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FCW : August 30, 2015
Trending personnel who work for the Joint Chiefs of Staff lost email access for nearly two weeks due to a cyberattack 4,000 8 August 30, 2015 FCW.COM One of the best things about jour- nalism is that going out and learn- ing new things every day effectively IS the job description. And although not all jobs are quite so centered on building knowledge, it would be the rare posi- tion in federal IT that does not demand the near-constant cultiva- tion of new skills and expertise. It’s not hard to under- stand why continu- ous learning is such a necessity. Federal agencies have a special set of ever-changing circumstances — from FITARA implementation and cybersecurity protocols to budget politics and acquisition guidelines — but the fundamental technology is evolving even faster. A decade ago, no one needed to worry about cloud security, few had contemplated how to procure software as a service, and predic- tive analytics were an intriguing idea — not something to implement this fiscal year. Is it any wonder that a 2014 survey of IT profes- sionals found that fully 59 percent feared their skill sets would become obsolete? Although the demand is clear, the supply side is a bit more complicated. Tradi- tional degrees are an obvi- ous but expensive solution and one that sometimes lacks the agility working professionals demand. Certificate programs remain a critical part of the IT equation, but sorting the valuable skills from the empty credentials can be a daunt- ing task. The government offers its own training, of course, and massive open online courses (MOOCs) from sources such as edX and Coursera dangle the prospect of free learn- ing from top-flight universities — so long as you’re not among the 90-plus percent of MOOC students who fail to complete the courses! Hands-on learning and commit- ted mentors are arguably the most valuable resources, but they are maddeningly difficult to both find and measure. And all of it comes against a backdrop of tepid training budgets and a “do more with less” culture that leaves precious little time to pursue the training these jobs demand. You won’t find an answer to the time-and-money conundrum in this issue, I’m afraid. But you will find a wealth of information on cur- rent opportunities and some of the efforts to make more training avail- able. As the FCW team learns more through our expanded coverage of training and education, we’ll be sure to share that knowledge here. — Troy K. Schneider firstname.lastname@example.org @troyschneider EDITOR’S NOTE The fundamental challenge of federal IT training A long-simmering controversy between the inspector general community and the Obama administration is heating up. At issue is the access IGs have to agency documents. Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz has been outspoken about a lack of access to certain materials that are needed to conduct oversight of law enforcement agencies such as the FBI and the Drug Enforcement Administra- tion. He said access to those materials has been severely curtailed since 2010. A recent memo from the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel states that the department is justified in withholding or putting conditions on the release of grand jury, credit and wiretap information because competing statutes protect that information. The department “has grappled with two different, and potentially conflict- ing, sets of statutory commands” when dealing with IG information requests, Associate Deputy Attorney General Carlos Uriarte said during a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing earlier this month. Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) was clearly unhappy with the memo and noted that in the fiscal 2015 bill funding the Justice Department, appropriators “essentially bolded and underlined section 6A of the IG Act that ensures access to records.” Horowitz said document produc- tion has been speeding up, but lack of access continues to be a problem. And he warned that whistleblowers might be deterred from disclosing information about malfeasance if it it could later be determined that the material could not be shared with agency watchdogs. Dozens of confirmed and acting IGs signed a letter to the leaders of the House and Senate government watch- dog committees asking for legislation that “affirms the independent authority of inspectors general to access without delay” all information sought by an IG. — Adam Mazmanian IGs: Administration stymies access 0830fcw_003-011.indd 8 8/12/15 9:10 AM
August 15, 2015
September 15, 2015