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Our review of IT-related literature revealed a concern among federal government employers regarding the potential for an IT personnel shortage in military and intelligence agencies. In fact, the House Subcommittee on Technology and Procurement Policy held hearings on what it envisioned as a growing crisis in the federal IT and acquisition workforce. The October 4, 2001, hearing was held to discuss proposed legislation for the recruitment, management, and compensation of federal IT and acquisition workers. Congressional reports on the hearing provide a rich source of information regarding views in the federal government on IT manpower and other personnel issues.
Many of those present at the hearing described their concerns about an impending shortage of IT workers. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Tom Davis of Virginia, anticipated pressure on the IT workforce from three sources: an expected large number of IT retirements over the current decade, a growing demand within government for IT workers, and a continuing growth in demand for IT workers in the private sector. Davis stated that the government would need an additional 16,000 IT hires in 2001 and the private sector Issues and Practices in Managing IT Occupations: Views from the Literature 17 would have 425,000 unfilled IT positions.6 Davis (2001) went on to state that whereas IT held the promise of significant gains in providing government services cost-effectively, the
current federal personnel management system was simply not up to the task:
Unfortunately, the current human resources management system for the vast majority of federal employees in the General Schedules system is dominated by a “onesize-fits-all” philosophy. It is built upon 19th century principles of centralized policy development, selection from rigidly numbered lists of candidates, and uniform pay scales that cannot respond to the different roles, missions and needs of the nearly 100 independent agencies.
Attendees at the meeting went so far as to propose new legislation aimed at addressing and potentially preventing the predicted shortfall by improving the recruitment and retention of IT personnel. The proposed legislation had three main emphases:
• Create a market-based, pay-for-performance system with broad pay bands. “In practice, this would entail broadening the GS 5–15 pay grades into 4 bands. Managers in each agency would be given the authority to set salaries within the bands to correspond with an individual’s work performance” (Federal Acquisition Report, 2001).
• Add flexibility to recruiting by using excepted service, noncareer appointments that would lead to much faster hiring than under traditional career and career-conditional appointments.
• Encourage the development of additional benefits, e.g., better training and educational opportunities (Federal Acquisition Report, 2001). 7 The General Accounting Office (GAO), which also offered testimony, discussed the assessments of IT human capital management it had conducted for the Social Security Administration, Medicare, Small Business Administration, and Coast Guard. These assessments considered four dimensions: the identification of manpower requirements (more specifically, the skills and knowledge needed by the organization to meets its objectives), the size of the manpower inventory (more specifically, the skills and knowledge on hand, so that the gap between requirements and inventory can be determined), the workforce strategies and plans needed to close the gap, and the ongoing assessment and improvement of the strategies and plans when implemented (McClure, 2001).
As part of the discussion, GAO noted that the Coast Guard has been deficient in knowing its human capital requirements and partially deficient in knowing its human capital inventory. The GAO reported, for example, that the Coast Guard’s Office of Force Management, responsible for “identifying, evaluating, and analyzing all IT personnel requirements and ensuring that performance qualifications meet mission needs,” nonetheless had “not assessed the knowledge and skills needed by its civilian IT workforce.” Moreover, the Coast Guard did “not have a complete inventory of IT knowledge and skills.” Although the ____________
6 See Davis, 2001.. The 425,000 figure probably came from an ITAA (2001) report released in the spring.
7 Later in the hearings, Mark Forman, representing the Office of Management and Budget, stated that the Bush Administration would soon submit legislation to seek “ enhanced authority to use recruitment and retention bonuses, permit agencies to easily develop demonstration projects and implement alternative personnel systems, authorize managers to use workforce restructuring tools including early retirement packages and buyouts, and recruit and treat senior executives more comparably with their private sector counterparts.” See the testimony of Mark Forman (2001).
18 Attracting the Best: How the Military Competes for Information Technology Personnel Coast Guard had policies and procedures for addressing gaps between requirements and inventory, since it “had not yet fully defined the IT skills and knowledge needed by its civilian workforce,” it did not have a strategy for meeting those needs. Neither had the Coast Guard’s Office of Management “analyzed or reported on the effectiveness of its specific recruiting, training, and incentive programs” (McClure, 2001).
Testimony at the same hearing from the Office of Personnel Management (OPM) (Winstead, 2001) focused on what OPM recognized as certain inadequacies in the federal compensation system that would affect the recruitment and retention of qualified IT personnel. These inadequacies, which were documented in a report prepared by the National Academy of Public Administration (NAPA), included8 • “too much emphasis on internal equity and too little sensitivity to the market”
• too little recognition of individual performance (referred to in the NAPA report as “contribution equity”)
• too little flexibility to adjust to market wage dynamics at a government-wide level.
