Web designers, applications systems developers, data security specialists and network administrators also must have skills in communications, contracting and software analysis.

Limiting a job search to specific software applications could cause an IT specialist to miss out on professional growth opportunities. In short, we want to give job seekers maximum flexibility and choice.

During the past year, the USA Jobs Web site (www.usa jobs.opm.gov) has undergone significant changes. The site's look and feel have been modernized; vacancy announcements are beginning to use more clear and concise language; and information about government employment is easier to locate. Features requested by job-seekers have been added, and search results are being expanded.

But this is just a start. Each aspect of the site continues to be reviewed for further improvement.

We have seen tremendous growth in our Web site these past few years. We advertise more than 17,000 jobs per month; we have exceeded 20 million unique visitors in fiscal 2001; our new USA Jobs by E-mail service has almost 130,000 users; and more than 155,000 resumes are in our database. Recent data indicates that 92 percent of users are highly satisfied with their USA Jobs experience.

We are proud of our Web site and the services it offers.

Richard Whitford

Acting associate director for employment

Office of Personnel Management

The Law of the Land

I read Carl Peckinpaugh's column, "8(a) nod for native groups," published Sept. 10. Excuse me for being late to respond, as we have all been very preoccupied.

Many of our 8(a) American Indian companies are on the front line of defense of our country's vital interests. Many of our companies perform the nonmilitary duties that keep our bases ready. These duties include sorting mail for the government, which is putting our 8(a) contractors right in the front lines.

I was most intrigued with Peckinpaugh's comments about the government engaging in "social engineering" when dealing with American Indians, native Hawaiians, Alaska natives, African Americans, Hispanics and others as a group. I found that to be an interesting choice of words.

In the history of the U.S. government, there have been many programs of social engineering. Most of them were designed to remove our groups as a part of the American fabric.

My own relatives were sent to schools and given new names and clothes. Social engineering? I think so. There was an entire body of law written to take care of minority groups in the United States. Many American Indians were not even given the right to vote until 1934.

But over the years, another body of law was codified. Indian employment preference has been a part of American Indian policy for more than 150 years. It has and will be sustained as a preference based on the unique political status of American Indians as members of tribes. It is not race-based. It is not a social engineering policy. Nor is it a gimmick. It is the law of the land.

Our shareholders are still the most at-risk group in our country. The American Indian population is 0.9 percent of the U.S. population. Why do you begrudge us this small tool of economic progress? Not everyone wants to have a casino.

Our 8(a) companies have proven how effective they are in doing the business of government.

As a side note, Peckinpaugh's own company, DynCorp, has been actively pursuing American Indian companies to partner with in Alaska. We welcome those larger government contractors to join us in the new economy, where everyone's boat rises. That makes for good social engineering — if that is what you want to call it — and good business for all.

Kay Bills

Executive director


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