Letters to the editor

GSA disorganization

FCW's Aug. 15 editorial on the General Services Administration's reorganization asks, "What's the difference?" The difference is that GSA no longer operates fast and loose and is totally bogged down in procedures and rules.

I can say from firsthand experience that GSA has instituted an overbearing process that makes customers jump through multiple unnecessary acquisition hoops to produce all possible documentation for future or ongoing audits.

The result was a three-month ordeal for us, the customers, to purchase equipment that should have taken no more than two weeks to buy.

We will not use GSA for anything ever again. If other GSA customers have shared the same experience, I'm sure the agency's reorganization will be for nothing. With no customers, there will be no need for GSA. Problem solved.

Until Congress totally reforms the overly complex, convoluted responsibility/oversight morass of an acquisition system, nothing will change. Our GSA experience is now becoming the norm, with contracting agencies fearing their own shadows.

I always wonder how many billions of dollars are wasted while we are chasing our tails trying to get a fair deal on items we need to do our jobs.

Name withheld by request

The looming boomers

Office of Management and Budget officials are assessing their plans to address information technology skill gaps, which is the subject of FCW.com's Aug. 12 story, "Agencies must identify IT 'skill gaps.'" Federal officials also should re-examine other looming, long-term workforce challenges.

The federal government faces an unavoidable speed bump on its path to future prosperity: the demographic shift caused by a soon-to-retire baby boomer population. Some government agencies will retire up to half of their employees within a decade.

Agencies with foresight, such as the Social Security Administration and NASA, have already begun looking at how they will transfer knowledge and expertise.

Combined, the two agencies have more than 80,000 employees. Equally as important, they encourage more experienced workers to remain at the agencies and accept innovative roles.

The IT skill gaps will only deepen as future demographic shifts take hold. The government's success will partially depend on how agencies address those gaps.

But it will also depend on how quickly they recognize the value of their long-term employees and create flexible opportunities for them to continue to use and transfer their practical knowledge and intellectual capital.

Jonathan D. Breul
Senior Fellow
IBM Center for the Business of Government

Mis-honed

I hear this mistake frequently on PBS, but I expect it there. I have occasionally seen it in the Washington Post, but I consider their editors to be little better than those at PBS. FCW, on the other hand, should never contain this kind of mistake.

FCW's Aug. 22 story "The new Trojan war" contained the following sentence: "The pace of the attacks has accelerated as adversaries honed in on this perceived weakness."

"Honed?" Please. Hone, when used as a verb, is transitive and means to sharpen or perfect something, such as a knife, razor or skill, and takes an object.

In the sense you used the phrase, it should have been "homed in," from homing, an intransitive verb that means to move or lead toward a goal.

Name withheld by request

Editor's note: Many dictionaries, including Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary, list "hone in" as acceptable usage.

BIA shutdown

I am responding to FCW.com's Aug. 22 story "Feds seek new judge in Indian trust case." I have been with the Agriculture Department for a little more than a year, but I worked for the Bureau of Indian Affairs for five years before that.

As a result of the Cobell litigation, BIA employees have not had e-mail or Internet access since the December 2001 disconnection. If anyone tells you otherwise, that person is not telling the truth.

Regardless of whether this is a BIA decision or a Justice Department-instigated order, the fact remains that all BIA workers, as far as I know, have no access to the Internet and have not had access since U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth's December 2001 disconnection order.

There was talk about getting access to higher-level personnel, but we were never informed of this coming to fruition and we were never afforded access.

One of the reasons I left BIA was because I could not maintain connection with the rest of the world or keep current in my professional field.

Name withheld by request

Disconnect

The Bureau of Indian Affairs has been off the Internet for more than the three years I've been with them — and not on an off-again, on-again basis.

Gerald O'Hara
Bureau of Indian Affairs

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