On behalf of OPM, Winstead (2001) testified that steps were being taken to respond to these inadequacies, however. Specifically, 7 to 33 percent salary rate increases for federal IT workers took effect in January 2001, and OPM issued a new IT classification standard.
Other testimonies also described steps taken to improve the recruitment of IT personnel. Donald Upson, Secretary of Technology of the Commonwealth of Virginia, testified (2001) that Virginia had recently revamped and modernized its personnel management and compensation system, reducing its legacy system of 1,650 job classifications to 300, including 11 in IT career fields. Salaries in the IT fields were increased, and broad pay bands ensured that workers would not have to become supervisors to receive a large pay increase. Virginia offered its workers expanded opportunity for telecommuting; tuition assistance; greater training opportunities; hiring and retention bonuses of up to $10,000; up to 30 days vacation for new or incumbent employees; an open-ended window within which to use compensatory time; salary adjustments of up to 10 percent for retention, internal alignment, or for learning and applying new skills; and higher percentage increases for promotions.
Not everyone at the hearing was convinced of the existence of a recruiting problem in IT fields. In a dissenting view, Colleen Kelley (2001), president of the National Treasury Employees Union, stated (among other things) that the problem in federal government IT personnel organization was not the lack of flexibility in the federal compensation and management system, but the lack of funding to allow managers to implement the flexibility. According to Kelley’s testimony, agencies can “offer retention allowances of up to 25% of salary, bonuses of up to 25% of basic pay, performance awards, student loan repayment awards, incentive awards and even bilingual awards.” She added that in December of 1999, the Office of Personnel Management reported that overall, only 1.4% of all Executive Branch employees received recruitment, retention or relocation incentives (3Rs) in FY 1998. Recruitment bonuses were given 0.3% of the time. Relocation bonuses were given to 1.0 percent of employees and 0.09% of emSee NAPA, 2001. Winstead’s testimony (2001) points out that the NAPA report was “part of a cooperative effort by NAPA, the Chief Information Officers Council, the Human Resources Management Council, and the Office of Personnel Management to improve the government’s ability to attract and keep top quality information technology workers.” Issues and Practices in Managing IT Occupations: Views from the Literature 19 ployees received retention allowances. Less than 1/4 of 1% of the federal workforce received any form of recruitment, retention or relocation incentive in FY 1998 (Kelley, 2001).
IT Careers in the Military Judging by the military IT occupations cited in U.S. Office of the Secretary of Defense, 1999, and our review of the literature on this topic, there are substantial opportunities in IT occupations for both enlisted members and officers. Enlisted IT members establish, operate, and maintain networks, serve as systems administrators, operate and maintain small computers, and process data. Officers in IT occupations concern themselves with higher-level activities of systems design, telecommunications, command and control, information warfare, and the provision of information. We can expect that IT occupations are, like other military occupations, designed around a set of core tasks that have been defined by the training community working in conjunction with the end users. The training community also defines the skills and knowledge required to perform the core tasks and determines which of the tasks should be taught in advanced individual training and which should be learned on the job.
The opportunity to learn and use basic computer skills is presumably a strong attraction for IT enlisted recruits, particularly considering the private-sector value of these skills.
Military members can also have their IT skills certified and can obtain additional IT training through private providers. These opportunities increase the transferability of IT skills acquired through military service and increase the attractiveness for recruits of entering into such fields. For instance, Military-To-Work is a web site that targets ex-military personnel for IT and communications jobs. The site, piloted in the spring of 1999, was developed by the Communications Workers of America with a grant from the Department of Labor and backed by several corporations (US West Communications, AT&T, and Bell Atlantic). Also, Microsoft offers certification for systems administration and for systems engineer. The Microsoft web site provides information and links. The Microsoft Military IT Career program was available nationwide in 1999 at 160 bases and posts, with training costs ranging from $200 for books for the self-paced option to $1,000–$2,000 for each instructor-led course.
There are online aptitude tests, and “service members may use Montgomery GI Bill and Tuition Assistance to finance training expenses” (see Vincent, 1999).
A high rate of change in IT means a high rate of obsolescence of IT human capital.
Given a high rate of obsolescence, a worker’s stock of IT human capital will grow only if the rate of investment is high and geared to the latest hardware and software. To the extent that military IT is up-to-date, the IT education and training provided by the military can be transferred to the private sector. But while the transferability of training thus can have a positive influence on recruitment, it may have a negative influence on retention if recruits leave the military early in their careers to pursue civilian jobs.9 The growth of IT has given impetus to the restructuring of military occupations.
These changes have typically focused on simplifying and consolidating IT occupations. For ____________
9 This observation was echoed in our interviews, and we consider it when modeling the supply of IT personnel in Chapter Six.