Letter to the editor
I'm a contractor providing network support for a squadron in the Air Force. Currently, there are two GS employees in my office who also provide network support, and they make around $50,000 a year because they receive "special IT pay." I have no problem with these individuals getting an information technology bonus, except they are clueless when it comes to network support and do not deserve special IT pay.
After many years in their positions (not to mention thousands and thousands of dollars in training) these individuals still don't know how to do simple networking tasks such as mapping a network drive, renaming a computer, creating a network account, sharing a folder or even installing Windows 2000 Professional from scratch.
They just do not have the aptitude to perform the IT work described in their job description. The fact that these individuals, who do not possess the basic skills and aptitude to work in network management, get special IT pay amounts to fraud, waste and abuse!
Requiring federal employees to have IT certifications would go far toward eliminating this problem. IT certifications prove that people have at least a basic aptitude to perform IT work. I believe that if federal employees were required to pass certification exams that it would prove that employees have at least a basic aptitude for IT work.
Employees who show a basic aptitude for IT and who get proper supervision and training could eventually prove to be valued IT support for the federal government. Furthermore, I believe that having IT-certified employees would give federal employers justification and accountability for the special IT pay some of their employees receive.
Federal employees who are unable to pass IT certification exams appropriate for the positions they hold should NOT receive special IT pay. Doing so constitutes fraud, waste and abuse any way I look at it! If a federal employee can't prove that they possess a basic understanding of the IT area they work in, by acquiring IT certification pertinent to their job description, then perhaps they should be relocated to a position that would better suit whatever aptitude they do possess.
I don't think that training in and of itself can be substitutes for certification. To work in IT you have to have an aptitude for IT. I have a brother who wanted to work in IT. He went to school, studied every possible moment he could and just couldn't get through the first certification exam. His not passing wasn't due to test anxiety; he just finally realized that he didn't have the aptitude to do it.
You can teach people to perform tasks like little automatons, but to work in IT you need to understand not only how to click here and click there, you need to understand why you are doing it and what the consequences of doing it will be.
Certifications don't necessarily prove that one sees the big picture, but I believe that it does show when someone has the aptitude to perform at least base-level IT tasks.
Name withheld by request