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Managing Exodus

By Kevin Fogarty  |  Posted 2004-04-01 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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The Army Corps of Engineers will soon lose most of its experienced technology staff. It is hoping contractors and technology can fill the void.

Wil Berrios expects to lose 75% of his experienced information-technology workers during the next three years. And another 10% in the two years after that.

But he's okay with that.

For Berrios, chief information officer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, the coming wave of retirements is something of a blessing in disguise. Those specific figures reflect only the relatively small information-technology staff at the Corps' headquarters, but Berrios expects the same proportion will apply across the Corps' 1,500-person technology staff.

The exodus gives him an opportunity to manage his systems by outsourcing the bulk of the Corps' information-technology services to contractors who win the business by proving they can do the job more efficiently than internal staffers.

Berrios declined to comment on what positions are likely to be outsourced in the future, pending approval of a plan likely to be finalized later this year. That plan will come together during a long, politically charged process. He expects more arcane functions—maintenance, support of the specialized systems that control dams, waterways and irrigation projects—will remain in the hands of Corps' full-time staffers.

Not that the Corps lacks contractors now. More than half of the approximately $500 million in information-technology services—e-mail and desktop support and custom application development—the Corps provides comes from contractors. Much of the Corps' Unix and Windows system administration and network maintenance are handled by outsiders, as well.

The unit is hardly alone. Nearly 50% of all government workers will be eligible for retirement over the next five to seven years, according to Stan Soloway, president of the Professional Services Council in Arlington, Va., a non-profit agency representing contractors and technology vendors who do business with the federal government.

Other government CIOs might want to watch how Berrios has handled the departures. He has steadily expanded the role of contractors in delivering technology services to the Corps, which has 135,000 military and civilian staffers in 51 sites domestically. The services help the Corps build dams, waterways, roads and other national infrastructure, as well as assist in disaster relief.

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