I've worked for the federal government for over seven years. For me it took two months between the job offer and my start date due to the HR office being slow sending me paperwork and then slowly processing the paperwork. I also had to wait on a security clearance.
Now that I've been around for a while I am more involved in the hiring process. Last year we tried to fill two positions. One of those the employee started within a month because she already had a clearance and was moving from a contract position within the same building. The other position has been in the works for OVER A YEAR NOW. Mind you we picked a candidate and completed salary negotiation and everything in the summer of 2010! I'm surprised that person is still going along with the process!
The latest issue is we are trying to hire a couple "Computer Scientist" (GS-1550) developmental positions (GS 7/9/11). We are trying to get the advertisements up as soon as possible so we can start processing their clearances so they can start as soon as they graduate in the spring. We had job descriptions written up and the HR people gave the go ahead, but just before they posted the advertisements on usajobs.gov they came back and said we are not authorized to hire in the Computer Scientist job series, they must be the IT Specialist (GS-2210) job series. This goes into the differing requirements the Office of Personnel Management places on different job series, but to keep it simple the difference is a Computer Scientist has an education requirement (basically must have a BS in Computer Science) whereas anybody who knows what a computer looks like can be an IT Specialist (most of my coworkers are IT Specialists and at best they just make Powerpoint slides and non-technical whitepapers).
Frankly I'm tired of just picking up people with security clearances who aren't geeks (don't have a passion for this area) and only want the job because it pays well (and is stable because, yes, it is hard to fire people). I'd much rather hire a college student who at least has some *interest* in this area (proactively chose computer science to study). After HR applies their scoring criteria all the candidates that are left are former Intel Specialists that took an "Intro to HTML" at some point in their lives. Just the perfect type of people I need to help build applications, design database schemas, and manage servers!
It doesn't help that, at least in the DoD, there is this mindset that people are just "bodies" that can be trained. (Is it like that elsewhere? Seriously I've been cooped up in this Defense Wonderland for so long I don't know what the real world is like anymore.)
Actually to be more fair, I don't care if the individual has a degree or not. I just want someone who is passionate about computers/IT/programming/whatever. Someone who, if they don't know, has a desire to learn. In the 7+ years I've worked in the DoD I can count the number of people on one hand I've met like that.
Let me get off this soapbox before I start complaining about how all these people in the government are crying about cyber-threat-this and cyber-weapon-that, while at the same time don't understand anything about technology and have watched one too many cyber-movies.