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Higher Pay For U.S. Federal Computer Jobs 153

nemo writes: "The United States government is giving a raise of up to 33% to all workers employed by them in the tech industry. The are apparently doing this to lure younger people into these positions and to compete with private tech companies. Read more here." Still sounds like a substantial salary gap, but the benefits of a Federal job can be pretty sweet incentive. Anyone out there on a Federal paycheck care to comment?
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Higher Pay For U.S. Federal Computer Jobs

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  • by poopie ( 35416 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @02:33AM (#646801) Journal
    I don't know (m)any Government workers who put in the 'standard' 60-100 hour work week that seems to be the norm in Silicon Valley. I do know people with Gov't jobs who work 40 hours a week and less than 5 days a week, tho.

    Come to think of it, maybe a 33% pay cut for a 40% hours cut isn't so bad.

    Actually it's all our own faults that companies have come to assume that workers will put in 60-100 hours a week. We did it once, so now companies think we can continue to do it eternally.

    But there are a few problems:
    - the dot.com gold rush is over, and reality is setting it about get-rich-quick schemes. People's motivation for working long hours is decreasing

    - IT workers are maturing. Someone straight out of college with no significant other may *like* working 80 hours a week, but take someone with a family and they probably would rather spend their time at home with their children

    - there is no labor pool. Vacant positions go unfilled for months, and companies have stressed their staff out to the limits for too long. Now the *ENTIRE* industry is getting collective burnout all at the same time
  • Research Assistants...in other words graduate students? That is not significantly (i.e. more than 10%) different than graduate student pay in the US, at least in my experience.
  • It took you 7 years to figure this out? Not exactly that quick on the uptake are we? I had the misfortune of working for the Corps for 4 years, and although my job stank, I thought that the brig would be worse.

    Oh, and some people do not vote because they have done the math and determined that the system is non-representative by design and refuse to validate the system with their participation.

    all persons, living and dead, are purely coincidental. - Kurt Vonnegut

  • My best friend just left the same contractor [tbe.com] I work for to go work for the U.S. Army. While he was slowly slogging through grad school in engineering management, he now has enough time to really pursue his Ph.D. in EM at our alma mater [uah.edu]. They're paying for it, and they'll give him a paid year off to work on his Ph.D. stuff. Cool.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    I applied for an internship position at a particular government agency. I applied in November. The application process continued into April of the next year. I finally received word that I had the position at the end of April. This was long after the deadline to reply to any other internship offers. I was confident I would get the spot though, so I held out. The next year, after graduating with my BS in computer engineering, I applied for a full time position at the same agency, as well as for some contract positions that would do the same work for the same people. The first offer came back at $36,000 as a GS7. I told the the guy on the phone to try for better, as I already had some experience with the agency. I received an offer from the contractor later that month for $52,000/yr. Same work, same people, different company. The government agency came back with a second offer of GS9 step 2 and $47,500/yr. I took the job with the contractor, and within 6 months my salary increased to $62,000/yr. I'm sure the results would have been much different had I taken the agency job.
  • "On the other hand, if you are less efficient than the private sector (which doesn't require this), you are somehow morally inferior."

    Morally inferior are not the right words. Rather, I would call it inherently unamerican in management.

    As you and your wife are well aware, every little government-run agency and program, including our schools, are headed by management who know what the budget means to their jobs. You simply do not want to go over budget, or you get fired. If the organization does not meet its alloted budget through thriftness or smart spending, the budget for all of next year will get cut.

    Here is part of the unamerican part I mentioned. The management for a federally funded drug prevention program office had a good deal of money left over in the budget. To avoid cuts that year, they purchased 10 computers (from my former employer) that they simply did not need, and used them to replace 10 computers that were only 2 years old. The older 10 computers went into storage somewhere, probably never to be seen again. I'm sorry, but they just squandered what I consider to be equal to a few years worth of federal income tax payments just so they wouldn't have to worry about loosing cash in their budget next year. They took my money and wasted it. These people that my tax dollars pay for and are supposed to be serving me are making horrendously selfish decisions that force me to serve them instead. IMHO, that money could have gone a long way in paying my own college education.

    You hardly see this type of waste in well-run companies, big and small, because there is no bottomless pit of money that you can count on, and accountability is a key. Nobody inside the federal government cares when waste of federal money is concerned. Ernst and Young CAN'T EVEN AUDIT the US Department of Education! The USA's consficatory tax system provides federal agencies to spend like there is no tommorow with no attention to results, with the exception of this: "Did you meet the budget?".

    The big problem is not the paperwork, but that nobody looks above the bottom line.

    The efficency problems of the federal government starts at the top. They know the boss (that would be you and me) is asleep at the desk and we left our wallet by the door.

  • My 'boss' knows nothing about Unix, but promotions in the government tech field are done by seniority, not by skills.

    I think that's the crux of the problem in government jobs. All you have to do to survive, and advance, is show up more-or-less on time and kill time for eight hours a day.

    I was a contractor at a federal agency for two years, and I saw a lot of lazy, incompetent programmers who kept showing up, warming their chair for 8 hours, and getting paid (albeit at a sub-market rate), and if anyone tried to light a fire under them, they had the union to answer to. I heard horror stories. A colleague of mine found he couldn't get one developer to do what he needed, because the guy said he was "too busy," but every time my colleague went to talk to him, the guy was reading the newspaper. So finally he just figured it out and did the task himself... and promptly got slapped with a grievance: the union claimed that the work my tech-writer coworker had done in his spare time had threatened the livelihood of two full-time union programmers...

    I got out of there, partly because my contract rate was at least 20% below market, but largely because I loathed seeing mediocrity accepted and promoted. I saw good hardworking IT people around me who got a 3% raise when dead wood got 2%. I kept doing good work because I care about my work--but had I stuck around much longer, I think I would have deteriorated. When I caught myself pondering a decision on a project and thinking, wearily, "oh... whatever," I knew it was time to get out. "Relaxed atmosphere" is one thing, but this was downright depressing.

  • > I suggest visiting a good online job search site but be warned, if you've been languishing at Uni for too long you'll be considered damaged goods. Get out while you still can.

    LOL! I've been in Uni for almost 10 years, so I must be "damaged goods". Ironically, *I* dont need to go looking for a job, because I get job offers quite frequently from companies, who are very keen to employ me.

    It isn't surprising that these companies don't share your bigoted and bizarre opinion of research. You sound bitter, did you fail to make the grade for graduate school? ;-)

  • nope not quick on the uptake at all.. I was mindwiped by the mantra that the govt will always be there, you get better benifits.... etc... and when you're married with children that has alot of clout.

    The sad part is , they are NOT always going to be there, and they do not give the best benefits.

    The govt can eliminate your position in minutes. and their benefits actually suck when compared to a real job. (Note to all if the company really wants you: you can dictate your benifits.just dont get greedy.)
  • I work in Gov't IT as an annual employee, and I haven't seen anything come my way yet. Mind you, I don't work for the DoD, or DoE, but we're still kept up to date on such matters. The only thing that I've seen come down the line is in FY2000 performance reviews. I noticed a small section which reflects your salary versus the industry avg. for your area. I had a .91 :( This means my salary is about 9% lower than avg.

    Contrary to what many have expressed here, I have made a decent wage for the region even as a contractor while in college. At one point as a contractor, I had graduated with my BS, and I asked for a raise based on level of education. I asked for about 21% more, but they gave me 67%, so no complaints on my part. Mind you, this was only about 15.50 in the end, but at that point, it was about average for the small town I lived in. I've since got about another 67% for becoming an annual employee. So now I'm at about 46k in a area where the avg. salary is few grand less. Within a few years, I should be around 60k (topping aout aroudn 70k), which coupled with my wife's salary, should be enough for us to live happily.

    I love the benefits, and I absolutely love not having to live in a large city for a decent job. Actually, just the large city part was enough to convince me. I live in a mountainous area now. Let me consider this, crime/smog/traffic/high cost of living/etc. *or* less crime (no place is perfect)/cleaner air/less traffic/national parks and other wonderful scenery/lower cost of living/etc...

