The longest federal government shutdown in history is receding into memory, but agencies and staff may have to cope with its impact for some time.
Funding is in place for at least the next six months, and federal IT workers have been able to turn their attention back to their regular work: tending to the technology and services that support their missions and new projects.
Yet the effect on the government’s reputation as a solid place to work — at a time when IT workers are desperately needed — will have to be considered.
Agencies Were Put in Shutdown Limbo
Let’s not forget what everyone’s been through. It’s ugly, but here’s my rolling list of reported shutdown stats:
- Shutdown and partially shutdown agencies and supporting contractors and vendors lost 35 days of productivity.
- More than 800,000 federal employees were either furloughed or worked without pay.
- Furloughed workers were owed $9 billion in back pay.
- More than 40,000 feds who received unemployment must now pay it back.
- Small and midsized businesses that supply technology or services to the federal government lost $2.3 billion in revenue.
- Small business owners missed out on an estimated $117 million in capital every day due to a loan backlog by the Small Business Administration.
- Contractors lost $1.5 billion per week and may have laid off “tens of thousands” of workers.
- The economy’s Q1 growth rate may slow by 0.5 percent.
- An estimated $3 billion in annual gross domestic product will never be recouped.
IT Challenges Are Exacerbated
The shutdown intensified the ever-expanding pressures that agencies face as they attempt to recruit and retain IT talent.
Baby boomers are retiring, and agencies can’t hire replacements fast enough. Since 2010, the number of retirement-age federal IT specialists grew 64 percent, and the number of young technologists shrank 30 percent. Meanwhile, it takes agencies an average of 106 days to hire a new employee. Start factoring in the average wait time of 543 days to obtain security clearances for Defense Department–related work, and the crunch gets painful quickly.
And that was before Amazon announced last November that it had picked Arlington, Va., for a new HQ2 location and plans to hire 25,000 employees in the next 15 to 20 years. Any thoughts as to how Amazon will ramp up its staff in the greater D.C. market? Here’s one possible source: 71 percent of IT workers in the metropolitan D.C. area surveyed by Eagle Hill Consulting said that they would consider leaving their current job to work for Amazon.
Then this 35-day government shutdown occurs, fully or partially closing more than a dozen civilian agencies and forcing more than 800,000 federal employees to be furloughed or work without pay. Consider what impact that might have on retaining and recruiting talent.
Making the Federal Civilian Workforce Pay Raise Fairness Act of 2019 law would be a small start to making the government a more attractive employer. Perhaps the End Government Shutdowns Act, which would prohibit government shutdowns while budget negotiations take place, would be an even better option.
Agencies Can Rely on Partners
One thing that’s clear is that the dependability of industry partners will be key in helping civilian agencies meet their fiscal 2019 IT planned goals and strategies. According to a recent survey conducted by Market Connections, top shutdown impacts reported by civilian employees include: short-term agency mission effectiveness; execution/startup of new projects; delaying payment to vendors; and funding for new and current projects.
Agencies will need all the support they can get. It’s on industry partners to do what they can to help serve our partners in meeting their mission-critical goals.