Succession planning

People often talk about a federal workforce crisis as if Washington, D.C., were slowly becoming a ghost town. The workforce is aging, but empty cubicles are not the problem.

Indeed, cubicles can and will be filled, especially in the technology field. Even with the economy recovering, the high-tech industry still cannot absorb all the employees who were cut adrift during the downturn. This week's cover story shows how agencies have successfully recruited young and talented technology experts drawn by the opportunities and stability of federal employment.

Even higher-level jobs can be filled with private-sector employees looking for a career change. And the Bush administration has successfully proven it can draft top executives who can inject agencies with healthy new ideas.

If there's a brain drain here, it's sitting under an open faucet.

The real cause for concern was highlighted in recent months when the federal information technology community bade farewell to numerous employees who were ending long careers in government. Among them were David Borland from the Army, Dan Chenok from the Office of Management and Budget, and Emory Miller from the General Services Administration.

The concern is succession planning. It's easy enough to find someone to fill a cubicle or even a corner office. But agencies typically depend on a stable group of individuals who understand both IT and government well enough to put one to work for the other.

Insiders say they are not worried about the talent pool supplying the next generation of IT leaders. Karen Evans, for example, who replaced

e-government chief Mark Forman, is earning respect for her ability to work with agencies and get things done. But what about the next generation? And the one after that?

There's no such thing as cramming on succession planning. As the economy revives and private-sector jobs open up, the Bush administration must renew its efforts to make it easier for the federal government to attract new talent and prepare leaders for years to come.

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