Editorial: What are the issues?

It appears that government management and performance are going to be issues in the upcoming presidential elections. Last week in this spot, we suggested that the government information technology community, which knows more about those issues than anybody else, should take advantage of that spotlight to outline what the issues are and offer some recommendations.

In the coming months, Federal Computer Week will offer thoughts about the issues that the candidates should address.

Issue one: People
Clearly, any discussion about government operations must address people. Some recommendations:

  • Eliminate the term “human capital.” With all due respect to Comptroller David Walker, the term is just awful and, frankly, demeaning. It is too antiseptic. It is important to remember that we are dealing with people, and human capital makes us forget that. The term also undercuts the importance of this issue.
  • Tackle the pay issue. There is simply no way to address the government’s workforce problems without addressing pay. This problem is particularly pronounced in the IT field, where the gap between public- and private-sector pay is large. But pay is also a concern throughout government. The government needs to pay people what they are worth. If agencies want to hire the best and the brightest, they need to pay competitive wages.
  • Revisit pay for performance. The Bush administration tried to force a pay-for-performance plan on government workers. Although it failed, some tenets of that plan have merits. The government’s pay plan is antiquated. It was designed for the type of employee who took a job and stayed with the same employer for most of his or her career. Today’s workers are looking for challenges, and they want to get rewarded if they are successful. The Bush administration’s take-it-or-leave-it approach did not work, but there is an opportunity to develop a new, more modern government pay system that can help agencies accomplish their missions if a new administration is willing to bring all the interested parties together.

About the Author

Christopher J. Dorobek is the co-anchor of Federal News Radio’s afternoon drive program, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, and the founder, publisher and editor of the DorobekInsider.com, a leading blog for the Federal IT community.

Dorobek joined Federal News Radio in 2008 with 16 years of experience covering government issues with an emphasis on government information technology. Prior to joining Federal News Radio, Dorobek was editor-in-chief of Federal Computer Week, the leading news magazine for government IT decision-makers and the flagship of the 1105 Government Information Group portfolio of publications. As editor-in-chief, Dorobek served as a member of the senior leadership team at 1105 Government Information Group, providing daily editorial direction and management for FCW magazine, FCW.com, Government Health IT and its other editorial products.

Dorobek joined FCW in 2001 as a senior reporter and assumed increasing responsibilities, becoming managing editor and executive editor before being named editor-in-chief in 2006. Prior to joining FCW, Dorobek was a technology reporter at PlanetGov.com, one of the first online community centers for current and former government employees. He also spent five years at Government Computer News, another leading industry publication, covering a variety of federal IT-related issues.

Dorobek is a frequent speaker on issues involving the government IT industry, and has appeared as a frequent contributor to NewsChannel 8’s Federal News Today program. He began his career as a reporter at the Foster’s Daily Democrat, a daily newspaper in Dover, N.H. He is a graduate of the University of Southern California. He lives in Washington, DC.


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