updated 12:42 pm EST, Sun January 5, 2014
Moves could include loosening hiring rules, formation of a new department
Likely as a way to alleviate future project issues, the Obama administration is reportedly evaluating the formation of a new federal unit specifically for complex technology implementations, amongst a few other potential fixes for the governmental "brain drain" in technology. As part of the initiative, the administration is also considering cutting back on restrictions that may possibly be preventing the hiring the best talent for the jobs.
"We don't have enough people inside of government to make good sound technology decisions," said Clay Johnson, a former White House innovation fellow. "I don't believe the present class of [Federal chief information officers] are in touch enough with modern technology to know what's available to them." While not a precise indicator of modern technology familiarity, the federal government has eight times the number of technology employees over age 50, as under age 30.
Two proposals under review according to the Wall Street Journal include reversing the direction of the innovation fellow program, allowing government technology specialists to rotate through private companies rather than the other way around. The other possibility is expanding direct hiring authority and taking authority for these employees away from the Office of Personnel Management, so governmental agencies can be competitive in the jobs market with the private sector, similar to the hiring freedom the Department of Homeland Security has now.
Alan Chvotkin of the Professional Services Council, a government technology contractor organization, believes that the initial failures of Healthcare.gov were due to the government "lagging well behind the private sector in the competition for skills." Additionally, regarding government innovation (or lack thereof), Chvotkin said that "there are dozens of rules, and lots of people who can say no in that process, and very few risk absorbers: someone willing to stand up and say, 'Go forth and do well, I'll take the risk.'"