GAO: Agencies nearly out of time for IT exchange

With only one year left to begin exchanges, participating agencies are still getting programs under way.

The seven agencies that volunteered to participate in the Information Technology Exchange Program (ITEP) that the E-Government Act of 2002 created, are still initiating their programs, according to a Government Accountability Office report. Under the legislation, the exchanges must begin by December 2007 or it will be too late.  The program is intended to allow agencies and private-sector firms to exchange employees, giving the employees a firsthand look at how things operate in each other’s environment. But no exchanges have taken place yet.GAO, drawing on information from the Office of Personnel Management and other agencies, identified four major challenges to agencies trying to implement ITEP:    * Employees with desired skills are in short supply on the federal and private-sector sides.    * Companies are concerned that having employees working temporarily for an agency could hinder their ability to bid on contracts with that agency, because of the perception that the company might have an unfair advantage.    * Federal ethics requirements, especially financial disclosure, could discourage company employees from participating.    * The agencies involved report that marketing the program via a Web site has not been effective. According to GAO, OPM and the participating agencies are aware of the challenges, but given the short time left to initiate the exchanges, any action must come quickly.
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