Government Losing Staff To Net, Y2K (L.A. Times via S.F. Chronicle) : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Warm fuzzies... about who is really there... in the dot gov and dot mil arena... for Y2K fixes?



Government Losing Staff To Net, Y2K
Elizabeth Shogren, Los Angeles Times
Friday, November 26, 1999
)1999 San Francisco Chronicle

[Fair Use: For Educational/Research Purposes Only]

By the time he sold the company last year for $124 million, roughly half of his 72 staffers had been hired directly from the military or other federal agencies. And now, as he builds his second startup, San Antonio's SecureLogix Corp., he is luring dozens more computer personnel away from the government.

Futterfield is just one of thousands of private-sector employers who are contributing to an increasingly troublesome personnel crisis for federal officials. While the government has been plagued by a shortage of computer professionals for years, the brain drain has been exacerbated by the continuing high-tech boom and, more recently, the Internet explosion and 2000 bug.

``Retention has always been a problem, but nowadays it's probably the worst it's ever been,'' said Futterfield, 48. ``We're one of the companies hiring them away as fast as we can.''

Alarmed by the continuing loss of personnel, the chief information officers of various federal agencies are desperately seeking ways to attract technological talent. President Clinton is even pressing Congress to create an ROTC-like program for computer specialists to cover college costs in exchange for a four-year commitment to join the government ``cyber corps.''

Although there is no official tally of computer professionals in the civilian branches of the federal government, the Air Force, the most technology-intensive of the military services, has more than 60,000 computer professionals, including enlisted personnel, officers and civilians.

In some branches of the government, including the Air Force, top officials fear the shortfall will soon hurt operations. And intelligence officials are concerned that unless the problem is addressed, the security of the government's computer networks may be compromised.

``There is a shortage of talent, and the talent available went to Y2K,'' complained Gloria Parker, chief information officer for the Department of Housing and Urban Development and co-chairwoman of the workforce committee of the federal Chief Information Officers Council.

The White House has commissioned a study to explore the scope of the shortfall, but the results will not be ready until next year. In the meantime, officials say it appears the government needs a quarter to a third more technology personnel than it currently has.

``It's more than just anecdotal; I think that we're in a crisis,'' said George Milaski, the Department of Transportation's chief information officer.

Officials say the problem is particularly acute in the military, where salaries are lower and working conditions are often more difficult.

Air Force Gen. William J. Donahue said the service has avoided serious problems so far by calling on computer staffers to work longer hours and assigning junior personnel to higher-level tasks.

``You've got some very junior people out there on the front lines,'' said Donahue, who manages the Air Force's information technology professionals. ``I don't know how long (we) can continue to endure this kind of stress before it starts taking a huge toll. . . . It's a very serious problem.''

Aboard the San Diego-based aircraft carrier John C. Stennis, the problem of retaining computer technicians has reached the point that Pacific Fleet commanders are considering a request to hire civilian tech workers for six-month deployments on the Stennis and other ships.

``Many of these kids are making, what, $20,000 a year?'' Cmdr. Bruce Acton, one of the Stennis' top computer officers, said in an interview as the carrier conducted a recent training cruise. ``When it comes time for re-enlistment, I can offer them $22,000 and another four years at sea away from their families. Or they can go into the private sector and make $45,000 to $50,000. It's not a hard choice for them.''

The federal government is not alone. State agencies have a ``significant problem'' in recruiting and retaining people with up- to-date computer skills, said Peter Strom, chief of policy and operations for the California Department of Personnel Administration.

The state is now instituting salary increases of 10 percent to 20 percent above base pay for people with current skills, plus an additional 5 percent for workers in the Bay Area because of the lure of Silicon Valley startups.

-- Diane J. Squire (, November 26, 1999


Thanks for a very interesting post, Diane. Will see what Y2K brings -- collapse of the whole thing, programmers effigied, etc. OR programmers desperately wanted and hailed as heroes OR ???

If lessons are learned and standards & certification implemented (if that would help), we are seriously considering a career change.

-- Ashton & Leska in Cascadia (, November 26, 1999.

Thanks Diane!!

-- karla (, November 26, 1999.

Hell, programmers, The Army can't even keep us grunts in anymore. When the economy is doing so 'wel' that even your basic trooper can get out and make $22000 starting on a helpdesk without any experience, then you know that the .gov and the .mil is in trouble. When I got out, I was still waiting for the VA to rate me percentage wise. For Shits n' grins I checked out the local Guard Unit, just to see if A) I could, and B) what the Guard looks like these days. When I told the recruiter that I was out with 10 years experience, but waiting on the VA, he said not to worry, that we just wouldn't mention that and by the way can you loose that medical record? The military, thanks to the Clinton Regime, has lost more people than ever. This has been building for years now. Look at thge fact that two entire divisions, the 10th Mountain and the 1st Infantry were rated as "unacceptable and nondeployable" this past quarter. Only now are they truly realizing the extent of their losses.

-- Billy-Boy (, November 26, 1999.

"a", with my agreement, has argued on this forum that the complexity of today's software systems HAS been straining the world system even before Y2K and is increasing in complexity FASTER than our current ability to manage it. Hamasaki has his own version of this.

Software does, in fact, "age" and grow brittle (not enuf time here to explain why/how) as complexity curves increase beyond a certain point.

When you combine that with a junior workforce that mouse-twiddles, the outcome can't be good.

-- BigDog (, November 26, 1999.

Big Dog: "..mouse twiddles..."? Laughed till I was sick! Diane: Is there a disconnect here or am I missing something? Every day there is an article by someone on how corporations are laying off computer people etc. Now we are saying there is a severe shortage? Is it the different types involved or what?

-- Neil G.Lewis (, November 26, 1999.

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