Odd federal practices, and long-term care

FCW.com's Ask Milt column replies to questions about peculiar workforce policies, long-term care articles and reclassification

A Reader Writes:

I have been working for the Environmental Protection Agency as an information technology specialist for about five years now, and I have a question about some policies that seem to conflict.

A lot of money has been spent sending me to classes on Novell Inc.'s NetWare, Oracle Corp. and IBM Corp. Lotus Notes development. However, most of the work is still done by contractors. After asking my boss about this, he told me that the agency has a policy that says that a large percentage of the IT work must be outsourced to help the local business community.

Later, I was told that the federal government also has a policy that requires them to hire handicapped people and welfare recipients. As a result of these policies, there seems to be two conflicting paradigms. We hire all these people as stated in the policies. We then spend money to train them, but there is no work for them to do. This causes two main problems:

1. Retention of IT workers. Most IT workers don't want to just sit in meetings all day and shuffle paper around. They want to use and develop the skills they have so they can contribute to the agency missions. They are not going to stay around if they feel redundant.

2. Expense to taxpayers. It costs at least $150 per hour for contractor IT support. The same work could be done by federal IT workers for less than a third of this cost. People wonder why the government is so expensive to run.

I was wondering if you could shed any light on these policies. Will they ever be reviewed and even reformed? Doing so would have two obvious benefits: The government would be cheaper to run, and we would actually be able to help the IT workers we hire. They would not just sit with their skills wasted.

Milt Replies:

Because the federal government is not run like a business that must make a profit to survive, many peculiar practices manifest themselves. As long as managers are not held accountable for the money they spend, these peculiar practices unfortunately will continue.

A Reader Writes:

Do you plan on writing an article about the government offering of long-term care insurance? I did a search in FCW.com and didn't find anything.

Milt Replies:

I wrote about long-term care in the following columns:

"Long-term care" [Bureaucratus, May 14, 2001]

"Take care with long-term care policy" [Financial Friday, Aug. 3, 2001]

"OPM takes long view" [Bureaucratus, April 29, 2002]

These and articles by others cropped up in an FCW.com search for "long-term care"

A Reader Writes:

I'm a systems administrator in a Social Security hearing office. For two and a half years, others in my position in hearing offices across the country have fought for a reclassification/upgrade.

Despite audits of some of our members that prove we deserve it, we're being denied. Unions are not backing us up. The official procedure is not working for us. Any suggestions?

Milt Replies:

You could ask the Office of Personnel Management to desk audit your job. But the risk is that they could determine that your job should be downgraded.

Zall is a retired federal employee who since 1987 has written the Bureaucratus column for Federal Computer Week. He can be reached at milt.zall@verizon.net.

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