Letter: Young feds stereotyped, work undervalued

Regarding "CIO: Young workers create new headaches":  After reading this article about supposed "new headaches" over and over, I have decided that I cannot let this article pass without comment. 

Needlessly put, this was by far one of the most irresponsible articles I have read that has been published by FCW in quite awhile.  In less then 10 short paragraphs, one of the most biased and damaging stereotypes of young professionals in government service has been smeared across the screens of loyal readers and obviously with little due regard.  How is it possible that a periodical of your caliber can allow a stance that practically says that all new IT security issues will be the sole fault of "young professionals" simply because they are actually more knowledgeable about the technology they use on a day-to-day basis?

Let's take a look at some of the statements made in this article and why these are issues that directly impact and influence people about an already struggling younger workforce:

1.) "She also said the next generation of government workers may inadvertently be creating security hazards simply because they approach technology from a different angle."

Inadvertently?  I'm sorry, it seems to me that the both of you are assuming that the younger aged professionals in federal service don't know how to read and understand government policy on information technology security.  This is unacceptable as a statement, it is being outwardly implied that all young professionals will purposefully or "inadvertently" ignore standing policy simply because they want to have their own "ring tones" on their government-issued BlackBerry.  This stereotype of young professionals as the "rebels" has got to stop as it simply is not true.

2.) "For example, younger federal employees might use telework from cafes and coffee shops rather than from home."

Though possibly not a great operational security consideration, nearly all federal agencies are using secure VPN tunneling for their telework solutions and therefore there is absolutely no security threat or violation for this practice.  As expected and demonstrated by future comments in this article, the "old guard" federal employees are proving their own ignorance of the [Federal Information Security Management Act] security requirements and the simple fact that they actually understand the technology they write policy for, far less then the new incoming IT professionals.  Also, how is teleworking from a café; any different then [Senior Executive Service] federal employees sitting at an airport on open wireless conducting business or at any
hotel they stay at?  (There isn't.)

3.) "Staff members also must learn how to manage instant messaging and the numerous other forms of communication the younger generation uses."

Again, this assumes that all young professionals do not understand current security policy and are willing to directly disobey simply for their own pleasure.  This is obviously not the case, however, it once again illustrates the misunderstandings of FISMA and new technology in general.  Also, please note, that it is no secret that most civilian organizations this is not an information technology security threat what so ever.  Finally, please remember that the, "younger generation" is not the only users of this type of communication, all generations are coming online and using these communications sources as it increases the level of communication in real time.  (But least I remember to mention that some federal agenci s are using Lotus Notes Same Time, an instant messaging service, to help collaborate across field offices and large offices and this has helped improve internal communications!)

4.) & qu t;And the biggest problem is that the next generation will already be experts at the technology. "They know how the stuff works," O'Neill said."

This is the biggest issue I have with this article overall.  The statement made literally implies that because these young professionals have better, more in depth understanding of the technology in use around us, they are therefore a security risk.  You have to be kidding me, you actually published a statement that demeans them for going to college and coming out with a strong IT understanding that everyone says they must have to be successful.  This is highly unacceptable in contrast as this furthers the stereotype of younger adults in federal service as "enemies" instead of part of the team.  If anything, this CIO and your periodical should be pointing out the simple fact that it is this exact skill set that should be taken to heart and having organizations attempt to learn from their knowledge so to better write and enforce IT security policy in this fast paced technical market.  This is not a fault; it is an untapped resource.

5.) "O'Neill compared today's generational divide in the federal workforce with the situation she encountered early in her career when she served as an unofficial IT help desk simply because she had rudimentary computer skills."

I don't think I even have to address this.  **SEE #4 ABOVE**  Did she just admit that she was part of a solution early in her career due to her understanding of IT, but then turn around and state that this is going to be the "BIGGEST PROBLEM" that faces her organization and CIO
shops government wide?

6.) "She said the only way to bridge that divide was to understand the technology."

This is very simple for me to discuss the merits of in relation to the above two comments: The CIO claims that the biggest problem is young professionals and their understanding of technology.  So, the fact that the policy-makers and "experienced" employees are not currently in a position where they actually understand the technology they are writing rules and policy on does not concern you or anyone else?  She sits there and puts down the younger professionals in her agency for knowing more then she does, but then suggests noting about bringing them to the table to help understand the issues and the potential security threats?  I know plenty of these professionals that would love nothing more then to be able to work in the CIO shop and actually get to help write productive security policy.

Needlessly put, it is very clear that FCW and senior federal government IT officials feel that the younger generation will lead it to disaster" in terms of IT security instead of the solution, when this is far from the truth.  If anything the senior leadership losing touch with the vastly changing technology forefront will lead to greater problems by ignoring the education and understanding these professionals hold.  FCW should think more wisely before publishing such inaccuracies and actually think critically about the field they are writing on and actually publish articles critical of senior leadership not tapping these younger resources for their knowledge and understanding. 

This a far better practice then simply selling out an entire generation simply because they understand something more specifically then their leadership.

And to think that your periodical glorifies this CIO for such ignorance.

Anonymous


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