Defense IT specialists show staying power

The GCN Reader Survey is intended to provide data on trends and product preferences. This survey on IT work force trends is based on an e-mail survey of 145 federal readers who on their subscription forms identified themselves as IT managers.

Defense Department IT specialists in a GCN e-mail survey about work force trends were manifestly more committed to government work than their civilian-agency counterparts.

Asked if they would leave government work for a job in private industry if the right offer came up, 62 percent of Defense IT employees reported that they would say thanks but no thanks, and elect to stay in government; 38 percent said they would take the industry job.

By contrast, 44 percent of civilian respondents said they would remain in government; 56 percent said they would grab the private-sector job.

'I have been committed to government service, good or bad, since age 18,' wrote a Navy IT manager. 'When I finally hang up my spurs, no one will ever be able to say I wasn't faithful to the cause.'

'What we do is relevant to the defense of our country,' said another military IT specialist.

This is not to say that workers at civilian agencies don't share the same altruistic spirit.

A Social Security Administration IT specialist, a 34-year veteran of the agency who builds claims-processing software, said: 'In our IT shop we can see the effect of our labor on the third day of each month, when 46 million retirement, survivor and disability payments are made. Our work demonstrably affects people and the economy. It is important and good work.'

Nevertheless, a substantial number of them will head out the door in the next decade, the survey also found.

Overall, nearly a third of respondents, 32 percent, said they planned to retire or leave government work in the next four years. More than half, 56 percent, expected to depart within the next 10 years.

Survey respondents also expressed a range of likes and dislikes about their jobs.
'The job is never boring!' said one respondent.

One IT specialist relished the opportunity to work on large-scale IT projects that government IT offers. 'I am not stuck in a cubicle doing small projects,' he said.

On the other hand, they groused about generally lower pay scales than industry and a complex federal budget process that makes planning and procurement difficult.

They also complained mightily about government red tape:
  • 'There are too many management layers.'

  • 'The bureaucracy is too thick to deal with.'

  • 'There are too many regulations.'

Then there's the work force shortage.

'There's not enough staff to do the work,' complained a systems specialist.


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