Federal Bytes

LET'S PLAY FOLLOW THE E-MAIL. A recent experience with the Air Force and General Services Administration may indicate that technology has become an integral part of the way government does business, but not much else has changed.

When a reporter last week requested information on an Air Force contract, a public affairs officer asked that the reporter submit her questions via e-mail. Fair enough, but that e-mail made its way through eight other people, sometimes more than once, before coming back to the same officer and then the reporter. Each recipient sent the history along with it, creating a wonderful "document trail" but no real answers.

In the end, it came down to this response from one of the final recipients: "I noticed in a long and drawn-out e-mail passed around too many times that you were interested in information.... I just wanted to check with you to determine whether or not your initial question had been addressed adequately and offer my assistance."

Nice to know that in some rare cases the cliche, "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help you," is not just a bad joke.

WILD KINGDOM. An "overwhelming, unavoidable force of nature" similar to a "dinosaur killer" threatens the well-being of federal workers, according to Office of Personnel Management Director Janice Lachance.

In a speech to Social Security Administration human resources employees at a training forum in Baltimore last week, Lachance warned government employees to steel themselves against the frightful powers of [insert dramatic pause] technology.

Technology, she said, "will kill our 20th-century dinosaurs - those organizations that cannot, or will not, adapt to the new global realities of the next millennium."

Lachance added: "Full-time, lifelong jobs are already disappearing, and instead employees are increasingly being called upon to be generalists - omnivores in the new world order."

She also called the federal work force of the future a herd of "fleet and nimble gazelles." Note to self: Need to study zoology and paleontology to get a job with Uncle Sam.

HE CAN'T LOSE. Lots of federal officials have expressed concern about losing government-trained workers to more lucrative jobs working for Beltway high-tech contractors. But not Treasury CIO Jim Flyzik.

Speaking at the Greater Washington Technology Showcase last week, Flyzik gave the impression that the issue does not bother him. "They're going to end up working for me anyway, on a contractual basis," he said enthusiastically. "It puts us in a win-win environment."

Now that's spin control.

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