    It may not be true for anyone, but for me, I'm much happier making a little less, but living some place I love.

  • The efficency problems of the federal government starts at the top. They know the boss (that would be you and me) is asleep at the desk and we left our wallet by the door.

    Amen. Our politicians hired these managers. And we hired the politicians.

    One thing I always detest (in the private or public sector) is the boss who despises the people who work for him. Before I went back to coding (hallelujah), I always hired the best people I could get gave them them clear goals and maximum leeway to accomplish them. When other managers complained about their useless employees my attitude was that if you had any leadership skills you wouldn't be in that position.

    We hire politicians who rail against the decent people who try to get the work done, and then hire the people above them who cynically build their personal empires by wasting precious resources and tying up the workers in red tape.

    The big problem is not the paperwork, but that nobody looks above the bottom line.

    Well, it is a big problem that there is no incentive to save. However, there is an astounding amount of paperwork that has to be done to do the simplest kinds of things like hiring an intern. This is is the black hole that is created by, on one hand, the incentive to CYA, and on the other the lack of incentive to be efficient.

    I am frustrated because I have a choice of one party that confuses the public good with the bureaucracy, and another that doesn't believe in the public good at all. Take Amtrak. I believe it is an important component in addressing air congestion especially here in the northeast corridor. One party coddles the unions to the point where the enterprise is economically unsustainable. The other is hostile to the very idea of publicly supported rail travel.

    The question is, does it have to be this way? Do we have to accept that our public priorities have to be addressed in this dehumanizing and inefficient way?

  • I'm a federal government worker with 13 years sys admin experience on various unix boxes and a little NT, one of 3 webmasters/developers for a campus of 3500, plenty of lan/telecomm experience, a B.A. and M.S. in Comp Sci, I read /. and all I pull in is a topped out GS-13 (65K) in the DC metro area. To get more money, I need to chuck my skills and be a non-tech manager.

    So I'm looking around. Here's a resumé [carr.org].

  • My wife works for the air force.

    Columbus Day is a paid holiday. Need I say more?
  • If you're talking about the ZA/ZP/ZT payscale, The Nat'l Institute of Standards & Tech. (NIST [nist.gov]) has been running that for almost 10 years now.

    You can think of it as having a couple pipes to funnel people in: an administrative pipe for pencil pushers, a professional pipe for the brains, and a technical pipe for the knuckle draggers (for example). Folks can get hired competitively - that's the big plus. Another plus is there are only 4 or 5 steps, not 15 like in GS, so you can advance quicker if you perform.

    The minus is, no matter how they try to explain it, there are quotas on who can advance, based on your budget after hires. So you get groups hiring competetively and not holding those people because they can't keep the pay competetive. Where 40, 50 and 60 year employees were the norm - priceless experts in their field - you have churn now.

    I think it could have been an improvement, and maybe it was at Mugu/CL, but not at NIST, IMHO.

  • I'd actually pay to get into a Canadian federal government job, tech or otherwise (English-language editor, web site designer etc.).

    Why? Ottawa's great, the salaries & benefits are better than in the private sector, overall; excellent job security, easy work & lots of free time...

    ...but I don't speak enough French. [mutter grumble]

    Anyone out there in the Canadian federal employ want to take an option on an MA with international trade experience who could always take some more French courses...?
  • And most people should also check to see why things are broken. It's not always the faults of ineffectual federal managers. A lot of the problem is directly related to the people you voted into office. Congress gives wierd dictates, and changes their minds on a whim depending on who gave them the most money at the time.

    As far as being wasteful, your Congressmen also do NOT reward fiscal responsibility, they penalize it. If an agency finds that it can actually operate under budget for one year, it's funding is cut the next year. This is why agencies use up all of their money, and overspend, because dimwits penalize them for saving money. The best that can be done is to use leftover money from one fiscal year to prepay contracts for the next fiscal year.

    What the American people need to do is to quit having their information spoonfed and get off their lazy duffs and read for themselves. Congressmen always complain about big government, and then turn around reward the companies that grease them up the most by giving them contracts that end up costing taxpayers _MORE_ than what federal workers could do the work for. But see, no one complains about this, they believe everything they're fed like a bunch of Lemmings. Ask the military about years of contract renegotiations and the like. I have two friends who used to work as contract officers there and quit because the system was so ridiculous.

    Sorry, this isn't a flame. Just my biggest peeve of people going around without checking facts for themselves.
  • Think about it: how many govt employees work 70 hours/week? How many come into work on weekends? Not many that I know. I work in DC (not in govt, though) but I know plenty of govt workers. They do get paid less, but they sure don't have to work as hard. Beurocracy is a wonderful thing sometimes. They get job security, long vacations, plenty of holidays, great benefits, and work regular hours. They get paid less in base salary, but they have all these benefits to compensate them for it.
  • Not in the US. In the US, RA's get about the same money - about $15k depending on the field they're in. But that's as a student, its only supposed to be enough to live on while you get through school. The value you get out of being an RA is not a paycheck, its earning potential (supposedly).
  • I'll tell you why, because it just isn't worth it. When I went from being a contractor to perm empmloyee of the government my pay was chopped right in half. Sure we have some good bennies, but with everything tallied together I was still doing well as a contractor. When I was a contracter and actually felt well compensated for my time, then I would work as long as the company needed me to. HA! Not for the change they give me now.
    The one BIG thing that lured me to the dark side....the one big perk that I couldn't turn down....was the education. Getting ready to make moves (finally) into some newer technology. That's what got me on board.
  • >I think they're worried that the federal workers >are going to realize their stock options are worth >nothing and jump ship for someplace more >profitable. :-)

    I never realized that Feds got stock options. What in? Smith and Wesson guns and Ammo?

  • by dgb2n ( 85206 ) <dgb2n@com c a s t . net> on Monday November 06, 2000 @02:49AM (#646822)
    One of the major reasons for this action is the aging of the federal workforce. Currently, the federal government has had such a hard time attracting tech employees that the average federal employee is approaching retirement age and there just aren't any younger workers in the pipeline to replace them.

    This isn't the first action taken to correct this issue. Up until last year, retiring military officers (young when compared to the federal workforce, around 42-45) lost about half their military pension when they went back to work as federal employees. This was overturned last year to encourage more retirees to take mid grade federal jobs.

    The situation is actually pretty bleak for attracting federal tech workers. Programs like internships to attract college graduates are few and far between. Add to that the cumbersome federal hiring system and lower wages and the inflow of new workers becomes a big issue. On top of that, the good workers who do hire on are often forced to worked with some senior employees that have long since reached obsolesence before retiring because its hard to fire a federal employee regardless of performance and letting even a substandard employee go only exaccerbates the problem.

    This will help but probably won't solve the problem.
  • This will not apply to uniformed federal workers, only GS scale civilians. Each military service has the option of budgeting for and paying reenlistment bonuses, etc. for tech workers. For the most part they just don't do it though ;-(
  • by powerlord ( 28156 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @03:01AM (#646824) Journal
    Not sure if this is something new, but when I was in college the best paying job on campus was working in the Computer Labs (the school kept a decent size lab with about 18 computers in about half a dozen locations for the student body, 8 PS2s and 8 Macs, with 1 each for the lab attendent to play on^H^H^H^H^H^H^Huse).

    Trust me, they advertised that they payed best, but they were still having problems attracting CS or EE majors to help work in it (think 'First and Second line tech support where your in the same room as clueless users' :)

    I think I was the only CS major who worked there, the rest were all English and Poly-Sci.

