Defense IT management worries about the Y factor

Defense IT management worries about the Y factor

MONTEREY, Calif.'The Defense Department is struggling to attract 'the high-tech, under-30, Generation Y crowd,' acting CIO Linton Wells says.

DOD is grappling with how to attract and retain IT professionals given that more than 50 percent of its civilian workforce will retire within the next five years, said Wells, acting assistant secretary of Defense for network and information integration.

"For people under 30, being connected is an inherent part of their lifestyles," he said. "When we bring them into the government environment, we tell them to put their cell phone over here, their PDA there and that's likely to be a fundamental turnoff. We have to figure out how to attract them."

Wells, who gave the opening keynote today at the Military Communications Conference 2004, said another daunting challenge is the need to change business processes and culture in DOD as fast as the department adapts to new technologies.

On the flip side, Wells cautioned against moving too fast to new technologies until security concerns are hashed out.

For example, Wells said there is an Air Force base that lost the use of its networks recently. The phone systems at the base were all that worked that day.

"What would have happened if it was all a voice over IP network? Where's the backup plan?" Wells cautioned. "When do you feel comfortable enough with a new technology" such as VOIP or WiFi, and "what is the right balance in getting more security" into the technologies?

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