Worried that too many young Americans are turned off by the idea of working in government, Congress has provided $600,000 for a research project to develop strategies to raise interest among college students in federal service.

The "Call to Service Recruitment Initiative" will be run by the Office of Personnel Management and the Partnership for Public Service, according to the fiscal 2006 spending bill that covers OPM operations.

"The war for talent is a real one," Max Stier, president of the partnership, said. "The public sector is losing that war, and the consequences are going to become more severe."

The project will use surveys and other research efforts to test and evaluate various methods of reaching out to college students and to understand what messages or outreach activities might sway top-notch graduates to seriously consider a federal job.

Or, as Stier put it, "Can we move the needle on students' interest in government as an employer of first choice?"

He noted that "the military has spent millions upon millions of dollars on understanding what talent they need to succeed, but virtually no research has been done on the civil service side of the house."

OPM and the partnership, a nonprofit group, launched the Call to Serve campaign in 2002 in an effort to educate young Americans about federal careers. The campaign has enlisted the help of 565 colleges and 62 federal agencies.

According to the partnership, six universities have volunteered for the research project: Clark Atlanta, George Washington, Louisiana State, Ohio State, Stanford and the University of New Mexico.

Part of the project will focus on hard-to-fill occupations in the government, Stier said. For example, Stanford will look at how best to recruit engineering students; Ohio State will see what should be done to improve foreign language skills in the government; and New Mexico will examine new ways of attracting Hispanics to federal service, Stier said.

The partnership and OPM will produce reports that will hopefully help federal agencies improve their recruitment of college students and other young Americans.

Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Calif.), chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.), who chairs an appropriations subcommittee that oversees OPM, were key backers of the research project, Stier said.

A 2004 survey sponsored by the Council for Excellence in Government found that only 23 percent of young Americans were extremely likely or very likely to pursue a government career. By contrast, 35 percent said they were interested in working for a "community service organization."

Previous research by the partnership and Paul C. Light, a New York University professor, found that many Americans view federal careers as unappealing or believe that the government needs to be reformed, making it difficult for agencies to attract and keep talented employees.


Ronald Battocchi will be retiring from the National Transportation Safety Board on Jan. 3 after 32 years at the agency. In that time, he's held several senior posts, including assistant to the chairman, deputy general counsel, acting managing director and general counsel. He is a recipient of the presidential rank award for senior executives.

Richard J. Keough, a supervisory attorney for the Internal Revenue Service's estate and gift tax group in West Palm Beach, Fla., will retire Jan. 3 after more than 42 years of service. He is a retired lieutenant commander in the Navy Reserve.

Talk Shows

Steve Nelson, director of the Merit Systems Protection Board's Office of Policy and Evaluation, will be the guest on "FEDtalk" at 11 a.m. today on federalnewsradio.com and WFED radio (1050 AM).

Natwar M. Gandhi, chief financial officer for the District, will be the guest on "The IBM Business of Government Hour" at 9 a.m. Saturday on WJFK radio (106.7 FM).

E-mail: barrs@washpost.com