    Of course the best part of working there was that your student ID was keyed to open the doors to all the dorms so you could get to work in any of them (which made it easier to visit friends) instead of just the one you lived in, but I remember being amused that it would unlock the janitorial closets also :)
  • I wonder if this will apply to workers from outside the US. If so it could attract more of Canada's best and brightest. For me however I've worked with Canadian government departments, and I don't think I could work full time in-house for any amount of money. Maybe I've gotten use to working with people that know their stuff and now I just don't have much of an incompetence tolerance. :/
  • by wunderhorn1 ( 114559 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @03:06AM (#646826)

    As a computer science cooperative education student at Drexel University [drexel.edu] currently on fall/winter coop, I just went through the process of hunting for jobs (and getting a LOT of rejections, this is only my second year in school and my first "real" job) and had a very relevant experience.

    I received a job offer from the Navy that was awfully tempting: a chance to learn and practice CGI programming, Java/JScript, IIS, Cold Fusion, and program handheld devices. The salary? $300/week.
    I also received an offer from a private-sector company that would basically be IT gruntwork, and maybe a chance to do some C programming for the set-top boxes the company is designing. Not as attractive as the Navy, which would have put me on track to be a successful web developer. But the salary was exactly double what the Navy was paying. Needless to say, I took the private-sector job.

    A higher salary would definately help gov't jobs seem more attractive to people like me who have trouble seeing past the $17k tuition due in a few months. Unfortunately it appears that these raises in salary are not across the board, which is what the government needs to do to keep attractive the best workers.

    -the wunderhorn

    -the wunderhorn
    #define OH_YES_INDEED 1
  • It a lot worse here in the UK

    It's a lot worse in a lot of places. The USA, and its companies and legal/social conventions, still have the most sway in the world in terms of the technical economy, so it's not all that surprising.

    Research Assistants in the Design,Engineering and Computing department at my University have a starting salary of a whopping £10,000. (Thats about $14,500)

    At the start of this year, I worked as a research assistant in a New Zealand university for a grand total of NZ$12/hour (Call it US$4.80, or maybe UK £3.30). I would have had a little less if I'd only had a BSc instead of a PGDipSc, and a bit more if I'd survived BSc(Hons), or stayed on an extra year for a Masters. Granted, it's a pittance by your standards, but the cost of living for most staple goods tends to be about a third of what it is in the UK.

    The other important thing to note here is that the [state-controlled] education sector often gets treated quite differently by governments from other departments (Treasury, Inland Revenue, Agriculture and Fisheries, or whatever). Although you could consider that as an RA at a public university you're an employee of the government, your wages are most likely coming out of an education budget, and it's the university that will be setting the figures as part of its budget. So even if the government were to allocate more to paying its technical staff, the chances of it trickling down to tutors and RAs is pretty slim.

    I bet in the US you would earn more saying 'would you like fires with that' in McDonalds

    Fires? Why does that strike me as passive-aggressive behaviour akin to "F*** you for calling the $Company Helpdesk, how may I help you?" :-)

  • -1, nested, always.

  • I worked as a DoD GS'er for just under 15 years until I had to leave on a disability retirement. I worked 4 years or so in Germany and 10 years in the Washington DC area. I started as a GS-4 and ended a GS-12. The last job, at the 12 level, I was making around $50K. I knew I could make at least $75-$80 in the private sector. Why did I stay so long?

    The benifites are unbeatable. Nothing in the private sector came close for medical or leave. When my son was born I got two weeks of paternaty leave without even haveing to ask for it. (My wife took 6 weeks though she could have taken 3 months). The retirement is fairly good. The job security is unmatched.

    Yes, you do have to put up with a LOT of idots and meetings and crap. However, I've since found that the level of idiocy and crap isn't much different in the private sector. It's just less noisy so it's less noticed.

    Working for the Fed isn't the greatest job in the world, nor is it the worst. It depends so much on where and for whom you work. I've had times where I got awards and extra pay for work well done then had to turn around and fight management action on stupidity like what time I had to call in if I were sick.

    A 33% pay raise will be a good thing. Improving management would be better but that goes without saying everywhere.


  • I'm serious! Fed jobs may not pay as much in some areas, but the perks are GREAT! There is a fed job fair in my area next week and you can bet that I will be there handing out my resume!
  • Geez, all all you people really in it for the money? money? money? money? Buy that SUV or BMW, tailgate and swerve around people, show the world what a superior primate you've become.

    This is directly contrary to the spirit of the GPL and most of what the green party stands for.

    I'm a centrist for the most part, but I'm just taking a moment to point out that greed is not always good.

    Although I don't have links, there are several websites that point out (with proof to back it up) that american corporations often waste money on worthless projects, with do-nothing people, and no chance of success, on a scale that would make Lincoln break dance in his grave.

    Personally, I thought there was already an infrastructure in place that tried to keep civil service salaries in line with locally employed private sector people, but I guess I'm thinking about something else.

    Anyway, I applaud people who work hard and have their efforts pay off, but to simply go for the juiciest bait without any focus on what YOU PERSONALLY WANT TO CREATE IN YOUR LIFE seems awfully ludicrous and un-geekly.

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Kevin Mitnick is looking for a job. He will take peanuts for any job that sits in front of the puter.
  • Surely this will mean a tiny pay rise for the entry level jobs, and a the 33% increase for any of the more 'senior' positions? That's not gonna encourage too many young techies...
  • As a govt employee I'm glad to see the raise when it goes into effect. It might make hiring techies easier. I don't think it will be enough to retain them though. For every 2 or 3 govt employees waiting for retirement, there's 1 exceptional individual who will take personal responsibility and work the extra hours a week and give up weekends to make sure project deadlines are met. Lots of time it's with no overtime or comp time or bonuses. It the past 5 years we've contracted out a bunch of positions because we cannot offer competetive salaries. We spent 2 years trying to hire a fed employee for 1 position! Bureacracy and paperwork had a lot to do with it too. Half our staff is contractors. Granted they know the latest and greatest technology out there but few take responsibility for projects and are unwilling to do things that are "beneath" them like learn in house technology. The govt pays them a lot more than their own. We get more quality work out of feds but hiring new ones is impossible. We've had several individuals who have left the fed only to come back as a contractor and get paid $20000 more for doing almost the same thing. Except they don't go to long meetings or do any project manangement. I'm think that's the way to go to. The bureacracy, the hassles, the low morale and just not worth a handful of extra holidays a year.
  • Umm... yes? I'm sorry it doesn't matter how much time you get off if the overall time you spend at your job is so intolerable compared to the salary it doesn't offset the stress level.
  • by WarSpiteX ( 98591 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @01:47AM (#646836) Homepage
    I think that governments should compete with private industry in pay scale. You don't want industries ever monopolozing something that a government needs - just think of all the ghastly consequences of that.

    I'm a little segfault short and stout
    this is my handle, this is my spout!
  • They have begun. For reference, check out the Navy Marine Corps Intranet contract [navy.mil]. As a IS worker who has recently left his government contracting job, largely due to this coming, I can say that the government is at least TRYING to do this. The contract basically gives all handling of computer and related tech to contractors. From providing the systems/hardware, to desktop support, to cell phones and PDAs. It has slowly begun to take effect. I jumped ship from my contractor company before it directly affected my job (which would be gone soon, due to this). I wasn't a captain .. no reason to stay aboard as the ship sank. :)

    You are right about the gov. computer admins not coming in after hours and such. The one admin who was in charge of our department would regularly leave after his nice little 8 hour day (well... if 7 AM to 2 PM counts as 8 hours). Often we would be explaining to him the big problem we were in the middle of, and he would simply say somehting like "Wow, what a mess. Oh well, I will see you tomorrow."

    Shortly before I left, we were in a mad rush to have a major project done, and one user needed a new machine which had been purchased and configured for him, to be set up on his desk and prepared for his use (NT Domain system.. users couldn't log in local, so we had to join the thing to the domain for him, etc.). Anyway, in the middle of this rush, our gov. admin tells the user "Nope, can't do it .. we are too busy." .. then our admin promptly returns to his game of solitaire.

    This is not isolated, I am sure. The biggest problem with US gov jobs is that the employees are not fired. Once the initial 90-day evaluation period is passed, it pretty much takes commission of a felony crime to be dismissed. And even that isn't a sure thing. Employees who are not performing their job are not incompetant or failing to perform their duties. It is the job. The job is "not defined properly for the employee". In other words, the gov. needs to give them something more suited to their abilities. Like play-testing solitaire (from my own experience, this was a popular job task).

