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FCW Insider: Is 2008 the year of the workforce tsunami?

We aren't quite at mid-year so far, and 2008 is turning out to be the year of the much talked about but not really seen yet government workforce tsunami.

We reported last week that Army deputy CIO Vern Bettencourt will be retiring next month. (People knowledgeable about the Army say that Bettencourt's replacement has been picked and will be announced soon. We're told that he is not an Army guy -- he is apparently from the OSD, but not from the Army. Stay tuned.)

That comes on the heels of the announcement by Ed Meagher that he is retiring in July.

And then, over the weekend, I started mentally collecting the number of people who, in recent months, either have left or have announced that they are leaving ...
* Dee Lee
* Tom Davis
* Kevin Carroll
* Tom Hogan
* Greg Rothwell, although he left more then a few months ago, but...
* Mary Fuller
* Lt. Gen. Charles Croom of Defense Information Systems Agency
* Von Harrison of the General Services Administration
* Mary Mitchell
of the General Services Administration
* James Van Derhoff, the State Department’s chief information officer
* Richard Burke, the former chief architect

And those are just the names that came to the top of my head. I'm sure I've forgotten others. (If I did, feel free to add to the list.) And I know there are many others actively considering it... and many more counting the days until they are eligible.

Part of it, I think, is the upcoming transition. It is a difficult time as the career workforce has to prove itself again to a whole new group of people, and there are many who are just tired of it. But I have spoken to others who have said that they are watching this election closely and, depending on how it goes, that will determine whether they stay for a few more years... or decide to move on.

No doubt the economy is helping some people stick around as their TSP accounts aren't quite as flush as people thought they were... and the jobs out there aren't quite as plentiful right now as they once were.

But, while this is just anecdotal, there sure seems to be a lot of transitioning already going on.

And there are some numbers to back it all up. FCW's Richard Walker reported earlier this month on the Partnership for Public Service's report, Brain Drain 2008. The report said that feds need to be aggressively recruiting the next generation of government workers.

Federal agencies must aggressively recruit a new generation of talented employees at all levels to head off the so-called brain drain during the next five years, according to a report released today.

Report: Agencies must head off brain drain [FCW.com, May 6, 2008]

In an issue brief titled “Brain Drain 2008,” the Partnership for Public Service (PPS) said that during the next five years, about a third of the federal government’s full-time permanent workforce will leave, mostly through retirement. Also, researchers expect a concentration of turnover at high-level and supervisory positions, which will compound the problem, the report said.

For example, based on the latest Office of Personnel Management projections, 36 percent of Senior Executive Service members will retire by 2012, and 76 percent will be eligible retire by that time, which means that the actual percentage of SES departures could be higher. In addition, 27 percent of supervisors who direct day-to-day work in government will retire by 2012, according to the report.

Agencies with the highest percentage of expected retirements by 2012 are the Federal Aviation Administration (26 percent); Housing and Urban Development Department (26 percent); Social Security Administration (23 percent); and the Education and Energy departments, National Science Foundation, and General Services Administration (22 percent each).


Unfortunately we've been crying workforce wolf for so long, people may not take it seriously now -- even if it does turn out to be real.

Actually, I think most agencies understand that this is a real issue. My sense is that they just don't really know what to do about it and they feel caught by the system.

Meanwhile, we're trying to do our part. The judges for 1105 GovInfo's Rising Star awards program are starting their work. We hope to have the list of winners in a few weeks. This program demonstrates the good work being done by younger people -- and can demonstrate the jobs that young people can do in government.

This year, we are going to do a half-day program focusing on these kinds of issues -- and trying to find some solutions. That half-day session will conclude with the Rising Star awards luncheon.

We don't have a date nailed down yet, but... we will let you know as soon as we do get details nailed down.

In the meantime, if you have ideas for what we should talk about at the half-day session, we are working on the content already. Love to hear your thoughts.

Posted by Christopher J. Dorobek on May 20, 2008 at 12:17 PM


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