Magazine article Insight on the News

Energy Department Suffering Potentially Dangerous Brain Drain

Magazine article Insight on the News

Energy Department Suffering Potentially Dangerous Brain Drain

Article excerpt

Just the other day, at a traffic light on a busy Washington street, a panhandler was seen carrying a cardboard sign on which was scrawled: "Out-of-Work Atomic Scientist -- will build nuclear weapons for food!" Odd even by Washington standards, but the poor man's plight became less of a puzzler later that day with the arrival on the waste & abuse desk of a new report from the Department of Energy's (DOE's) inspector general (IG).

The Energy Department is suffering a shortage of scientists and technicians that could become critical in the next five years, warned the IG, unless it does more to attract and retain the kind of high-caliber brains the nation needs to keep it from devolving into some sort of nuclear dark age. DOE immediately must fill nearly 600 highly specialized positions or risk jeopardizing its weighty responsibilities, according to the report. Those vacancies could triple in the next five years unless the agency takes more aggressive action to recruit and retain qualified people.

"Given historical rates of hiring and attrition, the department may face a shortage of over 1,800 scientific and technical specialists in less than five years' time," the report stated, which indicates that DOE has lost an average of 320 employees a year since 1995 in dozens of highly specialized jobs. …

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