    Now don't get me wrong, there are many government employees who do their job (and the jobs of their co-workers). However, it is the large amount of non-productive workers who are the problem. This is why the government has contractors. If the contractor does not perform, they can be replaced. Quickly (relatively).

    Wow, I didn't mean for this to turn into a rant... guess I have more pent-up hostility about my former job than I thought. Time for some therapy... where is my baseball bat?


  • Thou shalt not work for the government.
  • Does this have anything to do with the upcoming elections?

    I don't think so. Elections are invariably about promises, never on actual fullfillment of promises made last time. That way you can use the same promises over and over again. Any politician can tell you that. Over and over again.

    It takes a lot of brains to enjoy satire, humor and wit-

  • . . .is that, on the average, it takes a HUGE amount of time for Uncle Sam to actually decide to make a hire. . .

    There have been several columns on this in the Washington Post [washingtonpost.com] over the last few weeks.

    Federal Personnel Offices have several drawbacks. . .like not getting back to a candidate at all, or waiting 6-8 months to tell him/her that they have got the job. . . Even with up to 33% more pay (and this is targeted mostly at the entry-level IT types. . . Hell desk and such. . . )

    Now, I work as a contractor to several Federal agencies (we have a number of contracts), and I don't see this measure doing much at all: 95% + of all the IT is already being done by Contractors: most of the Feds, in my experience, are in Sr. I.T. Management.

    IMNSHO, another proposal full of sound and fury, but in the end, signifying nothing much. . .

  • and the pay is alot lower than other Solaris admins but...I get two paid days off this week for election and veterans day, I work 8 hour days with a one hour lunch break (no one cares if you take a two hour break on slow days). I get exellent health benifits including dental and eye care (two free pairs of glasses for computer ops).

    The bad parts (asside from the lower pay) we are just budgeted for tech equipment and software, not furniture. The chairs and desks I sit on a re about 15 to 20 years old. If you are neither a democrat or a republican you have to keep your mouth shut about politics (I never talk about politics where I work anyway, but it still sucks not being able to say what you want) My 'boss' knows nothing about Unix, but promotions in the government tech field are done by seniority, not by skills. So he never shows up unless the VAX needs a backup and I do the rest. And I work for a State, not the Feds, so I don't get a sweet raise. But I hope one trickles down.

    All and all I like my job and its relaxed atmosphere, but I will take a higher paying private sector job as soon as I put in one years time here, unless I get one of those big raises..
  • As a network security engineer for the US govt., I think it would be great to see a salary increase. Crappy hours, 90% travel to the ugliest places on the earth, and poor disorganization comprise my work day every day. Unfortunately, the US Govt. is so wrapped up in deadlines, budgets and changing their minds every 30 seconds, it wouldn't surprise me if they never kept their word. Someone should keep close tabs on this statement from them, i'll believe it when I see it! OK, so i'm a little bitter. Anyone have any openings? =)
  • Usually this would mean a 33% increase for entry level programmers and a diminishing increase with years of seniority. The idea is to fill up the entry level positions, its less critical to make the more senior level people happy, since presumably they are at least not unhappy enough to have taken a better paying job elsewhere.
  • Holy shit! So every time I call the UK a "little poverty-stricken island" I'm right? That's the kind of money I make doing tech-support! Ever considered moving one country to the east? Your salary will double, the price of beer will be cut in half, the only problem is you'll have to learn the language, and that's not even necessary...
  • Being one of Uncle Sam's current wage slaves (except that I wear a uniform) I can say without a doubt that this will have little to no effect because any techie worth his salt won't work very long for the government. Why is that, you may ask? Because government projects that involve computers are almost always administered by someone who knows nothing about them and is more interested in servicing their own career at the expense of the system they're dealing with.

    For example, I'm currently a sysad for a system that's had $25 Million dollars poured into it and we're still not even close to being fully operational and we're lucky that this thing works at all. If you want a good example of the people that the government listen to for their computing needs, check out Mitre [mitre.org]. These guys are renown for designing crap (they're the ones who came up with the brilliant idea of keep all the user directories on our busiest file server, not to mention running 900GB through a single OC-12 card on a shitty ATM network under WinNT).

    The government mismanges ever piece of silicon they have and until the culture of management changes, even money won't be enough to keep talented people around.

  • I went into the Navy because all the want ads stated Education + Experiance. The pay was poor, but it filled the two requirements to get a great job. I have no student loan to pay back. I left after 6 years and never looked back. I got what I wanted.
  • I'm a junior in college, and have been working for the feds since I got out of high school and here's my take on the whole issue:

    I started out working at a youth center running a computer lab for the kids. I was a sub-contracter back then. They decided $10 an hour I was making plus what my contracter made above that was too much, so they slashed that, and tried to get me to come back to work for them as an official federal employee making $7 an hour. To add insult to injury, the way the application proccess is setup they "trick" you into thinking you'll get paid more for the federal job. IE: you apply for a tech position running a computer lab, but to "maximize your chances of getting a job" they also apply you for the lesser paying job of "day-care assistant". Guess which job I was offered when they called me back? Needless to say I stopped working there after they fired my contracter.

    Ok, now on to goverenment job take 2! The navy runs a large supercomputing facility near me that proccess payroll for the entire navy, and some other fed departments. So I get a nice job working over there. It only pays $8 an hour, but since I worked the night shift I made more like $10 an hour. They had a bunch of tape machines, and every once in a while it would ask for a tape and I would have to run and fetch it. Night shift was quiet, and I knocked out about 2 books a week...Most everyone working day shift was over 40, and a lot were over 50. I don't think ANYONE, repeat, ANYONE was between 25-40. Night shift we had a lot of college students came in and ran the place.

    The problems I've seen: #1 I was making $10 an hour at most, just 2 hours away from me in DC I had friends making $15 an hour, and they didn't even have techie jobs. #2 There were a lot of older people nearing retirement, and nobody to take there places. #3 I look at the older folks there, how cynical they've become after working for the feds for so long, how they don't make all that much more than me, and the idea of working there for the rest of my life is not apealing. #4 Raising pay helps, but raising moral would go a lot further!!! I can't stress that enough, I would gladly work for the feds for less than the industry knowing that I had a secure position and good benefits, but working with a bunch of 55 year old senile women turns me off, yugh!
  • For all of you out there giving the gov a hard time, you might want to let up. I looked at the schedules posted by opm... I'm coming from a GS-11 position (entry level with a degree) in upstate NY.... In january, I get a $6800 raise. (That includes the 3.7% raise across the board for all federal employees.) Also, as a condition of my 'civilian' job, I am a member of the National Guard, as all these federal employees are ( our official job class is 'Federal Technician'). Include an extra $5000 from that paycheck. That equals out to $53,800 a year, which is about $2000 more than your average CS/CSE degree makes in their first year or two in the area. On top of that, the benefits rule.... 50% matching for retirement funds, good health insurance, every other monday off.... any training I ask for...
  • Every IT job I have seen (under army, National Guard Bureau, and in critical positions in most states) had a job advertised the monday after a spot was vacated or opened up. Three weeks after that, the announcement closed. Within 8 business days, the person who got the job knew about it, and a week later, started. My process took exactly 4 weeks, from the time the job opened to my first working day.
  • Agreed. It's good to see they're upping the pay, but I still wouldn't go back to working for the government. The pay is still nowhere near a normal job - I saw job postings for sysadmins on the west coast offering *35K* a year starting, which is nuts for the area.

    I too had some boat-rocking problems, it seems most government workers are pretty resistant to technological change, and a lot of people get upset when you try and take them off of their 10 year old DGUX machines onto something more modern.

