Dec 31 2009

Programs, Projects & People

Imagine if one-third of your workforce quit tomorrow. Doesn’t sound like a situation most organizations could handle easily and one that most would hope to forestall. Departing staff always create uncertainty, even when the dearly departed were anticipated, or wished for, exits. The federal government is no different, but luckily it knows in advance that one-third of its workforce is on the cusp of retirement.

Through initiatives large and small, such as training programs, groundbreaking projects and recruiting the right people, progress is slowly being made.

For example, take the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service (SFS). Although it wasn’t designed to backfill the positions of retirees, the SFS program may help fill the gap when it comes to computer engineering, cybersecurity management and information assurance. President Clinton created the SFS to improve government’s ability to protect data at civilian agencies, but the program, which provides information technology internships at agencies in exchange for tuition and stipends, has evolved into the government’s own farm league for IT talent.

According to agency participants, a non-civilian agency — the Defense Department — is one of the program’s best customers, grooming students to take on full-time technical roles once they graduate.

Currently, about 85 institutions of higher education participate in the program. SFS students spend six months working to solve a particular cybersecurity challenge that an agency is facing. As such, these students must acquire security clearances to participate. While it helps tackle security problems, the program also invites young promising minds to consider government service. For more about SFS, and how your agency can get involved, click here.

Service for a Cause

FedTech will continue to share programs that address the looming human capital shortfall facing government, but these efforts are just one small step toward dealing with the graying of the federal workforce. Part of the challenge is that it takes a special type of person to make public service their calling.

Just ask Mark Day. Day spent 29 years in public service: 15 years in state and local government, followed by another 14 years at the Environmental Protection Agency. Like many of his colleagues, however, Day retired from public service this fall and now works in the private sector as the chief technology officer at a systems integrator, McDonald Bradley of Herndon, Va.

According to Day, whose last post at EPA was CTO, an individual who is willing to share credit, rather than worrying about who gets it, and who will prioritize the mission of public service above all else will do well. Day shares his views on what it takes to succeed in government IT here.

Transforming Work

One reason DOD plucks new talent from programs such as SFS is its transformation effort. The department wants to become a network-centric organization that shares its tactical data and is nimble enough to speed that data to warfighters in real time.

Dr. Margaret Myers, principal director to the deputy CIO of DOD, expects this effort will enhance situational awareness for soldiers in the field. Programs in her office leverage the power of information by transforming data sharing from a need-to-know model to a need-to-share and right-to-know approach. Here, you’ll find more details about this and other projects at DOD.

People drive the programs that make government work, so finding smart ways to introduce young IT talent to the challenges that federal jobs offer is crucial to fulfilling the public-service mission. SFS is a model program that agencies should exploit and replicate.

Lee Copeland

Editor in Chief