Staving off brain drain with a video camera

Recognizing the threat of a brain drain caused by retiring government workers, one woman is acting to save some of that knowledge now.

A majority of the government's workforce will be eligible for retirement within the decade. As a result, public services may be in jeopardy.

To save expertise, Sue Nappi, assistant deputy chief of staff for operations and plans at the Army’s Fort Monmouth, N.J., base, puts her experienced staff in front of the camera and asks them about good and bad experiences from their recent projects. She spoke yesterday at a knowledge management conference in Washington, D.C.

Although the videos are not Steven Spielberg-quality productions, she said, they capture lessons learned in a unique and human way. People glean more from speakers and their body language than by reading a report, she said.

Also at the conference, the Government Accountability Office said it found that a test project in its planning stages fit the agency's needs for internal coordination after Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast last year. The independent, nonpartisan agency that oversees departments grouped numerous hurricane-related documents, reports and interviews on an in-house Web portal called the Hurricane Center.

The agency's 13 mission teams looked into issues such as public works, engineering and information technology. For work related to Katrina, they filed it in an easy-to-use Web site.

Speaking today at the conference, Tony Cicco, deputy chief mission support officer and chief information officer for Information Systems and Technology Service at GAO, said he and his staff had been working for two years to develop a Web portal and planned to launch a test program in November 2005. Then the hurricane struck.

Beginning its work in the storm’s aftermath, GAO recognized it needed to coordinate its efforts. Its teams were repeatedly asking the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the Homeland Security Department for the same documents. So the Web site became a central place to store and share available information.

“This just got so big, so fast that we had to do something different,” Cicco said. He said his agency made the most of an opportunity created by Katrina. “We were in the right place at the right time.”

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