  • The community collegs in the area surrounding Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California offer a pretty cool internship program. They need way more publicity though, hence this plug.
    If you are in the Silicon Valley, and going to a JC, do the intern program at NASA and meet Captain Kirk! [reptilelabour.com]
    No, I'm not in that picture but I'm friends with everyone (except Kirk)
  • The one thing I'm curious about is how this affects the non-profit FFRDC's (Federally Funded Research and Development Corporations) like Rand, Mitre, BBN, etc. Do they follow the Federal pay scales?

    When I was in my 20's (the 80's) I tried a few times to work in those places but it never worked out. Then as I met people who did work for those places they'd always complain about budget cuts and the whole post-cold-war thing.

    I'm still curious about these places, after all they still hold an important place in the history of computing and the internet in particular, and I assume there's still some prestige factor in being able to say you work there, or did at some point in your career. Thanks in advance for any info.

  • I used to consult for a state agency. While there, a bit of advice given to me by a vetern employee was, "Don't try to leap any tall buildings. If you make it, the next time they'll ask you to leap three." Another thing he used to say was, "I get paid the same whether I stay and finish the job or go home at 4" (That's when the day was officially over). This was from one of the better employees who tried to work to the best of his ability. Unfortunately, you become apathetic when everyone else is. The attitude becomes, "why should I bust my hump when no one else will, especially when some of these pet employees don't even do the minimum?"

    The rules for government agencies are very different. Operating in the red or even bankrupcy has different ramifications than it does for a private company. Often, the people who lead these organizations are political appointments and sometimes do not act in the best interest of the organization nor the public which they serve. Barring a scandle, they are replaced when a new administration comes into power, regardless of their affectiveness. The greatest problem I observed was that there was a lot higher incidence of infighting and turf wars. Most of these games would tear an ordinary company apart.


  • Here at NOAA in Silver Spring, MD, we get 4 hours of paid leave and 4 hours of sick leave every 2 weeks. And I don't know how common this is among other departments in the government, but we can work extra hours one pay period, and use them for leave in another pay period. So considering this is a student job, i think this is great. but, having not been in the Real World yet, i don't know how this stacks up against it.

  • My last day as a Federal Computer worker was on Friday and even this news was not enough to make me stay. The 33% is for the most junior positions and decreases to minumial up around the GS12 grade. It wasn't so much the money that made me leave more the frustration. I would have been better off being a contracted worker for the agency I worked for, my salary would have been better and my training would have been paid for by the agency and not out of my pocket. I have spent years watching all the IT positions be contracted out in the name of down sizing goverment. By eliminating the the Federal workers with any technical skills to provide over sight, all we have ended up with is millions of dollars being spent on poorly designed systems that never work correctly.
  • Which is exavtly the reason you shouldn't keep those promises. Actually doing what you said you'd do will force you to come with an entirely new promise. And that's not all environmentally friendly. Campaign promises should be recycled as much as possible.
  • Er ... Norway?
    Price of beer cut in half?

  • by toppk ( 135746 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @03:47AM (#646858)
    This country needs a non-profit to produce the software to run this country... Mostly for municipals and states.

    Think about it like this:
    We have greedy contractors producing software for one state, keeping the copyrights, and selling the same technology over and over to other states. A non profit, can pay techies $100+ an hour, and produce free software for all the states/cities to use. End the duplication... and the waste of money.

    Anyone game?
  • There are two pragmatic reasons to join the military:

    1) To get or pay for training you otherwise couldn't afford.

    2) You want to do things you couldn't do ANYWHERE else - drive a tank, fire a missile, legally kill people.

    Of course, there's that selfess patriotic bit about serving your country, but that's not too pragmatic.
  • Uhhhmmmm, the Fortune 500 is publically owned... Ever hear of stockholders???

    That doesn't meet their definition; they want laws in place to prevent any significant fraction of the stock being held by one person.

    The more radical among them (you know, the kind of people Nader would appoint to cabinet posts and Supreme Court positions) want the government to own the majority of the stock, and thus directly control the companies, "in the public interest".

  • by Anonymous Coward
    I spent six years in the USAF. I started with an AFSC of 30xx (Communications Electronics Maintenance) but got an AFSC of 4924 (Computer Programmer) after the 30XX career field merged with the 5iXX career field - based on the fact that I'd taken BASIC and FORTRAN programming classes in college (my degree is Applied Physics).

    Anyway, the reason I'm mentioning this is to give some sense of the upheavals the USAF (at least) has gone through in the area of managing high-tech people.

    I'm out now, but my lasting impression of DoD civilians is that most of them respond only the presence or absence of light, water, and food. I found them in general to be perfect bureaucrats - pygmies running giant machines (thank de Balzac, not me).

    Some DoD civilians are dedicated, as are some military officers, and do a good job. In general, however, the officers are obsessed with promotion (it's an up-or-out world), while the civilians are obsessed with protecting their butts.

    You know, this reminds me of the USAF response when it started losing pilots at the end of the Reagan/Bush era: they handed out brown leather jackets to all pilots. Similarly, the Army's now handing out black berets (normally reserved for Rangers) to everyone.

    Bottom line: the DoD is a typical government bureaucracy, an environment that the motivated flee screaming. Money's not going to change that.

  • Then get the hell out of University.

    Go get a real job and the salary that goes with it, IF you can handle the the work.
  • I am a government worker (GS-9) and I wear a uniform. I am one of three network admins that support three sites on opposte ends of the state. I we not see this raise (wrong GS series). The web admin in the desk next to me will, yeah she is the one that refuses to learn HTML and still can't master frontpage. She calls me over all the time to fix the sloopy M$-HTML frontpage pukes. Our "Information Security" person will. What does he do you ask, sit in a locked room and sleep all day. He's waiting for retirement and doesn't know a firewall from his..., well anyhow. Our helpdesk people will, they are both former secretaries and still think they work someplace else. One barely speaks English (german), the other won't answer the phone and is never where he is supposed to be. Now all four of these people make much more than I do, and I spend all of my time doing their work for them. If this were anything other than the government they would all be fired, instead they get raises... nice. I'm outta here...
  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @04:27AM (#646877) Homepage Journal
    Point being, even if you factor in the incredible benefits and the new higher salaries, it still would not be enough to make working on a government job worth it. Not unless along with the new salary policies they fired the vast majority of the current federal employees to make room for some people who actually cared about the work they were doing.

    My wife is a dedicated public employee. She works at a local agency whose mission she believes in. When she got out of her (prestigious) grad school, she went looking for a job in public service, not because she wanted the benefits of public service, but because she had skills she wanted to employ for the public good. Unfortunately, the standard joke around the office is when somebody asks "So how many people work around here?" to answer "About half." A fraction of hard working employees have to do the work of the rest.

    Of course, this is also true to a lesser degree in the private sector, but the question is, how do you expect things to get better if you tell people that if they care they shouldn't participate?

  • It'll probably be factored into future contracts. When they set up grants and stuff, they actually plan every position with an estimated salary, so now the standard salary for tech positions (like mine) will be expected to go up by a third, though that's not going to be enough here in Boston, or in SF, New York, etc. /jpowers/

  • Postal workers start with more than a month of vacation, and when your company told you they gave you "100% medical," they meant "with an HMO that's only 50% as good as Blue Cross." Also, your job's safe with them, and even if it goes away, you get plenty of warning and severance and stuff.

    No ping-pong tables, though. Can't have it all, I guess.

  • The government (at least in my area) is willing to hire tech workers with much less documentable experience than private contractors. Once you're in, they'll let you take on as much as you can handle, but there's absolutely no incentive for you to do so.

    In a nutshell, the best way to take advantage of the situation is to get hired in, get as much experience and training as you can for the first year or two, then get the heck outta there before laziness sets in.

    The NAF entity I work for bleeds talent like crazy. They're afraid to develop anything new in-house, because they know that anybody good enough to do the job won't be staying for long.

    I'm on my second government job. Looking forward to the end of my first year when I can start sending out resumes to private industry again.

  • I worked for 7 years in a government job. All supervisors are worthless(A moron that has that job just because he/she was there the longest does NOT mean he/she knows squat..), the red tape just to do something simple is insane, and Government jobs are union because of the poor treatment of the workers.

