Letters to the editor

Certification Can be Reassuring; Fair Competition Impossible; More Cooperation Needed; The SES Split

Following is a response to an FCW.com poll that asked: "Do you think federal IT workers should be required to earn a systems security certification?"

Certification Can be Reassuring

As director of information systems for an international police organization with close ties to U.S. law enforcement, I would like to present a view from the perspective of international cooperation.

The business of Interpol lies in the exchange of criminal information among countries and the provision of mutual cooperation on criminal matters. This requires a level of trust in the systems that we offer to member countries.

I support the main premise of some of your readers: that the most important requirement is to provide access to good training on security matters. But, as a service provider providing services globally from central France, it is important that our members/ clients have confidence in the technologies we use and in the people who operate them.

To this extent, it can be useful, even reassuring, for clients to know that some of the technicians with whom they interact have attained "certification," for instance in specific virtual private network technologies or on Microsoft Corp. products used in our architecture. This is only useful if the certificates are kept up-to-date, so the need to balance cost vs. benefit is always at the forefront.

Peter Nevitt Director, Information Systems Interpol

Following is a response to an FCW.com poll that asked: "Is it possible to have fair competition between public and private groups bidding for the same work?"

Fair Competition Impossible

It is impossible for public agencies to fairly compete with private industry.

The "bottom line" for the commercial sector is profit, while the bottom line for government is equity. This is not an academic distinction.

Also, there is a good reason certain responsibilities are placed in the hands of the government rather than private industry. How many of us would be content to have H&R Block (for example) determine and collect our income tax? How would it be if the Franklin Mint produced our coinage? When Sylvester Stallone's bodyguards are looking for new jobs, do you want them protecting the president?

Too many policy-makers disregard the above and seem to feel it simply does not matter who does these things. It matters. A lot.

Robert Benson Defense Logistics Agency

Following is a response to an FCW.com poll that asked: "What is at the top of your holiday IT wish list?"

More Cooperation Needed

Clearly, more cooperation between program management and agency/department chief information officers.

Agencies need to take seriously the effort to envision their operations as a combination of self-service, citizen/government contact and internal knowledge management/business processes that make these services work. We are now in our third year of business process re-engineering, and it is still a work in progress.

It is about understanding the needs of the citizens you serve and blending technology, our business processes and people to meet those needs.

Working together to deliver to the public the services each program's legislative mission requires must be our common goal. We are here to serve the public need.

Al Betts Commerce Department/International Trade Administration

Following are responses to an FCW.com poll that asked: "Do you favor dividing the Senior Executive Service into a corps of managers and a corps of technical experts?"

The SES Split

Far too many good technical people are "lost" to management roles in order to increase pay. Many are not good managers though they were excellent technicians. In this age of information technology modernization projects, retention of technical people is of critical importance.

Mark St. Jean Internal Revenue Service

SES was supposed to be a professional, executive management cadre made up of individuals who could move among agencies and departments providing expert management. Today — for various reasons, pay compression being one — SES is loaded with "technicians" with very thin management expertise.

If you read SES vacancy announcements, you will note that technical skill and agency knowledge are valued more than management skills.

Also, it is rare for SES executives to be hired from the ranks of GS-14/15s outside an agency and rare to see those executives leave to take up executive management posts in other agencies, unless they are in the "technician" category. That was not the "plan" for SES.

Edward Powell Retired federal employee

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