DOD fights IT work force attrition

DOD fights IT work force attrition


Facing the prospect of a massive exodus of information technology workers in the next 10 to 15 years, the Defense Department's Joyce France decided to plan ahead.

Defense must act now to recruit and retain IT workers because the department can't wait until most of its middle-aged employees retire, division chief Joyce France says.
It's a legitimate concern: The average age of the department's 100,000 IT employees is 47, said France, division chief for IT work force issues in DOD's Office of the Chief Information Officer.

'We're so dependent on information technology. All our mission systems, general business systems, everything that we do is dependent on IT,' she said. 'We cannot afford to wait until it happens before we start to put programs in place.'

The challenge of recruiting and retaining skilled IT workers has become a constant, nagging problem that has affected DOD and other agencies because of the technology boom. In response, France's office has begun offering employee bonuses and promoting its Information Security Scholarship Program to prospective workers.

Officials are also touting the success of the IRM College at Fort McNair in Washington. Employees can earn up to 15 credits towards a master's degree in various IT disciplines that can be transferred to the University of Maryland or Syracuse University.

Hire them, keep them

Some decent recruitment and retention programs existed but had gone largely unnoticed until recently, France said. About 18 months ago, the Office of Personnel Management created incentives to retain and recruit IT workers. OPM based bonuses on salary, in-grade increases and time off for employees who have an outstanding performance record in the IT area.

Who's In Charge

Linton Wells II

Acting Chief Information Officer

Margaret Myers

Acting Deputy CIO

Raymond Paul

Deputy Director for Acquisition and Investment

Debra Stouffer

Deputy CIO for IT Reform

Donna Eden

Director for Investment Strategies Policy
and Management

Joyce France

Division Chief for Defense Department
Information Technology Workforce Management

Navy Capt. Katharine Burton

Staff Director for DOD Information
Assurance Program

Stephen Ramp

Chief for Civilian Training Policy in the Office of the Secretary of Defense

Top Contractors

AT&T Corp. $265.1
Advanced Technology Systems87.66
Science Applications International Corp.171.0
Electronic Data Systems Corp. 140.1
Computer Sciences Corp.125.8
Sprint Corp.116.5
WorldCom Inc.114.6
Northrop Grumman Corp.112.5
Lockheed Martin Corp.80.1
Unisys Corp.79.0
Raytheon Co.78.6

Sources for Inside Defense included the Defense Department and Input of Chantilly, Va.

'One of the things we started to do was market those flexibilities,' France said. Her office also conducted a survey asking Defense managers whether they were aware of the incentives and if they were using them.

Very few were, she said.

'So right now, we are really promoting that within the DOD,' France said. 'That's something that's simple and quick, and we can have a big return on. Now, people are budgeting for retention bonuses.'

France is also encouraging both civilian and military managers in DOD to attend IT symposiums and training. This creates a more competent work force, and the training can be passed down to subordinates, she said.

'What I'm pushing is to look at it in a holistic manner,' France said. 'I'm talking about recruitment, retention, education and training. Normally an agency focuses on one area.'

Raymond Paul agreed. DOD has to approach work force issues this way to compete with industry, said Paul, deputy director of acquisition and investment in the CIO Office.

Many people would 'rather go work in private industry than come to government because there's a chance to get rich,' Paul said. 'So, there's a question or pause here with the bubble bursting: Will we be able to attract some of those people back to government given that [the private sector is] not as lucrative as it once was?'

Tight belt helps

One thing that might help is that industry has been tightening its collective belt because of the slow economy. Many large IT companies announced layoffs within the past year.

Government agencies, however, aren't suited to competing for these displaced workers as quickly as the private sector is.

'A lot of those folks, when a company fails, within three or four weeks they have new jobs,' France said. 'It takes the federal government longer than three to four weeks to make an offer.'
So DOD has to compete in other areas.

Reaching university students still grappling with choosing a career is the department's biggest aim. With the Information Assurance Scholarship Program, designed to recruit students interested in computer and network security, France hopes to attract workers who can keep Defense systems secure in the years ahead.

The National Defense Authorization Act of 2001 mandated the program. Initially, DOD will offer scholarships at 23 colleges and universities. The department plans to award 12 scholarships during the next school year, France said.

Students receiving the scholarships must commit to work for a Defense agency for a minimum of two years after they graduate.

Paul and France said they must take a long view to assure DOD's systems.

'The dependency on computers, the complexity and change creates vulnerabilities that we're concerned about for the future,' Paul said.

Major Programs
' Global Command and Control System. This system, fielded at more than 600 sites worldwide and networked through the Defense Department's classified intranet, provides a common operational picture for battlefield and other deployments. GCCS can correlate and fuse data from multiple systems, sensors and intelligence sources.

' Defense Message System. Through the DMS effort, the Defense Information Systems Agency is phasing out AUTODIN, the 40-year-old bulk messaging system that DOD uses to ship electronic memos via hundreds of military message centers. By September 2003, DISA expects to complete the migration to DMS, which is currently in Version 2.2. DISA estimates that the department will spend roughly $500 million on DISA under the contract held by Lockheed Martin Corp. The contract has a purchasing ceiling of $1.6 billion.

' Air Force Enterprise Software Initiative. As the lead agency on this Defense-wide project, the Air Force is developing software licensing agreements for use by organizations throughout DOD.

' Army Battlefield Digitization. Through its Force XXI, the Army is developing and fielding a vast web of computers, radios and deployment communications systems to give frontline officers access to real-time battlefield information.

' Navy-Marine Corps Intranet. One of the government's largest systems outsourcing contracts, NMCI will consolidate 200 networks into an intranet linking more than 360,000 desktop PCs. Electronic Data Systems Corp. won the five-year, $6.9 billion contract.


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