OPM launches public-private IT workforce swap

The Office of Personnel Management hopes its new IT workforce swap between the federal and private sectors will yield an unprecedented level of information sharing between them, as well as provide private IT experts with a unique glimpse into the federal space and vice versa.

With the launching of the IT Exchange Program (ITEP) on the agency's Web site earlier this week, OPM expects the government and the private sector to share best practices, and potentially employees, enabling both to gain a better understanding of each other's needs.

"Private-sector employees would gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the challenges federal agencies face in meeting the growing demand for government services," said OPM's Hakeen Basheerd-Deen, ITEP program manager. "The private sector will observe how government agencies work with their stakeholders to make important IT decisions and get the government perspective on today's important IT issues."

The exchange was required under the E-Government Act of 2002, which directed senior federal IT workers to gain experience in the private sector. OPM finalized the rules for the program in August.

The agency partnered with the CIO Council and the American Council for Technology/Industry Advisory Council of Fairfax, Va., to bring the program to fruition. ITEP allows certain IT employees from both the private and public sectors to receive temporary assignments of three months to one year in the opposite sector.

Federal workers must have at least a GS-11 rank and participating agencies must make semiannual reports to OPM detailing the number of employees taking part in the program, their names and a brief description of their assignments.

But before agencies can detail employees or accept private-sector workers, they must develop departmentwide plans and written agreements.

Private workers being swapped must meet citizenship requirements and be subject to the same ethical standards as their federal counterparts. Vendors must be registered in the Central Contractor Registration database.

The program expires Dec. 17, 2007.

Thus far, the departments of Commerce, Defense, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, Justice and Treasury, the Environmental Protection Agency, the FBI and OPM are participating in the program, and each has posted data on OPM's USAJobs Web site.

"This is a wonderful opportunity for both federal and private-sector IT employees to expand their breadth of experience through a program not previously available to them," said Nancy Kichak, OPM's associate director for strategic human resources policy. "The ITEP will also help private-sector leaders have a greater understanding of how agencies and departments in the federal government manage IT related issues."

Rob Thormeyer is a writer for Washington Technology's sister publication, Government Computer News.

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