WASHINGTON (AP) -- A wave of retirements set to spread across the federal government in the next few years could seriously hamper the war on terrorism.
Some of the agencies most crucial in fighting terrorism -- the Defense, State and Transportation departments and the Federal Emergency Management Agency -- could lose up to 45 percent of their workers through retirements in the next five years, according to the General Accounting Office.
"If we are going to win the war, we have got to have the people," said Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio. He's the ranking member of the House Subcommittee on Oversight of Government Management and has taken a lead role in trying to draw attention to the "human capital crisis."
Voinovich said the federal government must find ways to keep its best workers while recruiting new staff with the skills to address new missions. It's the difference, for example, between having a Defense Department loaded with Russian-speaking workers when today's war against terrorism requires people who speak Arabic, Farsi and Pashto.
"It's not just how many, but what kinds," said Frank Cipolla, senior consultant to the National Academy of Public Administration's Center for Human Resources Management.
The GAO, the investigative arm of Congress, placed "strategic human capital management" -- identifying key jobs and filling them -- on its list of federal programs and operations identified as "high risk." And last March, former Defense Secretary James Schlesinger and retired Adm. Harry D. Train told Congress that national security is "on the brink of an unprecedented crisis of competence in government."
"The maintenance of American power in the world depends on the quality of U.S. government personnel -- civil and military -- at all levels," they said in a statement. "We must take immediate action in the personnel area to ensure that the United States can meet future challenges."
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