AF colonel: Money alone won't keep IT workers

AF colonel: Money alone won't keep IT workers

By Bill Murray

GCN Staff

Fresh from its success in Operation Allied Force, the Air Force wants to win a new battle: information technology staff retention.

The key to retention is pay and 'psychological compensation,' said Col. William Nelson, deputy director for chief information officer support at the Air Force Communications and Information Center. He spoke last week at the GCN Forum luncheon in Washington.

Besides re-enlistment bonuses for IT personnel, the Air Force wants to be able to pay continued service pay to its IT workers, just as it does to its engineers, he said.

Service officials think some personnel will extend their Air Force careers because of the satisfaction gained from supporting peacekeeping operations and combat missions, Nelson said.

The service employs 81,000 IT workers, and it is at 84 percent of its budget-authorized strength'or 1,300 short'for computer operators, Nelson said.

Help sought

Nelson began his speech with a pitch to scores of Agriculture Department and industry personnel at the National Press Club in Washington to work as Air Force civilians, which elicited laughter from the audience.

To improve retention among its military personnel, Air Force officials want to send employees on planned deployments every 12 to 18 months to help them better prepare for unexpected missions, Nelson said. Since 1989, the service's military work force has shrunk by 30 percent, but the Air Force puts employees on temporary duty assignments 30 percent more often.

The Air Force spends about $3 billion of its budget on IT.

Through implementation of the IT Management Reform Act, service officials want to demonstrate how systems can save money and improve the Air Force's performance, he said.

A manifestation of technology's potential came during NATO's Operation Allied Force, when the service maintained an 18,000-seat network in 15 countries that supported tailored Web pages for the European theatre, Nelson said.

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