CBP to hire 1,000 IT workers during fiscal 2011

'Federalizing' workforce part of IT transformation program

The Homeland Security Department’s border protection agency plans to hire 1,000 additional IT staffers this fiscal year as it seeks to “federalize” its work force, a senior official said today.

Ken Ritchhart, deputy assistant commissioner of U.S. Customs and Border Protection’s Office of Information Technology (OIT), said at a seminar that hiring a government employee can save up to $40,000 a year per person compared with contracting for similar tasks.

The government staff roster for the OIT is expanding from about 1,500 employees at the end of fiscal 2010 to a projected 2,500 employees by the end of fiscal 2011, Ritchhart said in an executive session sponsored by the American Council for Technology-Industry Advisory Council.

About 700 IT staffers have been hired so far and 500 have started work, he added. Many of the new hires are entry-level, low-level and midlevel IT workers who are comfortable with new technologies, Ritchhart said. Currently, the OIT has 2,131 government staff members and 3,268 contract employees.

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The hiring is part of the agency’s effort to modernize, become more efficient and cut costs; the OIT’s budget has dropped by $306 million in the last two years, Ritchhart said.

“The focus is on reducing costs and improving availability,” Ritchhart said. “Aside from health care, most of government funding is reduced. We are doing more with less.”

IT priorities at the agency for 2011 include an emphasis on new technologies such as cloud computing, purchase of prebuilt appliances, modernization, transformation, consolidation of data centers, improvement of program management, and workforce modernization and professionalism, Ritchhart said.

“We are moving to an enterprise SOA [service-oriented architecture] environment leveraging applications and managed servers. We will stop building systems and built applications and services instead,” Ritchhart said.

Current legacy systems are stovepiped and require ongoing maintenance, he said. “Operations and maintenance is about two-thirds of our budget and our biggest expense,”  he added.

The agency also is confronting several “unfunded IT mandates” promoted by Congress and the White House, including data center consolidation, “green” IT, real-time security monitoring, IPV6, configuration improvements, open government and cyber command requirements, Ritchhart added.

Another IT priority for CBP this year includes shutting down legacy technologies that are no longer needed rather than continuing to operate them “just in case” there is a worst case scenario, he said.

“It is very hard to get things turned off,” Ritchhart said. However, keeping legacy systems running indefinitely is not the solution, he added: “We cannot afford it.”

About the Author

Alice Lipowicz is a staff writer covering government 2.0, homeland security and other IT policies for Federal Computer Week.

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Reader comments

Fri, Feb 4, 2011

I aggree with the last post. No jobs on the USA job sites. Little or pretty much no contact with anyone at all when you apply for any of these position. Its like the jobs don't even exist. you spen hours applying for these positions and they just cancell them with no warning and no notice. No one even calls you to let you know if your even qualified. I don't know of anyone who has actually applied for a position using USA jobs who has actuall gotten hired.

Thu, Jan 20, 2011

I agree with the person ahead that USAjobs had posted so many openings but may have cancelled the openings. I asked my friend inside CBP and he said they were on a hiring freeze. Perhaps 2011 will be a promising year for people waiting in line to get in CBP. However, entry level and mid level IT staff may be a slow transition to replace high skilled contractors working in the federal government. AT&T, Raytheon, SAIC, and many other IT providers are binded by contracts 2-4 years at a time. They may get the first crack at the jobs especially in hard to get places like Hawaii.

Tue, Jan 18, 2011

CBP's DAC Ritchhart states "hiring a government employee can save up to $40,000 a year per person". Is that within OIT? What does that $40k include? Hiring and Relocation expenses for a highly skilled contractor? For high-level, high-impact projects? How will those skills be replaced in such a short timeframe of 1 year if they have not been available from internal (federal) candidates previously? The increasing of the federal workforce may add to the numbers and strength of the union but that will not replace the need for staff with the strong dedication and experience to successfully support OIT. Delayed decisions and actions by management result in significantly increasing the costs for any project. Separately, if changes occurred in the organization, having one or more project or program groups move out from under OIT will obviously result in a reduction in the budget. Most of that $308M likely moved with one or more of the groups to another area within CBP instead. Quotes as found in this article need to be better detailed and verified before printing as fact.

Thu, Jan 13, 2011

CPB may say that it's hiring 1,000 IT workers, but it currently has only 3x low-level openings on USAJobs. Also, I've applied for 8 openings in IT with CBP over the last two years; the majority were cancelled (maybe because I'm a vet?). Claims like this should be checked by the media, not taken as gospel, particularly in this economy, with so many people looking for work. False hope is not really better than no hope.

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