Contractors Swoop In to Fill Void as Aging Feds Retire

More than 60,000 federal workers retired in 2006 according to a recent BusinessWeek article. That leaves a lot of unoccupied desks across the federal government. While Uncle Sam scrambles to recruit a new generation of workers, contractors have already begun to replace many of the vacancies.

Contracting firms, often with larger wallets and stronger on campus recruiters, have started to supplant the traditional federal employee. Firms like Booz Allen Hamilton and Accenture have extended their reach beyond the typical administrative and tech-focused duties and have begun to shoulder an variety of jobs typically reserved for the feds.

Lockheed Martin tops the list with over $33 billion in government contracts.

In turn, the contractors have begun to look to the next generation of workers. Two recent Lockheed Martin contracts were shaped by some of the younger members of the team, Linda Gooden, Executive Vice President of Lockheed Martin’s16,000 person Information Technology unit told The Washington Post.

Gooden utilized recent college graduates to develop an online payment system for a Social Security contract. Gooden wanted it to be Web-based and figured she would leverage their experience growing up with the Web, she told the Washington Post in an interview last year.

Though, many government agencies seeking to recruit the new talent face an uphill battle. “It’s a big sacrifice to work in government,” says Harvard public management professor Steven Kelman in an interview with BusinessWeek.

One of the other side of the contractor debate is David M. Holtsclaw, president of Local 145 of the American Federation of Government Employees. “This is costing us a lot more money in the long term,” Holtsclaw told BusinessWeek. “A lot of folks are retiring on a Friday and coming back on Monday working for contractors”

The balance between federal workers and contractors isn’t likely to be struck anytime soon; the height of the federal worker exodus won’t hit until 2009, with over 61,000 feds retiring.

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