EDITORIAL

Swap and pay

Thomas R. Temin

Fundamentally, I like Rep. Tom Davis' idea of information technology types in government and industry swapping jobs.

As an analogy, I've always felt that industry and public schools should let the best corporate people teach for a year. But the educational establishment is fairly impervious to real innovation, except maybe for using Coke machines as revenue sources.

At a hearing on the Virginia Republican's bill, several people testified to the need to emphasize recruitment, in contrast to the Davis bill's retention objective [GCN, Aug. 13, Page 10]. That's beside the point. The issue is whether government and its employees would benefit by having career workers change places temporarily with their industry counterparts.

I think both sides would learn a lot, though perhaps not in the ways Davis envisions. Government managers'if any expect to see models of efficiency and meritocracy in industry'will be in for a surprise. Those in industry expecting to encounter acres of bureaucrats lounging around watching the clock will be equally surprised.

As a way for government to ingest the latest approaches to technology and for industry to better understand government's requirements, the job-swap plan could work.

The flaw in the Davis bill is the provision that government people going into industry be paid by their agency at their regular rate. Why shouldn't the workers get the pay levels of working in the private sector, even if only temporarily? The marginal costs to the companies would be small, and the government could think of it as a bonus the agencies themselves are not in a position to pay.

The reverse scenario doesn't hold, though. Let's assume that, job-for-job, industry really does pay more than government. It would be foolish to ask private-sector workers to take temporary pay cuts for the privilege of working for the government. That model works only for high-level political appointees, many of whom go in expecting to cash in on their powerful contacts and insider knowledge when they leave.

Thomas R. Temin

Editorial director

E-mail: editor@postnewsweektech.com

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