    I am now in corperate america, and this place really is cool compared to the gulag called a government job.

    Don't take the bait. Government jobs suck. Take it from one that was in that trench for way too long.
  • Kind of, RA's are *well paid* grad students!

    The majority of grad students are paid through the research councils (ie EPSRC), and get (IIRC) about
    £5500 a year, so just more than half an RA.

    As a funded graduate student your "job" is to do your research - nothing more, no marking, no helping your supervisor prepare his papers, just do your own thing. Of course, you can generally pick up extra money doing those things...

    As a RA (Research *Assistent*) you are payed to *assist* your supervisor. Exactly how bad that is depends on your supervisor, but it's a noticable difference.

  • If you work for the Federal Government you're much more likely to be a contractor than an actual employee. I've worked twice for the TVA, both times as a contractor. Federal agencies are under constant pressure to appear to be reducing head count, so they often shift work to contracting agencies because those moneys come from different funds. But as a contractor you probably won't see any of these raises talked about here.
  • > Then get the hell out of University.
    > Go get a real job and the salary that goes with it, IF you can handle the the work.

    Not to mention if you can handle the stupidity of "company practices", halfwit managers, and bizarre political decisions from 'on-high' etc.

    There's a reason why people dont get paid much to be graduate students - it's an opportunity that money can't buy. If you can cope without the cash (and in the UK most graduates won't have worked full time, so are used to near poverty), then it's a real chance to do something cool. Of course, if you just want the money, get the hell out of uni., it's rarely worth it.

    As the "IF" jibe, I doubt you have a PhD. Putting in ten hours a day in industry is one kind of work, as is stacking boxes in a warehouse. Having your brain almost explode from the constant 24 hour a day pressure of thinking at the limit of your intellect is also work, and probably a lot harder than you think.

  • You make a bunch of money at computer companies, but what are you really doing? Most of that stuff's useless toys or the same thing the other guy's making. Most government jobs actually do (in my case indirectly, since we only TEST cancer, AIDS and MS treatments for FDA approval) support and benefit the population, and of more than just this country at that. Trace the history of what you do back fifty or a hundred years, at critical points you'll probably find the US government helped it along with a grant or some related research in another area. You provide the economy, but I'm telling you some public expenditure is necessary to keep things stable, and to catch you when you fall. It's the height of fucking hubris to assume you, your company, your schools, or your field of study and work haven't benefitted from the government at all.

  • The amount a contractor can pay its employee's is determined by the government payscale, so if the government gets a higher opinion of tech workers, then trust me, the companies will pay more.

    They really dont care how much they have to pay their employees, just so long as the government covers it plus profit margin.

    I work at a gov't contractor, and in fact they just lost me to a commercial company. Reason: I have essentially hit the ceiling of what the government says you can pay a programmer with no college degree. They would loved to have kept me here, and told me as much- they just didnt have any room left to give me a raise.

    Its so hard to get decent programmers these days, that companies are really willing to pay whatever it takes to retain them. Take advantage of it while it lasts. Ive managed to quadruple my salary over 1 year.

  • Go ahead and call me naive, but what ARE the benefits of working for the US government, aside from diplomatic immunity and access to the secret underground White House Sex Cave?

    Seriously, it used to be job security. Now that has even gone out the window. My mom has been a systems analyst for the federal government for over a decade (DOD until last year and now Social Security). The benefits are pretty hard to beat. Their medical insurance (Mail Handlers) seemed to cover an awful lot. I think she said she gets like 10 weeks a year of time off. She also can work semi-flexible hours (a little under 9 hours a day for 9 work days and then 1 day off). Sadly, she makes little more than I do. She has told me about the programmers who only know COBOL and sleep at their desk waiting for an early retirement package to come along. If you don't care too much about actually accomplishing anything, can deal with the bueracracy, and don't mind the huge paycut, it's not too bad. You could do worse. I guess it depends on your priorities (time verses money).


  • by Claudius ( 32768 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @05:36AM (#646902)
    Unfortunately, the standard joke around the office is when somebody asks "So how many people work around here?" to answer "About half." A fraction of hard working employees have to do the work of the rest.

    This is an endemic problem with working in the government sector. It is nearly impossible to fire anyone, and management has their hands tied regarding compensating their staff: They simply are not allowed, in general, to lower the salaries of those who don't pull their own weight, and they cannot compensate their outstanding workers adequately. In the end everyone gets paid (roughly) the same regardless of job content and performance. Furthermore, unlike in industry where a poor manager can get axed if his or her team doesn't perform, government agencies often have few reliable metrics by which to determine whether a team and a manager are doing their jobs.
  • by esm ( 54188 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @04:49AM (#646903) Homepage
    ...Los Alamos, that is.

    Salaries for computer people here are a joke. My wife and I (both programmers, mid-to-late thirties; both "retired" from the Bay Area since '94) routinely get calls from headhunters offering 2-3 times what we make now. Not including stock, of course.

    Then there's the bureaucracy. We struggle to get work done despite the cretins who try their utmost to grind you down.

    No money. Almost daily hassles from the Work Preventers. Why do we stay? The area, for one. Los Alamos is our ideal retirement community. But a close second, surprisingly, is the work. Many people here are brilliant, highly competent, and fun to work with. My job -- analyzing data from various & sundry Earth satellites and Deep Space exploration missions -- is exciting and challenging. Finally, I don't have to work 60-80 hours just to keep pace. A regular work week lets me excel (I'm not the type who's satisfied with mediocrity) and still have a life.

    I'll get fired one of these days, most likely. The rules I have to break in order to get work done are often firing-level offenses (stuff like neglecting to fill out paperwork or ask for permission before doing some things). Or maybe I'll just get fed up. I'm pretty close right now anyway, after a 4% raise. After LANL, you can be sure it's back to the Real World (industry) for me.

    Oh, and those "33%" raises? Hah. My wife is in a Computer group, so she'll get one -- but the word from up high is for noone to expect more than 10%. I'm one of two lone programmers in a Space Physics group, and we both expect to fall through the cracks.

  • by LtFiend ( 232003 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @05:46AM (#646906)
    I was a contractor for the US Army Corps of Engineers for 2 1/2 years. I was making a ridiculous amount of money (in the 6 figures) which was only a third of what the Corps actually paid for me. With all that I still quit the job because I couldn't deal with all the political crap. I've seen a 50 BILLION dollar project get pushed through even though tests said it was unneeded but the Corps needs a mission to keep the "Good old boys" around. I've seen the Hardest workers put down and blantantly lied to about benefits they would recieve which eventually destroyed 4 years of there work life and put them in a worse position then when they left college. I've seen so much crap from this government and now I have to choose one of these pricks to vote on and people feel that wasting more taxpayers money on a 33% increase in pay for n house computer sepecialists is going to help? I have news for you.. 80% of the IM force in the corps of engineers is contractors and each one costs +300k. I would never in my life work for the government again. Or not until Nader sits in the oval office.
  • You know what, i have a student computer job and I won't see a cent of this I bet.

    But, It's understood (on my campus atleast) that student workers for certain tech jobs get higher pay.

    I only work this job so I have it on my resume.

    I wonder if this will cause students to get paid more?
  • It a lot worse here in the UK

    Research Assistants in the Design,Engineering and Computing department at my University have a starting salary of a whopping £10,000. (Thats about $14,500)

    I bet in the US you would earn more saying 'would you like fires with that' in McDonalds

  • by subreality ( 157447 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @01:53AM (#646910)
    All I can think is, "Hey, look, extra money laying around! Yay! We made it! We're not going to sink along with the dot coms! Quick, pay people more before they disappear."

    I think they're worried that the federal workers are going to realize their stock options are worth nothing and jump ship for someplace more profitable. :-)


  • Hah, brain explode!? I've seen what goes on inside academic institutions and the only organs likely to explode at the UK Universities are the livers or kidneys, it's a toss up. As for bureaucracy and politics the Academic world takes the cake.

