What the Fed-Friendly Budget Means for IT

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Should a tech GS-9 be paid the same as a nontech GS-9?

The Obama administration’s 2015 budget blueprint released Tuesday stresses the need for a top-notch federal information technology workforce to enable the government to deliver on its goals for smarter IT services and focus IT projects less on compliance and more on delivering impact.

“To do this, we need the best talent working inside government, the best companies working with government and the best processes in place to ensure accountability for delivering results for the American people,” the 2015 budget proposal states.

Several new initiatives outlined in the proposal could help better position the government as an attractive employer to current and would-be professionals with in-demand technology skills. The budget proposes investments in federal employee hiring, training, retention and onboarding, as well as demonstration projects to help identify best practices in those areas across agencies.

“One of the exciting pieces is the investment in training dollars, and that’s particularly important for folks in STEM [science, technology, engineering and math] occupations, because more than ever, those are the folks who have to stay on top of new developments and innovations,” Tim McManus, vice president of education and outreach at the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, told Wired Workplace on Wednesday. “Training is also something that those cohorts frequently value more than other occupational groups.”

The budget proposal’s emphasis on recruitment and retention also represents a positive step forward for strengthening the government’s IT and cybersecurity workforce, particularly as budget cuts, pay freezes and sequestration over the past few years have frequently tied the hands of federal managers in hiring needed talent, McManus added.

“Agencies were continually asked to be doing more with less,” he said. “If you look at the cybersecurity workforce, for instance, there were a lot more cyber attacks, yet agencies did not have the personnel and the talent to necessarily deal with it all.”

Still, one area the fiscal 2015 budget proposal does not address is the need for a more flexible, market-driven pay system that could help agencies better compete with other sectors for highly-skilled STEM talent, McManus said. The Partnership will release a report next month that outlines what civil service reform would look like, with one major element being an overhaul of the rigid General Schedule pay system, he said.

“If you look at the General Schedule, an IT professional coming in at a GS-9 is going to make the same as a policy analyst coming in at a GS-9,” McManus said. “That’s really not the way that the world is set up right now, and in order for government to really compete, there are issues of market sensitive pay that are going to need to be addressed.” 

(Image via wrangler/Shutterstock.com)

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