While the FAA is a clear focus of the workforce related to NextGen, briefly understanding the composition of the federal workforce is important. Table 1 shows the major categories of federal workers, along with trends in the period 1994 to 2004. The table shows by far the executive branch, which includes the DOT. It is by far the largest sector of the federal workforce, with over 1.2 million employees. Table 1 does not include federal contractors and grantees, which are estimated to number over 10 million.

Table 1

Federal Workforce Trends 1994-2004

Note: Numbers in thousands. From C. Copeland, 2008, The federal workforce: Characteristics and trends, p. 4.

Focusing on the FAA, in their Destinations 2025 document (FAA, 2011a), the FAA notes NextGen is a transformation towards “a cognitive based aviation control system” (p. 5) and will require a collaborative work environment. Further, the shift in oversight perspectives with Safety Management Systems (SMS) changes the roles and skill sets of employees.

To meet these needs, the FAA’s strategies include fostering a collaborative work environment with tools and training; effectively and competitively recruit employees; effectively use knowledge management systems, including social networking, to foster employee engagement and innovation; and partner with academia in order to enhance the FAA applicant pool (FAA, 2011a). These plans are consistent with the goals expressed in other FAA documents (FAA, 2011b).

In a similar way to the FAA, the relatively small NTSB names organizational excellence as a key strategic goal through the 2015 timeframe. To meet this goal, it makes a commitment to individual employee development plans aligned with other strategic goals of the organization. Part of the goal is to foster an “environment of continuous improvement and lifelong learning” (NTSB, 2010, p. 38). Notably, the strategic plan does not mention the FAA NextGen plan or SMS.

In general, the federal workforce will need to be adept in protection of technology infrastructure under the general topic of cybersecurity. President Obama calls cybersecurity one of the most serious economic and national security concerns of our country (GAO, 2011). In a review of cybersecurity policies of eight government agencies, including the DOT and DOD, the GAO recommended the development of cybersecurity workforce planning. This GAO recommendation includes workforce training as well as information technology policies.

In general, it is unclear what the future will hold in the pendulum between federal workforce jobs and contractors, also stated as public and private sector jobs. For example, the Obama administration created a policy of insourcing to convert private (contractor) jobs to federal (public) positions in an effort to save money (Goure, 2011). It is conceivable that future presidential elections and parties could pursue outsourcing, tilting the balance from public back to private jobs. This mixed set of federal resources impacts the way work is accomplished and how knowledge is managed in the government in general, and NextGen specifically.