    It's pretty clear where most of the real innovation gets done these days. There are professional opportunities which don't involve stacking boxes, especially in our line of work, and you don't have to go work for a dinosaur like an old telco.

    I suggest visiting a good online job search site but be warned, if you've been languishing at Uni for too long you'll be considered damaged goods. Get out while you still can.
  • We just filled 3 Application Programmer positions, so we won't be hiring for a bit. We're a UNIX shop as far as development, so if you want to work for us (or a place like us, they're all over Boston) in the future, learn some shell tricks, some PERL (perl and some jscript run the new web frontends we're painting on our old apps), and lots of C and SQL(ingres). Brush up on yer emacs, too. Since we do statistical analysis, and we can't pay anywhere near market for SAS Dev (one of the best things to know these days, private companies and government agencies alike will cheerfully kill for good SAS gurus), if you really wanted to work here, that'd be your best bet.

  • tell these flakes that you are too busy. DONT do their work. Or better yet screw one of them with a "hoest" mistake that is not traceable to you.

    I used to file grieveances against my boss weekly when he would try to force someone elses work on me, "do thisa Tim, because dave is too busy thumbbing his butt to do it."

    No my last year there I made everyone there hate me, my projects done in record time, I would not help the other toads, and I made sure my supervisors, supervisor knew that I did it correctly instead of the wrong way that butthead was trying to get me to do it. (I burned that bridge so hard when I left, I think the walls are still scortched.)

    Get the hell out, if you are good a nice stable Corperat company will give you benefits that match (I got 1 week vacation 3 days after starting at company X) and is just as stable.
  • by bobalu ( 1921 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @05:00AM (#646921)
    I had a contract with MITRE in NJ. They were total liars. I was told it was a 5 month contract; it was really a 4 month contract. Four weeks into it they started pressuring me to go full-time, at HALF my consulting rate. (A rate which they determined, BTW.) I finished 2 projects in 10 weeks and they whacked me, supposedly because the NSA didn't want a contractor working on their project. (They loved my work though.) I was told later by EDP/Source (the company I went through) that they were no longer working with MITRE because they did that to other people, in one case after the guy had come from California and already taken an apartment and moved stuff. When an agency won't take your business, that's pretty bad.

    They made NO backups, ever.

    The "techs" (that would fix their aging Macs) were two former secretaries who were extremely dangerous with a screw driver and bitchy as hell. I couldn't touch the machines, and actually had to leave the room a few times as these women essentially beat the poor Macs with the blunt end of the screwdriver.

    When I got out of the meeting where they made me the full-time offer, the woman I worked with (who had a recent CS degree but tons of security policy experience) asked if they offered over $50k! She was making about 40. Everyone I ran into bitched heavily about pay, except the managers. The people there were basically cool, but management was twice as evil as usual.

    Three months later they called asking if I had made backups of my stuff because a disk died. (I had stored the projects in about 3 places because there was no real tape or disk backup available.) They wanted me to help - for FREE. They explained they were using my 10 wks of work for their entire year-long NSA contract.

    The work WAS interesting.
  • Simply look at some of the job requirements on various Government websites. Including agencies like the NSA, FBI, and ATF... They want to pay you next to nothing for your 4, 6, or 8 year degree. Something needs to give, and for a long time, it's rarely been big-brother.

  • by Sternn ( 143817 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @06:06AM (#646923) Homepage
    As a prior employee of the Federal government, I can tell you that a raise of $7,000 - $10,000 is nothing. Most engineers I worked with made under $60k and Senior Admins made under $50k. Most left within 4 years (4 years working for 'the man' always looks good on your resume). After they left they could almost double their salaries in the private sector. Thats what I did. Not to mention all the HASSELS you don't have to deal with (i.e. random monthly drug testing, extensive background checks, way overboard security policies, meetings, OH the meetings!). One thing you will learn right away when working for the government is: they don't worry about wasting all day in meetings discussing whatever people want to talk about (I remember once we renamed a directory on our web server where we stored some older acrobat forms, fifty of us spent three hours discussing it - a meeting where basically nothing was accomplished, but if you do the math, it cost about six grand in time for the labor there, of course it's not like they are worries about loosing sales or NOT making a profit in the next quarter). Working for the government bites. The pay really bites. A minimal increase in pay will do nothing for them. I mean, if I have the choice of working in a near militaristic environment where you have to beg for money to upgrade RAM on the servers while getting paid less than average while working in an old delapidated building when I could work for a hot new company with a vision and goal, people my own age group who are wide open and not stuff old government persons, in a nice new office park, making almost double, and not having to worry about the time I got arrested taking a leak in a parking lot in college (which I might add almost cost me my job when they found out), I mean, is it REALLY that hard of a choice?
  • by Raleel ( 30913 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @06:14AM (#646925)
    I will not be seeing a raise like this this year, although I do know a fair chunk of people that will be seeing a larger than average raise. I am probably one of the few people out there who thinks his salary is pretty fair. I don't live in the bay area. The cost of living where I live is low (2 bedroom, 1100 sq ft for $550/month). Granted, it's not a cultural mecca or anything, but my spouse's salary plus mine is way more than enough. The gov't though does have a salary problem. I make the same as a person who is in a much more expensive part of the world and in the same gov't position.
  • by jpowers ( 32595 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @05:06AM (#646926) Homepage
    "Hey, look, extra money laying around! Yay! We made it! We're not going to sink along with the dot coms! Quick, pay people more before they disappear."

    You better bet I'm worth it, too. My job's federally funded. I'm a "Network Coordinator" for an NIH-funded research nonprofit in Boston. Started two years ago at pretty low salary, but not bad for an English major. This year a .startup offered me $60K plus stocks plus guaranteed $10K raise for five years.

    The company I work for offered me near $50K to stay and I took it, since the startup had some inconsistencies in their job description. There are some benfits that startups (I got lots of offers) couldn't compete with: 4 weeks vacation, 4 weeks sick (which I can actually use), a week of personal time, 0 interest loans for a new computer, no dress code (I mean some of the coders show up in their pajamas), set your own hours, no deadlines, full medical, dental, and I'm insured and invested every way you can imagine. Plus everybody goes way out of their way to get along, there's very little politics, and most importantly: if your new .economy tanks, I've still got a job. Here in Boston folks are still skittish from 7-10 years ago, so that's a big deal. Right now jobs are so easy to come by, you think you can just lose one and pick up another, but when there are less jobs than people...

    I learned everything I know about linux and unix and perl and c and java and NeXT and BeOS and even a little win2k registry stuff just during the slow periods (read: when I have everything running efficiently and no one breaks anything). We're slightly understaffed for some stuff and there's a lot of non-IT people here who don't have it as easy as I do, plus some of the larger IT decisions are made by folks a little behind (everyone is still using Word Perfect), but overall, I've had a bunch of tech jobs (state gov, fed gov, private sector, nonprofit) and this sort of pseudo-fed job's the best, the pay being the only issue (and one I can live with).

  • It is nearly impossible to fire anyone

    It is time consuming, but quite possible to fire civilian government employees. I'm an Army officer and have personally fired two civilians. Talk to your Civilian Personnel Office and read the regulations. More importantly, study the rules of their union. Specifically, the union says you have to counsel them with witnesses present each time they fail to meet an objective you have set for them. Eventually, you develop a paper trail indicating poor performance and they get canned. Admittedly, it takes a while and everyone hates you for it, but if you are in a leadership position that's part of your job.

    The reason there are such stringent rules is that a) they have a union that fights for them (techies take note) and b) there is a serious over-sensitivity in the government to what may be considered abuse, harassment, or discrimination.

    Learn from the government sector because any sufficiently large bureaucracy tends to get that way. The lesson here - know the rules and use them to your favor. It's like hacking!

  • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @06:29AM (#646929) Homepage Journal
    They simply are not allowed, in general, to lower the salaries of those who don't pull their own weight, and they cannot compensate their outstanding workers adequately.

