What tech leaders say about a US Digital Service Academy agency – FCW


What tech leaders think about the agencies of a US Digital Service Academy

A digital services training school modeled on military service academies could produce technicians for the government, but lengthy hiring processes and low salaries could be barriers for agencies to capitalize on this talent, new report says from the Government Accountability Office released Friday.

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (DN.Y.), chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee’s personnel subcommittee, requested the GAO report, which included information from federal technology leaders, including CIOs and data officers.

The National Safety Commission on Artificial Intelligence recommended the creation of a US Digital Service Academy in a report to Congress.

Gillibrand herself pitched a similar idea for an academy focused on cyber and operations during a hearing in May 2021.

Such a school would create a new pipeline to government through training in AI, software engineering, computer science, cybersecurity, and data science, in return for five years of full-time federal service – similar to the provisions of military academies. .

Talent needs vary from agency to agency, but agency executives said they could use talent to implement IT modernization, use cutting-edge technologies, manage cybersecurity risks, and rethink service delivery.

But the prospect of actually absorbing graduates into government and retaining them raises several government-wide issues.

“Federal agencies face challenges in recruiting and retaining qualified digital personnel because the career path is not well defined,” the report said. “The Office of Personnel Management’s current professional series do not capture the range of digital service positions needed in the federal government, which limits recruitment efforts. Once staff are hired, opportunities for training, development and advancement may be limited due to bureaucratic barriers. , according to the participants. “

There are also long-standing issues around hiring and compensation.

Senior technical officials told GAO that “without a more streamlined approach to on-staffing, many digital service employees would likely not be willing to wait for the lengthy federal hiring process when the private sector can hire. quickly and often with a better salary “.

One official proposed a recent onboarding schedule of 19 months for an official in a digital services leadership position.

There is also compensation, where the federal government is struggling to compete with the industry. Roundtable participants also reported pay differences between agencies, “noting that staff move to other agencies which may offer more competitive salary ranges.”

Tech leaders have signaled the need for modern technology infrastructure itself in the first place as a potential blocker.

“The lack of modern technological infrastructure limits the ability of government agencies to leverage the skills of digital service personnel,” the report said.

Agencies should also ensure that they have enough “full-time equivalent” positions available in an agency, determined by the Bureau of Management and Budget, to recruit graduates from that academy if it were to be created.

The report also discusses internal agency considerations regarding hiring and retaining staff from any type of academy, including developing professional growth opportunities for digital staff and ensuring that agencies have a culture of focus. data, and includes information from technology leaders on considerations for such an academy. himself. Panelists told GAO that an academy targeting higher education could be successful, given the agencies’ needs for advanced skills.

About the Author

Natalie Alms is a writer at FCW and covers the Federal Workforce. She recently graduated from Wake Forest University and wrote for the Salisbury (NC) Post. Connect with Natalie on Twitter at @AlmsNatalie.

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