2011 budget requests can be resources for job seekers

By Derrick T. Dortch
Wednesday, December 29, 2010; 7:11 PM

Recently someone asked me what I have been reading for pleasure. Not an unusual question, but I laughed at the thought. My answer: "The 2011 Budgets of Federal Agencies." I know, I know. The material isn't going to make Oprah's Book Club. But, honestly, reading the agency budgets offers unique insight into government priorities.

And here's a little secret: It's also a great place to find federal jobs.

In each budget justification submitted to Congress, you get to see what an agency says it needs, as well any additional hiring requests to carry out its work.

Here are a few examples.

Under the Department for Health and Human Services, the 2011 President's Budget requests is $725 million for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, a $28 million increase over fiscal 2010. Of this total, $592 million will support the hiring of 50 new full-time employees.

Under the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) 2011 budget request, the Federal Air Marshals have requested an increase of $85 million for additional personnel. An increase of $71 million would help fund 523 positions within explosion detection canine teams. Also, an increase of $20 million would fund the hiring of 350 Behavior Detection Officers to further enhance the Transportation Security Administration's program called Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques. DHS has also worked with the Office of Personnel Management to attain new authority to recruit and hire up to 1,000 cyber-security professionals across the department over the next three years to help fulfill DHS's broad mission to protect the nation's cyber-infrastructure, systems and networks.

For the Justice Department to strengthen national security and counter the threat of terrorism the 2011 budget requests $300.6 million. The request includes 440 additional positions, including 126 agents and 15 attorneys. To enforce immigration laws the department is requesting an $11 million program increase, including 125 positions - 31 of them attorneys.

You can read an agency's budget proposal on its Web site.

So once you get the information, what's the best way to make use of it?

First, begin looking on USAJOBS, the agency Web site and other places to see if these positions are advertised. If so, submit your application.

But many of those jobs may not be listed for hiring purposes yet because the federal government has not been fully funded and won't be until the new Congress convenes in 2011.

Don't worry if you don't see the positions advertised, however. Focus on what is being requested. Some of these agencies are quite specific and state that they want: scientist, attorneys, investigators, acquisitions specialists, etc. If you are in one of these specialized areas and you have the background to support an agency's mission, then you need to begin a targeted job search on that agency. If an agency is saying it needs support or program staff, that covers positions that range from administrative to financial to technology. The key is to find out what's needed.

Contact the human resources office agencies you're interested in and talk about upcoming openings. Second, check your network for any contacts within the agency you are targeting. I have found that you will be surprised how many people are connected to various branches of the government through friends, family, a church member, etc. Third, if an agency is planning to attend a career fair, make sure you're there too. Fourth, make sure you develop a targeted resume packed with your success stories.

Good luck on the hunt.

Me? I'm getting back to my budget reading. I am on page 114 and it's getting interesting.

Dortch is a federal jobs expert. The Prospects column runs every second and forth Thursday of the month.

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