DOD launches IT personnel exchange pilot

The Defense Department will start a pilot program to allow federal IT employees to get a temporary glimpse of private sector work.

The Defense Department will start a pilot program to give federal IT employees a temporary peek into private sector work.

An interim final rule to implement IT exchange program was published Dec. 14 and is getting mixed reviews from industry members and labor groups.

The rule authorizes the temporary assignment of DOD IT employees to private sector organizations and also gives DOD the authority to accept comparable IT employees on a temporary basis from the private sector. The exchange is meant to help training, development and sharing of best practices and will only be open to exceptional employees at the GS-11 level or above.

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The rule fulfills provisions of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2010.

DOD said the immediate implementation of the interim final rule is critical to assisting the agency strengthen its position and expertise in the IT field, particularly in cybersecurity.

“Given the changing workforce dynamics in the IT field, DOD needs to take advantage of these types of professional development programs to proactively position itself to keep pace with the changes in technology,” the department wrote in the interim rule. 

Stan Soloway, president and CEO of the Professional Services Council, said these types of exchanges are  valuable to the government, especially when it comes to IT. He said government employees working in the commercial technology environment will have the opportunity to learn about things they might not otherwise be exposed to.

However, an American Federation of Government Employees representative said the program raised security concerns.

“Inviting private-sector IT employees into the Pentagon could jeopardize national security unless there are severe restrictions imposed on their access to confidential and secret information,” said Don Hale, chair of the AFGE Defense Conference. “I have serious doubts that the same level of scrutiny applies to private sector IT employees, and that national security could be comprised during the exchange.”

Soloway said thousands of contractors are working across the government with high-level security clearances. He said obtaining security clearances for private sector employees might be time-consuming because of the clearance process, but it should not be a concern.

According to the rule, private sector employees will be required to obtain an appropriate security clearance if the federal position they will fill temporarily requires one.