The Obama administration is looking to hire an army of high-tech computer warriors to straighten out the government's digital mess and bring it into the modern age.
Headed by former Google techno-whiz Mikey Dickerson, the man credited with straightening out Obamacare's glitch-ridden, crash-prone application process, the U.S. Digital Service (UDS) is combing Silicon Valley cube farms, trying to convince high-paid computer aces temporarily to switch from the private sector to government service, Politico reports.
It's not an easy task, raiding top computer firms to amass a work force of 700 "programmers, designers, information architects, tech-savvy lawyers, and others," Politico notes, but Dickerson and UDS has one appeal that, so far, seems to be working —
The drive to hire received a boost on May 1 when the Office of Personnel Management allowed over two dozen federal agencies to fast track applications for high-tech jobs that pay between $51,000 and $132,000 per year, Politico notes.
Jennifer Tress, director of operations for 18F, the General Services Administration (GSA) hiring branch, told Politico, "The message when we do recruitment events is, 'Your government needs you right now,' and that message doesn’t resonate if 'right now' means six months from now."
Obama is seeking $105 million to pay for the skilled manpower drive, and employees are to be hired, like the Peace Corps, for a two-year stint, ending no later than the fall of 2017. Whether the program will survive Obama's presidency is questionable.
However, Elaine Kamarck, a former Clinton administration civil service reform official, warned, "They’re gonna fail. They can go to Silicon Valley all they want, but the pay is not competitive and the hiring is too clumsy. They need to fix the bigger system," Politico reported.
Dickerson told FCW
that the two-year limit, during which new hires streamline fouled-up government computer operations and after which they usually return to their former tech industry jobs, is similar to what happened with him. Originally hired for a few days to fix the Obamacare mess, he ended up staying for three months. He soon returned to the government, he said, because the work was "more important and meaningful than anything I could have accomplished in a lifetime working at my old job."
Former National Public Radio digital strategist Melody Kramer told Politico, "You help build something, you help fix something, and you’re in and you’re out."
And there's plenty of work to be done. "The demand from the agencies is also more than we could ever satisfy. We have met with 22 of them and identified around 60 projects that need attention," Dickerson said at the SXSW festival in Austin, Texas, FCW reported.
Kara DeFrias, 18F's consulting team deputy director and formerly with Intuit, left the private sector after she heard Dickerson say, "We have found the problems. We need the human beings. We are calling on America's talented technologists to be part of the solution."
"Happy to be one of the human beings. And honored to be able to work on improving this great nation of ours," she told the Huffington Post.
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