    There's a theory that says that therefore there aren't any outstanding employees, because they cannot be monetarily incented.
    I believe that people in the public or private sector who give over and above do it for other reasons -- professional pride, technical interests, and a plain habit of excellence. The pay issue is just an insult.

    But this theory does makes public employees a convenient whipping boy. My wife spent last week at a scientific conference that she had to attend because of her job. She had to pay for it herself, because of a state policy making it illegal for her agency to pay out of state travel. This policy was put in place because the politicians were caught taking junkets funded by lobbyists during which they attended none of the meetings. Notice that neither the people who misbehaved (the politicians) and the problem (their being bought by the lobbyists) are addressed by this policy.

    I really get irked when politicians attack IRS employees. Sure, there are overzealous, lazy and corrupt ones, but most of them are courteous and professional. And more to the point, it's the tub-thumping politicians who need to bring pork back to their districts who create the incentive to predatory behavior, through their tax code, their budget, and their decisions about staffing levels.

    Furthermore, unlike in industry where a poor manager can get axed if his or her team doesn't perform, government agencies often have few reliable metrics by which to determine whether a team and a manager are doing their jobs.

    My wife likes to say "waste plus fraud equals a constant". The simplest things -- hiring or disciplining an employee or selecting a contractor for a very basic job, requires people in government to handle huge volumes of documentation and complicated auditing procedures to show beyond any reasonable doubt that they are being fair and unbiased.

    The problem is that in the private sector, the only thing that really matters is getting the job done for a reasonable price. If I just call up my brother-in-law to get something done, my employer won't care so long as he gets the job done cheaply enough and well enough. If I do this in government, it (rightly) is considered a crime.

    Here's the catch-22 of government spending. You are supposed to be completely fair and documentably beyond reproach, which requires an expensive and complicated procurement process. On the other hand, if you are less efficient than the private sector (which doesn't require this), you are somehow morally inferior.

  • Does this have anything to do with the upcoming elections?

    I asume most people in tech industries are democratic, so this is Bills last attempt to keep them voting on a democrat?????

    "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 06, 2000 @02:05AM (#646935)
    I'm a US Marine in a tech job (computer specailist), and I tell you what, this is one area that won't be getting these raises. At $1450/month base pay for an E-4 with over 3 years in (read: someone about to get out), the lure of any half-decent paying tech job is almost irresistable to the lure of re-enlisting, something that technical Marines (and other service members) aren't doing: in droves. They wave stuff like bonuses ($30,000 max), jump school, "guaranteed" duty stations (nothing's ever guaranteed here), and other stuff at us like it was cool...but we keep getting out. 33%? That's a joke. How about quality of life, better training, and other "real" incentives that might auctually retain us. Instead, its..."10 more months and I'll be home, drinking beer and pissin' foam....."
  • by TOTKChief ( 210168 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @06:52AM (#646943) Homepage

    After Congress moved to raise the President's salary to $500k and the VP's to somewhere in that territory, the federal salary structure finally got some relief. Federal law says you can't make more than the VP, and he's been making $175k. COLA's [Cost Of Living Adjustments] for the Supreme Court and some members of Congress were pushing the salary structure to the breaking point.

    Working in a tight labor market [Huntsville, AL] with a high-tech workforce, I've seen federal salaries jumping a bit in an effort to grab people from the private sector. The pay's not what you'd get on the outside, of course, but the job security's usually pretty good. Also, as a contractor employee, I can tell you that the Federal guys rarely put in more than 40 per. Wouldn't that be nice.

  • by EtherSnoot ( 19146 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @06:42PM (#646944) Homepage

    This is an endemic problem with working in the government sector. It is nearly impossible to fire anyone, and management has their hands tied regarding compensating their staff: They simply are not allowed, in general, to lower the salaries of those who don't pull their own weight, and they cannot compensate their outstanding workers adequately. In the end everyone gets paid (roughly) the same regardless of job content and performance. Furthermore, unlike in industry where a poor manager can get axed if his or her team doesn't perform, government agencies often have few reliable metrics by which to determine whether a team and a manager are doing their jobs

    Another problem is that government bureaucracy tends to reward failure. If the situation isn't improving, obviously there's not enough money being thrown at the problem. For instance: the drug war, the DEA keeps getting bigger and bigger. Government education is another, the department of education keeps growing.

    If I'm near the top of one of these big bureaucracies, and I get more money to play with, more people to boss around, and generally more power when the situation gets worse... What kind of incentive is that ? Say I'm in the DEA, if the drug problem went away, I would be out of a job! Job security is supposed to be a perk here, isn't it ? ;)


  • Why would we need non-profits? We already have, for example, the Free Software Foundation. Aren't the proprogation of software and end of wasteful spending on inferior closed source solutions what they're all about? There exists TONS of freely-available open source software available for municipalities and states to run. Word processors like AbiWord, spreadsheets like Gnumeric, etc.

    Now if they need custom database applications or something, that's something quite different. That's where systems integrators come in. But many local governments have differing requirements, depending on the laws of each locality. That's why custom software development is frequently necessary.
  • I'm working for them again since September, as a contractor. The offer was too good to pass up, and since I'm not planning on sticking around forever, contracting is fine. In Chattanooga certainly we have loads of contractors. It seems in my building there are more red-badgers than blue ones.
  • Isn't it amazing that the government manages to take half my income every month, but still can't pay their employees very well?

    BTW, those of you voting for Nader, know that he won't help the problem; the Green Party has recently removed this from their platform in order to get him elected, but their platform used to include public ownership of the top 500 corporations.

    That's right, basically every corporate job in our industry would become government work. So if you'd like to get paid this shitty, Vote Nader.

    As for those who work in the corporations 501 through infinity, you'll just need to deal with the fact that your computers, automobiles, and consumer electronics will be built by the folks responsible for $600 toilet seats and $200 hammers. Also, that all your package delivery services would be run by the folks responsible for the sorry state of affairs in the Post Office.


  • It is only legitimate that States get the best and most competent workers of them all, after all, it's the taxpayer's dollars, and this alone warrants the best money can buy. This benefits EVERYONE.

    Americans are bred for stupidity.

  • by _Sprocket_ ( 42527 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @02:20AM (#646951)
    A 33% increase sounds fine for gov't workers, but I'm willing to bet it stops at Civil Servants. In some environments (specifically NASA), a great bulk of IT operations are contracted out. These contracts are awarded to the lowest bidder. And contracts are also awarded bonuses for reduced spending which provides incentive for contracts to cut corners wherever possible. Often the corners cut involve pay and benefits for personnel.

    You can bet this means your average IT contractor won't be seeing an increase in pay. And in the end, this means those organizations who rely on contracted IT won't be seeing an increase in quality IT workers.

    If anything, those Government agencies will continue to loose their IT staff. The company I went to has been raiding government organizations across the board. We can provide benefits and training well beyond the budgets of most Governmental agencies.

    So in all... what does 33% do for the average US Gov't IT worker? If you're one of the current dedicated workers, you might be lucky enough to get a raise. But will it attract additional staff? I doubt it.

  • by CptCaffeine ( 228507 ) on Monday November 06, 2000 @02:32AM (#646953)
    I spent about a year working as a contractor at a government institution. After my first month on the job I had finished two of the seven projects that I was hired to help with and several of the fulltime fed employees came to me and asked me to not try so hard. The entire time I was there I fought constantly with the fulltime federal employees, because they were more concerned with not rocking the boat and eventually collecting their pensions then with getting projects finished on time and under budget.

    When my contract was over my supervisor offered me a full time position, which even at the much lower salary then my contracting rates was very tempting because of the incredible benefits

    I turned them down out of fear of becoming one of the suspender wearing status quo'ites that already filled the offices.

    Point being, even if you factor in the incredible benefits and the new higher salaries, it still would not be enough to make working on a government job worth it. Not unless along with the new salary policies they fired the vast majority of the current federal employees to make room for some people who actually cared about the work they were doing.

    No, I am not bitter; I just taste like it.


Loose bits sink chips.