The "Surge" That Could Save The Economy


The word "surge" got a bad rap during Hurricane Katrina when related to Gulf waters breaching the levees and flooding into New Orleans.

In some circles, it was further tarnished when used to describe troop buildups in Iraq (though that Surge is now widely believed to have been effective).

Now, the word surge is being used to describe hiring mandates for government agencies and programs funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 – informally known as "President Obama's economic stimulus package."

The legislation from Congress requires certain agencies to hire high volumes for mission critical programs. And the challenges facing those agencies (overhaul the health-care system, police new banking regulations, dismantle our dependence on oil) also require a higher quality of executives, managers and team leaders. And the technical nature of the challenges requires federal employees with more specialized skill-sets.

There is no shortage of wonderful, qualified people currently unemployed and looking for quality work, so what's the problem? "The federal government is a terrible recruiter," according to Max Stier - President of the Partnership for Public Service - a nonprofit group which promotes federal employment. Stier notes that private companies out-recruit the public sector in the trenches and that it often takes six to nine months to get a hiring decision. When it comes to upgrading human capital in the federal government, there are many other problems facing Uncle Sam and President Obama, which Mr. Stier has chronicled in op-ed pieces for the Washington Post and Boston Globe over the past few months.


Why do you care?

That's easy. If you are a capable executive or manager who is part of the 8.1% jobless, you might be interested in government work. If you are "gainfully" employed in the private sector, you have even more reasons to care. First, some of the stimulus package will go to private sector companies – maybe yours. Secondly, a properly executed recovery effort will lift the economy. Finally, our economy's ability to sustain America for the next generation (your kids) and the one after that (your grandkids) will be very dependent on government decision-makers and their success in engineering an improved health-care system, innovation in the energy industry, an upgrade in our schools and the impending overhaul of the financial and auto industries.

Whatever your politics, the government hiring surge has sailed, so watch carefully your tax dollars at work (not to mention a future "employer of choice") as Uncle Sam strives to improve its acquisition and cultivation of human capital.


Erik Sorenson is chief executive officer of, Inc. Mr. Sorenson, 52, oversees the strategic direction of the global, New York-based media company. He is widely regarded as an expert on media strategy and industry trends, with experience spanning radio, local and network broadcast television, cable and syndicated TV, and the Internet. From 1998 through 2004, Mr. Sorenson served as president of the MSNBC cable news channel. He has won more than twenty Emmy awards as a writer, producer, and television executive.

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