D.C. Grapples With Public Sector IT Slip-Ups

What’s New

Before the Healthcare.gov fiasco, the biggest technology news to shake up Washington last quarter was only tangentially technological: Amazon Founder Jeff Bezos’s successful purchase of The Washington Post. “Don’t be boring,” Bezos told the paper’s (unionized) staff. His business exploits never are.

Washington DCAmid continuing discussion about how the National Security Agency operates and what, exactly, it does with the petabytes, exabytes and zettabytes of data it has the power to collect came an announcement that the agency will ultimately be able to eliminate 90 percent of the system administrators who maintain the agency’s network. Agency Director Keith Alexander said most of the current work done by staff and contractor system administrators — people like Edward Snowden — could be done by automated technology.

Meanwhile, Federal Computer Week reported that the federal government has wasted $9.2 billion on failed IT investments over the past decade. More than 10 percent of its current $82 billion IT budget is at risk, and tens of billions more are tied up in the lifecycle costs of troubled IT projects. The figures, which were generated by the Government Accountability Office and presented to the House Oversight and Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Operations, are troubling, but federal tech leaders point to other programs that are finding new efficiencies, such as TechStat, PorfolioStat, the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative and the Federal IT Dashboard. In fact, TechStat has identified $4 billion in savings since 2010 and played a role in the termination of five major IT acquisitions. PortfolioStat, created by the OMB in 2012 to reduce duplication across government IT portfolios, has achieved nearly $900 million in cost savings and has identified $2.5 billion in future savings.

And remember sequestration? The Defense Department decided to trim the number of furlough days it had been forced into from 11 to six, but in doing so had to find a way save $1 billion somewhere else. The result: delayed and trimmed contracts that impacted up to 200 programs, including some tech initiatives.

Skills in Demand

Local recruiters see the strongest demand for software developers in such areas as .NET, SharePoint, ERP and Java. Network administration, database management and desktop support are also typically strong categories. “The D.C. technology job market remains hot,” says Heather Raines, recruiting director for recruiting firm Randstad. “The unemployment rate for IT is just about zero. Often when I speak to candidates, many tell me that they have multiple interviews lined up. Many candidates are not actively in the job market for more than a couple of weeks.” Raines adds that mobile development, Web development, SEO, Drupal, Django, information security and PeopleSoft skills are all on her radar.


IT recruiting firm Robert Half Technology reports that 13 percent of Washington, D.C.-area technology executives expect to expand their IT teams during the fourth quarter. That compares to 12 percent in the previous quarter. In addition, 62 percent plan to hire to fill open IT roles during the period. In the same survey, 84 percent of the CIOs were optimistic about their companies’ prospects for growth in the quarter.

Leading Industries

  • Government
  • Defense Contracting
  • Outsourced Government Services
  • Banking
  • Healthcare

Local Employment and Research Resources