Like it or not, the Federal Government is a major player -- in most cases, the only game in town. You either work for the Government or a contractor who supports it. If you happen to be one of those who don't, your neighbor does.
The DC area also tends to be fairly recession resistant (not quite recession-proof) because the Government isn't going anywhere any time soon and spends oodles of money every year.
So to keep and hold a job, you have to be aware of what the trends in Government are. Ten or fifteen years ago, it was fairly easy to get a job with one of the Beltway Bandits (Washington-speak for Federal contractors). The trend was to reduce the size of Government by outsourcing it to contractors. And to some degree that worked.
It was very, very common to go into any Government agency and find that 90% of the jobs were filled by contractors. Only the top management positions were reserved for actual Government employees, since those were the "decision making" positions. So unless you felt compelled to be "in charge", the smart money was on being a Federal contractor.
But just like anything, the pendulum swings. The current administration has begun to absorb those contractor positions back into the Federal bureaucracy. Whether that is due to a general distrust of contractors, or more simply a shift in philosophy on the role of government, or more ominously a tactic to pad the rolls with unionized government employees friendly to Democrats is an open question.
[James Carafano] Today, the Pentagon is busy eliminating 33,000 private-sector workers and replacing them with federal (union) workers. The primary reason for this initiative is a general distrust of contractors. There is little evidence to suggest that the move will either save money or improve operations. Indeed, in most cases the government is just "poaching" the employees from contractors, further gutting the industrial base.Anecdotally, I have seen half a dozen contractor jobs at my site become "federalized" in the last year alone. So the trend is very real as far as I can tell. In the current "down" economy, everyone is scrambling for the safe jobs; right now that means the Federal Government.
That's where the "smart money" is, if you're the betting kind. I'm not, so I'll stay pat.