Competence counts, too

Your special report, '2001: Year of the human factor' [GCN, Jan. 8, Page 1], was quite interesting concerning the hiring practices of the government vs. the private sector. I believe that you missed one important factor: competency.

Would you go to a doctor who lacks a medical degree?

I am a GS-12 lead computer specialist working with the Defense Message System overseas. I gave up my private-sector systems analyst position at a Fortune 500 company because, as a military retiree, I wanted to be around military personnel.

I expected to be working with information technology professionals. Was I in for a rude awakening!

In the hiring process, private-sector candidates undergo technical interviews to assess their specific skill sets. For example, a network administrator candidate is interviewed by a network administrator. Candidates undergo technical scrutiny by their peers.

The company has an established technical requirement and can decide whether to hire or pass over the candidate.

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The public sector is completely different in its hiring process. A GS employee in computer specialist series 334 or 301 may apply for a higher position after serving one year in the position. The candidate may not have a clue as to what is required or even have the skill sets to perform the position. The resume is the major prerequisite for the position.

Perhaps an annual evaluation is required, but no technical interview.

I see computer specialists at the GS-9 to GS-15 levels without computer science degrees or technical skills. They could not or would not be hired in the private sector because they would most likely fail the technical interviews or lack the technical skills and knowledge to convince potential employers that they deserve the pay they receive in the government.

Perhaps this is one of the reasons some government announcements for IT personnel ask for some form of degree or certification, such as database administrator or Microsoft Certified Systems Engineer. The individuals with the required skills or degrees are overworked and quickly jump ship.
The government can streamline the hiring process. But until it comes up with some technical standards or baseline competencies and incorporates technical interviews into its hiring process, it will continue to get and retain the unproductive and unknowledgeable IT workers seeking a safe haven and job security.


Lead computer specialist


Uijongbu, South Korea

Carrier pilots prefer Palms

Your article, 'Navy uses Palms to rate pilot carrier landings,' does a decent job of outlining how sailors are utilizing handheld computers on the USS Constellation [GCN, Feb. 5, Page 7].

But the story missed the mark by focusing on a few pilots who still use the paper method.

Everyone I know on the ship who uses the computers from Palm Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., for grading has been extremely positive and prefers the system to the redundant exercise of manually retyping the grades and comments from our clipboards into our database.

As with any emerging technology, some people will get up to speed faster than others.

The unnamed landing signal officer you quoted had not until very recently used a Palm for grading landings, and therefore his viewpoint was not truly representative of the collective feeling of the LSOs on our ship.
We are excited about the technology and believe that it is a good example of the Navy promoting technology innovation and efficiency for shipboard operations.


Navy pilot

Sea Control Squadron 38

San Diego


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