The Biden administration’s first budget proposal focuses heavily on the federal workforce, including bolstering the IT and acquisition workforces and more training opportunities for non-technical employees.
The budget proposal released last week included more than $58 billion for civilian agency IT. But the budget documents noted—as so many practitioners have before—that IT delivery is as much about technology as it is about people, including those who use it as well as those who deploy it.
“After decades of under-investment in a modern-day workforce, a failure to partner with labor unions, and ongoing, unwarranted attacks on its independence, the civil service is in need of repair and rebuilding,” the documents state, noting the Biden administration has already taken steps in this direction.
The president’s proposal includes a 2.7% pay increase for all federal workers, as well as some provisions specifically for employees working in technology and cybersecurity, and those who want to learn more about those disciplines.
“To support the federal IT and cybersecurity portfolio, the budget proposes to identify and address critical skills gaps across the IT and cybersecurity workforce,” the documents state. “The budget invests in innovative programs that improve the government’s ability to recruit, retain, and train a workforce that can build, maintain, and secure federal information and information systems.”
The proposal includes support for ongoing training programs, as well, such as the Trump administration-era Federal Reskilling Academy, which gives non-technical federal employees an opportunity to learn IT, cybersecurity and data science skills that can help them find better federal jobs and fill critical gaps in the existing workforce. The Biden administration sees such programs as a means to “address critical knowledge skills gaps by reinvesting in existing employees,” rather than just hiring from the private sector.
While the administration wants to tap current employees to fill those gaps, it is also doubling down on Obama administration programs that bring more private sector technical talent into the government, even if just for a short time.
Programs like the U.S. Digital Service and the General Services Administration’s 18F offer term appointments that allow those programs to offer highly technical people higher salaries and cuts the long lead time for security and suitability determinations.
USDS would get $78 million in 2022 under Biden’s proposal, a significant uptick over the estimated $37 million to be spent in 2021. That funding would be in addition to the $200 million the program received as part of the American Rescue Plan stimulus package.
The budget documents note the administration is looking at similar models for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which is in dire need of technical and cybersecurity experts.
The budget proposal also calls for more training and support for the acquisition workforce—a critical part of technology delivery.
“The administration will provide the acquisition workforce with supplier and market intelligence data at the point of need, so they can work productively with contractors from across the nation to achieve more for each taxpayer dollar by, among other things, promoting buying as an organized entity and using strategic business practices,” the request states.
The appendix entry for the Office of Personnel Management requests just over $1 million to strengthen “the capacity and capabilities of the acquisition workforce,” specifically with regard to “the recruitment, hiring, training, and retention of such workforce and information technology in support of acquisition workforce effectiveness or for management solutions to improve acquisition management.”
Similarly, GSA would receive $11 million for the Acquisition Workforce Training Fund, which includes training on buying IT and cybersecurity products and services.