IT work force shortage likely to boost outsourcing plans

Although work force issues might be getting heightened attention since Sept. 11, other equally tough challenges dog agency managers, as well.

For instance, Homeland Security director Tom Ridge has said the administration will demand more sharing of information.

'There is a lot of talk about information sharing, but the cultural divide is very difficult to overcome,' said Larry Allen, executive director of the Coalition for Government Procurement, a Washington vendor association.

Agencies have a bunker mentality, he said. 'The more sensitive the information, the more difficult it will be to share that. Agencies feel it's their data and will only share the tangential stuff, not the core stuff.'

Because of the emphasis on security now, some observers said the government will increase outsourcing in areas that do not deal with it.

'There's a clear direction that operations and maintenance work will be done by the private sector, with government oversight,' Treasury Department CIO James Flyzik said.

'You will see a stronger federal presence in some areas, say airline security,' he said. 'You may see a reduced federal presence in other areas, which may be outsourced.'

Chip Mather, senior vice president of Acquisition Solutions Inc. of Chantilly, Va., agreed. 'All the pressures stay, and the human capital crisis continues,' he said. 'So there are only more things being added to outsourcing.'

Outsourcing may double

A recent report by Input of Chantilly, Va., said that as the government faces a shortage of skilled IT workers, the federal technology outsourcing market will more than double over the next five years.

By 2006, agencies will spend $13.2 billion on private workers to run many of their systems, including telecommunications networks, desktop computers and technology infrastructure, Input said.

Outsourcing techniques used by the government can handle the added pressure, according to Joseph J. Petrillo, a partner in the Washington law firm of Petrillo & Powell.

He cautioned that most of the bottlenecks in implementing contracts would likely remain because of the government's internal processes.
'For instance, say you have three offices in a particular agency reviewing a contract sequentially. This becomes time consuming,' he said. 'Instead of doing that, they should review it in parallel and not separately.'

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