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FCW : June 15, 2015
Federal workforce issues were front and center during a Senate hearing in May at which experts discussed the issues that leave cybersecurity and other critical positions unfilled. The experts told the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee’s Regu- latory Affairs and Federal Management Subcommittee that the federal workforce has some serious problems. Employees often take on managerial roles to boost their pay, which can lead to a shortage of employees in technical roles and make it difficult for those man- agers to make good hiring decisions. “If you have to go into the manage- ment and supervisory roles to increase your pay, whether you feel you’re suited for that or whether you really want to do that or not, I think it does a disservice to our technicians and to our managers,” said Patricia Niehaus, national president of the Federal Man- agers Association. She was not alone in criticizing the General Schedule classification and pay system. Subcommittee Chairman James Lankford (R-Okla.) said, “We’ve got to ask ourselves, ‘Is this the right way to do this?’” The experts offered some sugges- tions. For instance, “management should be a profession within the fed- eral government rather than an addi- tional duty,” Niehaus said. Dan Blair, president of the Nation- al Academy of Public Administration, recommended that one-year proba- tionary periods for new employees begin only after training has been completed. “When managers...have to make a decision about whether or not to retain an employee, many of [the new employees] are still in training,” he added. “Let them show that they can do the job rather than have a supervi- sor guess.” However, American Federation of Government Employees President J. David Cox warned against a one-size- fits-all probation policy, and he pushed hard for raising salaries for federal employees. Citing Office of Personnel Management data, he said federal employees’ salaries are an average of 35 per- cent lower than private-sec - tor employees doing similar work. Other studies that include the value of benefits have shown that federal employ- ees earn more than their private-sector counterparts. A 2012 analysis by the Congressional Budget Office, for instance, showed that feds make 16 percent more in total compensation. Although Blair and Niehaus recom- mended tying federal pay more close- ly to performance to attract talented professionals and incentivize current employees, Cox said federal workers need higher pay across the board and that sequestration should be ended. He also disputed the notion that the system for getting rid of underperform- ing employees is overly complex. “The provisions are there to move in a very timely process,” he said and blamed conflict-averse managers. Others recommended a more flexible compensation system that could keep pace with the private sector in critical areas, including IT and cybersecurity. “The current system promotes a workforce based on longevity rather than performance,” Niehaus said. “The highest-performing employees should be rewarded with the highest rates of pay.” — Zach Noble Experts: Hiring, firing and pay all need fixing files were purged from HHS.gov as part of a recent redesign 154,000 June 15, 2015 FCW.COM 11 Researchers at Los Alamos National Laboratory say they have learned how to glean information that can be used to forecast outbreaks of flu and other infectious diseases by analyzing views of Wikipedia articles. Understanding the dynamics of influenza and other infectious diseases and forecasting their impact are funda- mental to developing prevention and mitigation strategies. To do that, Los Alamos researchers combined modern data assimilation methods with Wikipe- dia access logs and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention influenza-like illness (ILI) reports to create a weekly forecast for seasonal flu outbreaks. The research taps into the tendency of people who have come down with the flu to search for information online. Researchers said Wikipedia access logs are highly correlated with historical ILI records and enable accurate predic- tion of ILI data several weeks before it becomes available. The researchers’ results showed that prior to the peak of the flu season, their forecasting method projected the actual outcome with a high probability. “The ability to more accurately fore- cast the flu season and other infectious diseases will transform the way health departments prepare for and respond to epidemics, ultimately saving lives,” Los Alamos scientist Sara Del Valle said. “We used techniques often seen in weather forecasting to iteratively tune a model of influenza dynamics based on Wikipedia observations so that our forecast agrees with the most cur- rent ILI data,” said Kyle Hickman, a researcher at Los Alamos. — Mark Rockwell Can Wikipedia forecast the flu? NAPAWASH.ORG Dan Blair recommends that one-year probationary periods for new employees begin only after training has been completed. GSA.GOV/ZAIDHAMID 0615fcw_003-011.indd 11 5/27/15 1:54 PM
May 30, 2015
June 30, 2015