Letters to the editor

CSC in the running

Your July 25 story "The next big IRS thing: Filing and Payment Compliance" incorrectly states that Computer Sciences Corp. Prime Alliance was not allowed to bid on the Internal Revenue Service's Filing and Payment Compliance system. For the record, at no time has the IRS restricted CSC or members of the Prime Alliance from competing for new or ongoing modernization work.

In IRS Commissioner Mark Everson's Feb. 12, 2004, written testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee's Oversight Subcommittee, he said, "We will expand the competition for new enforcement projects. ... " During his oral testimony, he said, "I have decided to direct our upcoming enforcement modernization projects for collection contract support and filing and payment compliance to other contracts."

At no time did Everson say that Prime or CSC would be excluded from bidding on projects. He did say that the IRS intended to use a contract vehicle other than the Prime contract to procure the Filing and Payment Compliance system.

The first phase of the project, known as PDC Release 1.1, is a stand-alone solution, based on a commercial inventory management product that will allow the IRS to meet its near-term requirement to manage a portion of collection cases through private collection agencies. The competition was limited to vendors of proven commercial products that could install and configure the system quickly to meet the IRS' near-term requirements. CSC did not plan or expect to bid on this phase, because the company is not a vendor of those products.

The second phase, PDC Release 1.2, is an open competition to obtain the services of a project contractor to develop the domain architecture and logical design. The procurement action is being conducted under a contract other than Prime.

CSC has submitted a proposal in response to this competitive procurement, and we believe our improved delivery performance entitles us to fair consideration for this award and future modernization- related procurements.

James Sheaffer
General Manager
CSC's Prime Alliance

Standard misconceptions

I am writing about misconceptions in the article "Keeping data flowing" [FCW, April 18].

The first misconception is your characterization of the International Organization for Standardization/International Electrotechnical Commission 11179 standard as giving guidance about naming data elements. The standard is primarily about a structure for describing data. Names of data elements are only one small part of those descriptions.

The second misconception is that the ISO/IEC 11179 standard is primarily for describing structured data. The standard is primarily for describing any data. There is no provision in it limiting the descriptions to structured data.

The third misconception is that ISO/IEC 11179 is deficient because it does not account for semantic computing.

Leaving aside whether the term "semantic computing" has a useful definition at this time, the most important thing to know about standards is they are built by consensus.

Standards committees have participants from a range of organizations, backgrounds, interests and personalities. There is no way to achieve consensus around every new technology. It takes some time before worthwhile technologies are mature enough for there to be a common understanding under which consensus might be achieved. True believers will argue with me here, but semantic computing is not mature enough for standardization.

Daniel W. Gillman
Bureau of Labor Statistics

Editor's note: The writer is chairman of INCITS/L8 (Metadata), the U.S. committee responsible for ISO/IEC 11179, and editor of "ISO/IEC 11179-1, Part 1: Framework."

Degrees of separation

Besides letters, we learn what's on readers' minds through the comments they post on our blogs. A recent survey shows that nearly 40 percent of the people working in computer and math science occupations do not have a bachelor's degree. We asked readers whether they believe a bachelor's degree is necessary in information technology. Among the comments posted:

  • "If my IT shop is typical, it is the younger IT workers who have only high school diplomas or associate's degrees. The older workers typically have bachelor's or master's degrees."
  • "I have been in IT for 23 years and have an associate's degree in computer applications. I've obtained most of my positions based on my experience, not my level of education.

"Folks, the harsh reality is this: Your education determines hiring preference, pay and status. If you are in the government and have no desire to move up or change jobs, the bachelor's degree might not help much. If you want a better job, a promotion, a new career in a different field or another change in your status, a degree or two will serve you well. For example, try and become a military officer without a degree. Then remember the most senior enlisted person is subordinate to the lowest junior officer.

"What's the difference? The degree."

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