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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