Address workforce issues in detail for better project management


There's been ample opportunity to recently contemplate why the federal government is so bad at project management. During a recent Senate hearing, federal officials discussed another root cause--the information technology skills gap that exists in government.

That such a skills gap exists is just about universally recognized. In a recent FierceGovernmentIT Q&A, former FBI Chief Technology Officer Jack Israel placed the IT skills gap high on his list of causes behind the deeply problematic rollout of the Sentinel case management program.

Unfortunately, he also suggested that the problem is even deeper than most people, including those within the Office of Personnel Management, are willing to admit.

Namely, Israel noted that the OPM classification series for IT workers (2210) ranges "from people with no degrees at all--for example, in the FBI, we had secretaries who became operational computer specialists, people who maintained a computer at a very basic level or worked at a help desk--to those who have Ph.D.s in computer science or computer engineering."

As a result, the topline number of 2210 workers is deceptive, since "people with very different computer backgrounds are lumped together," Israel noted.

During the Senate hearing, OPM Director John Berry assured lawmakers that his agency is focused on recruiting and retaining employees with in-demand skills. Unfortunately, he didn't say much beyond the usual touchstone clichés of promising to make things better.

The time for moving beyond a shallow discussion of the skills gap is clearly here. The next time that the Senate calls a hearing on workforce issues, might they have Berry discuss specifics, rather than being content with generalizations? Perhaps Berry could volunteer such specifics on his own--for example, will he make the IT worker series more exact? The success of the federal government hinges on such matters. - Dave