Letter to the editor

There have been several letters concerning the difficulty of hiring and retaining information technology workers for the federal government. Let's be very straightforward and do an analysis of the situation.

1. Most IT jobs fall in the A-76 commercial practices category.

2. The Bush administration has made A-76 "competitive sourcing" one of its key tenets.

3. The A-76 process is under review for the purposes of "streamlining." The Bush administration has targeted 5 percent of government jobs to be competitively sourced in 2002 and 10 percent in 2003.

4. Competitive sourcing causes the government's "most efficient organization" to compete with the private sector on all work, with the basic criteria being cost.

5. The cost of government IT workers is going up.

a. During 2000, entry-level IT workers (GS-12 and under) were given significant salary increases (7 percent to 33 percent).

b. The new Freedom to Manage initiative will cause the agency share of health care and pension benefits to be accrued to the IT organization or project and therefore be considered in any A-76 action.

6. The result will be that the "most efficient government organization" costs will be significantly higher than they would have been in 1999. Any move to increase federal government IT pay will merely exacerbate the situation.

The deck is stacked against most government organizations, as the rules for performance will be different. Private-sector organizations can take a loss, can hire and fire at will, and have more flexibility in addressing the A-76 process than government organizations. The move to increase IT pay will result in more instances of the government organization losing the competition or having to reduce its "hard to hire and retain" staff to become "more efficient" when addressing the A-76 process.

The only logical conclusion can be that there is no government IT workforce crisis. The federal government does not want to hire or retain personnel with technical IT skills. The federal government wants to hire skilled project managers and contracting personnel to oversee contractors who have the technical skills, and it wants the contractors to perform the actual work.

Raising the pay of the federal IT worker will only raise costs relative to A-76 competitions, with the result being that there will be fewer government IT employees and more government IT contract workers.

In short, any technically inclined individual should not go to work for the federal government, and federal agencies should not hire technicians, but should contract for those services. Under the current administration, hiring IT technicians is a disservice to the individuals, to the government and to the taxpayers.

Name withheld by request

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