Sep 29, 2005 (01:09 PM EDT)
Computing-Challenged FEMA Seeks Techs

Read the Original Article at InformationWeek

FEMA is looking for a few good geeks.

The agency's computer systems are being blamed for the poor response to Hurricane Katrina as well as lackluster responses to natural disasters last year, but anyone ready to tackle the problem can apply for one of two information technology specialist positions on the federal government's job board.

The openings were posted Sept. 16, before public attention turned to the agency's information management and sharing deficiencies. They were created under FEMA's Disaster Temporary Employee program and are being funded through its Disaster Relief Fund.

For as little as $34,548, or as much as $63,185, the chosen candidates will be asked to help integrate, monitor, optimize, and manage the agency's databases and applications. They would also help install, support, and maintain a web-based or e-government system.

The Department of Homeland Security's Inspector General's audit of the agency's technology, released Wednesday, reveals a little of what the chosen applicants will be dealing with.

The report states that the computer system did not provide up-to-date disaster warnings and that information cannot be transferred to field workers during emergencies. It said the inability of the system to track supplies has resulted in millions of dollars wasted. The system also can't handle increased workloads and isn't adaptable to change, according to the report, which reviewed responses to hurricanes last year.

The 67-page report entitled "Emergency Preparedness and Response Could Better Integrate Information Technology with Incident Response," says the federal government must document, define and analyze system requirements. Only then can it complete enterprise architecture and deploy technology enabling the agency to complete its mission.

Even information as basic as "how field workers should do their jobs" is not consolidated in one place, according to the report.

That may not surprise anyone who looks at the government description of the IT job openings. It says that candidates will be measured and ranked according to their knowledge, skills and abilities. However, under "knowledge, skills and abilities," it states that there are no knowledge, skill or ability requirements.

Candidates must be U.S. citizens, registered for military service and cleared through background checks. The job is based in Round Hill, Va., and relocation costs are not reimbursed.

Candidates must be willing to undergo pre-employment drug screening. If hired, they can be required to travel to disaster areas with little notice. They also can be reassigned during emergencies, required to work overtime with little scheduling flexibility and agree to return to their posts within 48 hours or agree to immediate "separation from service." FEMA's IT specialists can be terminated early if disaster conditions don’t call for their continued assistance.

They will report to FEMA's Systems Engineering Division, which is under the Department of Homeland Security's Information Technology Services Directorate.