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Federal IT hiring slips with political deadlock

Patrick Thibodeau and Sharon Machlis | Sept. 30, 2013
Data shows a downward trend in IT hiring after a jump in the size of the government's IT workforce

But the flexibility that comes with private contractors is limited. The authority to make management decisions or changes on a team is more direct if all the individuals on the team are employees, Holgate said. "That authority becomes a little less direct, obviously, when there is a contract relationship involved."

This chart shows the median minimum salary levels indicated for tech jobs on USAJobs.gov, the federal employment website.

In 2010, the federal government had 75,900 IT workers. The increase in the IT workforce from 2010, by nearly 8,000 IT workers, followed President Obama's push for more insourcing, or work done by federal employees instead of contractors, in government. Obama's first CIO, Vivek Kundra, was particularly critical of federal dependency on large IT contracts, and the hiring of contractors who end up "on the payroll indefinitely."

Ray Bjorklund, who heads market research firm BirchGrove Consulting, said the job growth between 2010 and 2012 "could have been an artifact of the initial wave of insourcing."

Bjorklund said he doesn't see a clear cause and effect in the data. The increase in the workforce happened at the same time that Kundra put emphasis on infrastructure consolidation and data center downsizing.

"Why would you need to add more people, if you intend to reduce the IT footprint?" he asked. Were the feds trying to bring in fresh talent, prior to the accelerated budget constraints, including sequester, that they face today?"

What is clear is that planning in federal IT is harder due to the budget issues.

Steve VanRoekel, the federal CIO, appearing recently before the White House science advisory panel, said that sequestration and the overall budget uncertainty make it "really tough for people to think about, how do I invest, how do I do investment that can drive benefit well into the future?"

For now, VanRoekel said he and other CIOS in government are discussing "things we can do smarter about consolidating resources," and shared services.

US government tech jobs

This chart shows the median maximum salary levels indicated for tech jobs on USAJobs.gov, the federal employment website.

 

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