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NASA among top spots to work for federal techies

Survey finds State Department, Education Department, and Housing and Urban Development are worst agencies for IT workers.

If you're going to tinker on government computer systems, better to work on those for space flight than those for housing projects.

That's among the findings from a study published Monday on the best and worst places to work in information technology within the federal government. The survey, from the publication Federal Computer Week, found that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Commerce Department and the Transportation Department are the "best agencies" for federal IT workers.

The report, involving some 600 federal workers, concluded that the departments of Housing and Urban Development, State and Education were the worst for IT workers.

Overall, the report found that the federal government's techies are a content lot; nearly 70 percent say they are happy in their jobs.

That's a good sign for the government, which may have a keen need to hold on to computer workers in the near future. A federal study from 2001 estimated that 10 percent of federal electronics engineers employed in 1998 would retire by 2006, along with 14 percent of computer specialists, 20 percent of telecommunications employees and 21 percent of electronics technicians.

According to the Federal Computer Week study, respondents like the ability to innovate on the job and "appreciate managers who understand IT."

"Based on their responses, federal IT workers value the ability to affect an agency's mission using technology," the report said. "They like working on a strong team and the feeling of achievement, and they are passionate about their work. They like having a nice cubicle or office to work in and an easy commute by car or public transportation. A nice cafeteria and good gym facilities aren't high on their list, however."

According to the report, survey respondents didn't express worries about Bush administration plans to get rid of the 50-year-old General Schedule pay system, which would change the rules for paying and promoting federal workers.

Unhappy federal IT workers said they didn't like "the constant threat of budget cuts and outsourcing," the report said.