Workforce

Flagging skill sets yet to be addressed

Shutterstock image: female workforce manager.

Federal agencies are losing valuable telecom knowledge and skills -- along with other critical personnel capabilities -- as the federal workforce ages and retires, according to a study by the Government Accountability Office.

GAO reviewed operations at multiple agencies, including the Departments of Commerce and  Energy, and the U.S. Agency for International Development.

The survey found a decline in a number of routine -- but critical -- skills among workers is threatening to snowball. For instance, GAO said that in December 2013, it found a decline in telecommunication expertise across multiple agencies compounded GSA’s challenges in transitioning those agencies to a new network of telecommunications services, contributing to delays and cost overruns of 44 percent.

GAO said GSA's customer agencies are concerned the shortage of telecommunications specialists will get worse because there are not enough qualified candidates to replace experienced workers nearing retirement. GSA has yet to fully study the issue of addressing mission-critical skills gaps and agreed that understanding expertise shortfalls would be useful for future transition planning purposes.

Telecom skills weren't the only flagging capabilities. In 2012, the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management had an attrition rate among petroleum engineers that, according to OPM data, is more than double the average federal attrition rate.

The study also noted gaps in cybersecurity and auditor skills, as well as gaps in almost two dozen occupations with "significant programmatic impact."

The Office of Personnel Management and the Chief Human Capital Officer Council plan this year to identify and address a new set of government-wide skills gaps, as well as how to close them. An interagency group called the Federal Agency Skills Team plans to strengthen the methodology used to identify emerging skills gaps. Additionally, GAO said OPM officials are discussing plans to modify OPM’s workforce database to capture government-wide staffing data.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


Featured

  • FCW PERSPECTIVES
    sensor network (agsandrew/Shutterstock.com)

    Are agencies really ready for EIS?

    The telecom contract has the potential to reinvent IT infrastructure, but finding the bandwidth to take full advantage could prove difficult.

  • People
    Dave Powner, GAO

    Dave Powner audits the state of federal IT

    The GAO director of information technology issues is leaving government after 16 years. On his way out the door, Dave Powner details how far govtech has come in the past two decades and flags the most critical issues he sees facing federal IT leaders.

  • FCW Illustration.  Original Images: Shutterstock, Airbnb

    Should federal contracting be more like Airbnb?

    Steve Kelman believes a lighter touch and a bit more trust could transform today's compliance culture.

Stay Connected

FCW Update

Sign up for our newsletter.

I agree to this site's Privacy Policy.