The federal government's central website for posting thousands of federal job openings, USAjobs.gov, has seen performance problems and complaints about searches since the government took it back this month from Monster.com, which had been running the site for years under a contract.
The U.S. employs some 2.6 million people, which makes USAjobs.gov a popular place to look for work.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management officials have acknowledged site availability issues and other problems, and have pledged to "work around the clock to assure USAJobs 3.0 provides the best customer service," the agency said Thursday. It has added new server capacity to the federal jobs site, dubbed version 3.0 and launched Oct. 11.
The operation of USAjobs.gov may well be one of the more visible tests of the ability of a federal IT department to take over work previously farmed out to a contractor with a promise of doing it as well or better and at less cost.
Customer complaints have been piling up on the OPM's official Facebook page for USAjobs.gov, even as the agency reports that thousands have successfully filed job applications since the transition from Monster.
Wrote one user on Facebook : "website is now the most un-userfriendly website I have used in long-term memory." Another user asked: "Why is it when I search I can get several jobs, then a few hours later no jobs, then a few hours later the several jobs are back?"
Frustration is a common theme. "I am more than fed up with the new site!! It has automatically signed me out 3 times, once while I was editing my resume. The site is slow..," a user wrote.
Another user said: "OK there is definitely something wrong with your search engine . I am looking for jobs in Germany and I always get jobs for DE which is Delaware NOT Germany and I do select the Europe option and the Germany option but your search engine thinks that Germany is DE, which is Delaware ..."
OPM Director John Berry, in a posting Wednesday, said the site has been getting more than expected traffic. The government is now "adding additional server capacity to support this extremely high volume," he said.
"While the number of people trying to use the system fluctuates from hour to hour, we're consistently serving at least 94% of them," said Berry. The others receive a message asking them to try again later.
OPM, in an email response late Thursday to a Computerworld query, said it is now serving users "100% of the time."
Despite the complaints of some users of the jobs site, OPM said the site is allowing people to file applications for jobs.
In its statement Thursday, OPM said that since the site's implementation last week, more than 180,000 job applications have been "successfully submitted," including more than 38,000 in the last 24 hours. The agency also said that it added three servers "to improve search functionality and job posting."
Monster.com offered its own response Thursday to OPM's problems by offering federal agencies free job ads on its site for 30 days.
"As a public service, we're offering these free postings to ease the burden during the transition and to help connect federal agency employers to qualified talent," said Sal Iannuzzi, chairman, president and CEO of Monster Worldwide, in a statement.
Linda Rix, the co-CEO of Avue Technologies Corp., has looked at the new site closely and has tested her systems on it. She criticized the OPM's decision to take on the project.
"They are a personnel management agency, they are not a technology company, and this clearly demonstrates that they don't have the technology skills to be able to do this," Rix said.
Avue Technologies provides human capital management products to federal agencies, such as performance management and time and attendance. Her company also conducted integration testing with OPM on the new site.
"They have limited experience with scalable technologies, they have limited experience with hosting a multi-user platform," said Rix, of OPM's effort. She said the site was slow on Thursday.
According to Rix, OPM used the screens that were on the Monster job board and rewrote all the code behind the screens. They are using Microsoft .Net and Microsoft 's Fast content indexing system. The network uses an OC-3 line, which has transmission rates of up to 155Mbps "and they are not able to manage the traffic flow," Rix said.
Rix said the government had plenty of other options for advertising federal jobs through other commercial job boards.
Angela Bailey, associate director of OPM, in an email response, said "that the cost to build USAJOBS 3.0 this year is approximately $6 million, relatively the same as what we paid the previous contractor. The cost savings to the agencies by bringing the site in-house is a projected $5 million cost savings over a five-year period. Agencies will not bear the cost of additional servers or other costs associated with the launch."
Federal agencies pay OPM for the services offered by USAjobs, but those fees may be going up over the long term, according to the 2012 federal budget. In it, the agency reports that the site "will incur new systems development costs while sustaining operations and maintenance costs for the current system. To address this increased funding requirement, the program expects to increase the annual assessment fee to agencies by 19%."
Patrick Thibodeau covers SaaS and enterprise applications, outsourcing , government IT policies, data centers and IT workforce issues for Computerworld. Follow Patrick on Twitter at @DCgov or subscribe to Patrick's RSS feed . His e-mail address is email@example.com .
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