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"Hiring officials aim to beef up U.S. security"



Friday, July 6, 2007

Federal Workers: Melissa Harris 
Hiring officials aim to beef up security
The Baltimore (MD) Sun


Job seekers with the skills needed to prevent another terrorist attack
continue to be the No. 1 priority for federal hiring officials, according to
two-year government hiring projections released this week by the nonprofit
Partnership for Public Service.

The Department of Homeland Security expects to hire 22,000 airport screeners
and more than 15,000 customs officers and border patrol agents during the
next two years.

The FBI needs 3,700 criminal investigators, and myriad agencies - from the
Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Department of Defense - need 3,670
intelligence analysts with foreign language skills.

But the demand in the national security field is much larger. The
partnership was unable to cull data from the National Security Agency and
Central Intelligence Agency.

But based on estimates, the government is still trying to attain the
robustness that is needed in a post-Sept. 11 world.

"As a nation, we're expecting our government to prioritize our physical
security, and that's a relatively new phenomenon," said Max Stier, president
of the partnership, which operates as a human resources think tank for the
government.

Meeting these needs is expected to be difficult. The federal work force is
older than the private sector, meaning the wave of retiring baby boomers is
going to start sooner. In addition, the government can hire only U.S.
citizens, which shrinks the pool of eligible applicants.

Other large areas of growth include the medical and public health field. The
Department of Veterans Affairs estimates that it needs about 28,000 workers
- more than half of whom are nurses - for its hospitals.

The government also will need workers with enough business acumen to oversee
private-sector contractors.

The Office of Personnel Management, National Security Agency and others have
launched television ad campaigns in select cities nationwide to help with
recruitment. Sign-on bonuses and tuition repayments also are a key tool, but
not every agency is using them, according to the survey.

"Some agencies get it, and some don't," Stier said. "These are very powerful
incentives, and without them, some people are financially precluded from
joining the public sector."

Applicants have a better chance of earning perks at the Rockville-based
Nuclear Regulatory Commission, for instance, than the Woodlawn-based Social
Security Administration.

The commission, which employs 3,200 full-time employees, awarded 180
recruitment bonuses worth more than $1.25 million and 31 student loan
repayments in fiscal 2005 and 2006.

During the same period, Social Security, which employs more than 60,000
people, offered only 12 sign-on bonuses. The report did not list how much
those bonuses were worth. Hiring at the agency has dwindled under
congressional budget cuts.

"At the end of the day, if the money is not there, the money not there,"
Stier said. "We have to make sure Congress supplies the resources agencies
need to fill critical positions."

If you're looking for a job with the government - or want to know where
you're most likely to get a sign-on bonus - the survey is available at the
Partnership's home page at ourpublic service.org/OPS/.

Passport solution?

The State Department is ordering 350 Washington-area diplomats and newly
hired civil servants to New Hampshire and Louisiana to help clear 3 million
pending passport applications this summer, according to the Associated
Press.
Chosen workers will undergo a week of refresher training beginning Monday
and arrive in New Orleans and Portsmouth, N.H., the next week.

The State Department is paying travel and accommodation expenses plus a per
diem allowance for meals. Workers also will get one long weekend break over
the two-month assignment.

Most of the people selected have worked for the agency for less than five
years. Workers who have a "pressing family commitment" in Washington will be
allowed to do the work from the local passport facility, according to the
Associated Press.

The backlog is the result of new security measures. American travelers
flying to Canada, Mexico and the Caribbean are now required to show a
passport. The rule, which took effect in January, has been suspended until
the end of September, to allow the State Department time to catch up.

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