Forman downplays IT work force crisis

Forman downplays IT work force crisis

Among the many IT concerns within the federal government, a shortage of workers is not a barrier to the administration's e-government plans, IT czar Mark Forman said last week.

Forman, the Office of Management and Budget's associate director for IT and e-government, outlined the new role technology companies will play in the 24 OMB-sponsored e-government initiatives. He spoke at a luncheon sponsored by the Business Software Alliance Thursday.

Even though half of the federal work force will be eligible to retire by 2006, Forman said, the federal IT work force will be less affected because of its reliance on contract staff. Forman quoted studies showing that 80 percent of the government's IT workers are contract employees.

“The supply is there, it’s just out in the private sector,” said Douglas Sabo, a luncheon attendee and manager of government relations for Network Associates Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif. “There’s a shortage of people and an issue with skills.”

According to a National Academy of Public Administration report, Transforming Power of Information Technology, the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that the government will need an additional 16,000 IT workers by 2010.

Forman said his chief concern is the slow movement throughout agencies from paper processes to electronic ones.

“We’re in the only institution that spends more than $50 billion that thinks in paper,” he said. “We need new people to work a different way than people have been for the last 20 or 30 years. We have to bring new ways of doing business into the government.”

The government will no longer buy software for stovepipe systems, Foreman said, adding that the emphasis instead will be on large-scale procurements benefiting many agencies.

“That’s going to put additional pressure on industry,” he said.

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