Reading the 2012 budget like a map to government employment

By Derrick T. Dortch Derrick T. Dortch
Wednesday, February 16, 2011; 11:26 PM

It's ironic that the president released his 2012 budget on Valentine's Day. In this long love letter to the country, President Obama said to the federal government, "Baby, I love you, but we are going to have to make some changes."

The budget definitely is light on romance, although it mimicked the holiday in another way, too: For some, the budget is a time to rejoice; for others, it brought with it misery.

So, what does this mean for federal jobs and hiring as we look into the next year? Well, it's a good question, and based on the budget, let me share what we can expect.

Based on the 2012 budget, the need to deal with government waste is a priority. This will mean more auditors, inspectors, investigators, analysts and programs support staff to work on cutting improper payments by government agencies by $50 billion.

There will also be a need for those with experience in real property, real estate, commercial property and sales as the government looks to dispose of or fully utilize 14,000 buildings and structures designated as excess and 55,000 identified as under- or not utilized.

The best and brightest in information technology will also be in demand as the administration looks to improve IT across government and focuses on consolidating data centers and leveraging cloud computing.

One area that has been shown a great deal of love in the 2012 budget is science and technology, with an emphasis on energy and health. Because of the focus to increase investment in Research and Development and the Creation of Transformational Technologies, there could be significant increases in investments in research conducted at the National Science Foundation, the Energy Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the National Institutes of Health. This means there could be hiring of scientists, engineers, researchers and other specialists as well as program managers and support staff. They will be needed to focus on research directed at such priority areas as clean energy technologies, advanced manufacturing technologies, cybersecurity, nanotechnology and bio-manufacturing and biomedical research to facilitate the development of therapeutics to treat diseases and disorders.

Defense and Homeland Security didn't do too badly, either. They would see $22 billion and $309 million increases, respectively, if this budget is passed to focus on national and homeland security priorities such as cybersecurity, satellites, nuclear security, border security, transportation security and maritime security. Continued support of comprehensive National Cyber Security Initiative efforts to secure information networks and defend against cyber-threats to federal networks, the nation's critical infrastructure, and economy will mean many jobs for those with these highly technical skills. We will also see more hiring in health care (doctors, nurses, therapists, rehabilitation workers, researchers and other specialists) as well as administrative, management and support staff as the departments of Veterans Affairs and Health and Human Services receive increases to care for Veterans and all Americans, increase research and strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program.

One not so happy group are government contractors. The budget focuses on terminating unnecessary contracts, strengthening acquisition management, ending the over-reliance on contractors and reducing the use of high-risk contracts. Keep in mind that the government will always have contractors, but it is wise to make sure your contract is in good shape so that you won't get any surprises.

If you are interested in working for the federal government or a Fed looking to make a change, I suggest you read the 2012 budget. Although I have mentioned a few areas that are getting additional funding and will be hiring if this budget is passed, there are more to keep an eye on. It might not give you the same joy as that romance novel, but what it can do is provide some insight on what agencies might be hiring and looking for new talent.

A good job search starts early. Talk to Human Resources to find out what is coming out in the future. Build network contacts and attend events held by agencies of your interest. Monitor and target vacancies and hiring initiatives. Don't wait until the job announcements come out, start the process now. Love is sometimes elusive, but with persistence, knowledge and the right strategy, you can get the government job you love.

Derrick T. Dortch, president of the Diversa Group, is a career counselor who specializes in government job searches and military transition.

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