Lack of workers spurs agencies to offload IT

Lack of workers spurs agencies to offload IT

BY RICHARD W. WALKER | GCN STAFF

There's little doubt that federal agencies are under the gun to outsource secondary information technology functions and services.

Nearly three-quarters of federal IT managers who participated in a recent GCN telephone survey agreed that the pressures to outsource are mounting.

Survey Images
The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on outsourcing is based on a telephone survey of 100 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as systems or information technology managers.
About 64 percent of those federal IT managers said their agencies currently offload at least some IT functions and ser-vices to contractors.

The primary reason? The government's chronic shortage of experienced IT technicians.

'There are so many more computers here right now than there are enough people to fix them,' said Mark Perkins, a supply technician for the Army Aviation Support Facility in Concord, N.H.

At that facility, the Army has over the last couple of years turned over desktop and help desk support to commercial contractors, Perkins said.

For other feds we polled, the situation was much the same.

'The volume of work and the lack of manpower mean we have to outsource,' said an Air Force architect in Valdosta, Ga.

Other respondents said a compelling advantage to outsourcing is the ability to replace equipment quickly.

'We outsource because we can't keep up with changes in technology,' said a Social Security Administration computer specialist in Maryland. He said the agency outsources training services, application development and network support to private-sector contractors.

OMB pressure

Then there's heat from the Bush administration to outsource non-mission-critical IT functions.

The Office of Management and Budget has ordered agencies to compete or outsource 5 percent of the jobs listed in their Federal Activities Inventory Reform Act inventories.


'With the new president, there is a lot more of an emphasis on outsourcing IT services.'


'A Treasury Department computer
specialist in Hyattsville, Md.



'There is a lot of political pressure to outsource.'


'A Defense Department computer specialist in Indianapolis



'We have to outsource because we don't have enough IT staff.'


'A Commerce Department
analyst in San Francisco


'It's very largely a political issue now,' said an Agriculture Department computer systems analyst in LaGrande, Ore.

The top five outsourcing areas were help desk, desktop support, training services, network support and application development, survey participants said.

Among agencies that don't outsource systems work now, about a quarter expect to in the future, according to the managers we surveyed.

An Army Corps of Engineers system administrator in Louisville, Ky., said his office plans to eventually outsource desktop maintenance and repair.

'By outsourcing, it can be done more cheaply, and we get better equipment procurement,' he said.

Among agencies planning to outsource, most expected to move help desk, training services, desktop support, and maintenance and repairs to the private sector.

The survey also brought more discouraging news for advocates of the Seat Management program, a comprehensive desktop outsourcing strategy.

About 60 percent of managers we surveyed said it's not likely that their agencies would adopt the seat management approach in the near future. Only 10 percent thought it very likely that they would migrate to seat.

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