For the past several years at various government agencies, there has been a growing gap between the need for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) expertise and the availability of this talented group. This dearth of STEM talent is not just a problem existing within the halls of government agencies, a broader shortfall of STEM employees has put pressure on public and private institutions alike.
The Obama administration has enacted numerous policies and allocated funding to STEM-related educational opportunities to encourage more students to pursue these degrees. Research shows that America will need an additional 1 million more STEM graduates by the year 2022 to meet the demand created by our technology-driven economy. While the scarcity of STEM talent affects both sectors alike, the private sector seems to be wining this intellectual tug-of-war.
STEM talent is lured into the private sector for reasons such as higher pay and more readily available innovative opportunities. To solve for this imbalance, the government continually relies on private contractors to meet its needs. Defense contractors designing and building military hardware used in the global theatre and private security firms used during and after the Iraq War to help keep the region safe are examples of the reliance on the private sector, but several risks lie dormant in these arrangements.
Instances of private firms overcharging the government are plentiful; VMware and Carahsoft overcharged the government for technology services in 2015 and certain wireless providers doing the same offer a few sordid examples. We need to look no further than Eric Snowden to see an example of the risks at stake in these partnerships, and the care that must be taken when allowing government contractors to handle classified intelligence. Can some of these contracted technology services be brought in-house at U.S. Government Agencies? Is there a way for the public sector to more effectively compete for STEM Talent so the aforementioned goal can be accomplished?