Letters to the Editor

More details please

As a frequent user of Advantage, I applaud the General Services Administration's efforts to get more detail on items ["GSA/vendor spat snares Hill," FCW, July 10]. Typical listings might [include] a color camera. For more detail, I would need to go to the vendor site and attempt to match that to something.

The links to vendor Web sites are generic portals that do not link to the product you want. I don't have the time to search a vendor Web site. Therefore, unless it's a mandatory source, I get my items elsewhere. The vendors are only hurting themselves with the paucity of details.

Gary Bower

U.S. Census Bureau

Fighting Dis-interest

I read [Milt Zall's] article "A waste of Thrift Savings" [FCW, July 3]. As usual, you've hit the nail on the head.

In an attempt to protect territory, someone has tried to maintain control by keeping the development in-house instead of outsourcing.

I also have concerns as to whether the requirements were identified and whether the system will ever perform as needed. Some of the documents I've seen indicate that the government made significant engineering changes to the original statement of work, which indicates they didn't have a good understanding of the requirements upfront.

What really bugs me is it takes almost two months to make a change to my plan even though I can do the transaction online. I'm losing all of the interest for the days it takes to make the change.

Seems to me we members of the Thrift Savings Plan have paid for the system through our management fees, and someone owes investors the interest we are losing by not being able to make instantaneous changes to our accounts. Is this good for a class-action suit for incompetence/mismanagement or what? Someone should be accountable for our losses. Seems the mismanagers are missing the boat on this.

Garry Lee

Chief, Information Protection Division

Air Force Communications Agency

Ask the Users

As an Army soldier, I agree with the em-phasis of the article "Lessons in contracting" [FCW, March 20]. I would like to put in my two cents' worth concerning the testimony of Jacques Gansler, the under-secretary of Defense for acquisition, technology and logistics, and his statement, "The key is...our work force and how well we prepare them for the challenges ahead."

As part of that work force, I offer some observations from practical experience:

    1. What we have is a disjointed/splintered effort. The material developers are far removed from the soldier/user of the material they are in the process of acquiring.

    2. A white-sheet approach to developing material completely ignores/forgets valuable lessons learned. Without the incorporation of these lessons learned, new material falls short of required performance standards.

    3. There is no team effort.

    4. The user's representative, described in "How the Army Runs: A Senior Leader Reference Handbook," is vague and in most cases just "lip service" that doesn't really apply to the process.

    5. The "user" can be military installations; individual soldiers; military units; the departments of the Army, Navy and Air Force; and civilians or contractors. Any of these are users, depending on the material they use and their role and function in the DOD work force.

My point to all of this is that the acquisition process cannot function effectively without some form of user input and "team" effort. The work force is better trained and more effective than management generally knows.

The problem is the distance between management/ leadership and the worker in the field.

When the user feels his or her imprint on the material, however slight, the synergy created between user and material will increase exponentially.

Henry G. Hays Jr. CW4, OD

Electronics Systems Technician

Your Turn

Here are some responses to our question — "Should there be an IT czar?" — raised in Federal Computer Week's June 26 cover story.

Add your comments by writing to [email protected]. Please identify yourself, but we can withhold your name upon request.

Make FCC Do the Job

I must be missing something in this world of digital communications. There is a government organization that is already responsible for managing communications — the Federal Communications Commission. I do not understand why this organization does not involve itself more in digital communications and function as the so-called czar.

We do not need another special appointment for this. We do not need another cabinet position. Rather, we need the agencies that are already created to do their job and be held responsible by the president for their assigned functions.

Name withheld upon request

Czar Would Cause Delays

Do we need an IT czar? No, no, no!

It takes long enough now to reach consensus on implementing systems, local-area networks, security policies, etc. If this is moved up to a higher level, it will take even longer to get anything done.

Those calling for the czar within the federal community are the same people who right now refuse to work together. What would be different under the czar?

Name withheld upon request

A Czar is Just the Start

Not only do we need an information technology czar, but we need much more than that for our government to be more fully responsible to the nation governmentally, to all capitalistic enterprises and to the citizenry.

We need to have all of the intelligence agencies combined under one management and streamlined in their management and operations for cost and practical efficiency reasons. This new organization should occupy a department-level position like the Department of Defense, Department of Justice, etc. Parts of the National Institute of Standards and Technology dealing with public-key infrastructure and communications security should be pulled into this new agency.

This new agency, answering to the executive branch and to all other agencies (Congress, too, of course), would be responsible to the nation for information security, technologies and telecomputerization standards and methods at the national level. This agency also would have the IT czar we need totally responsible to the president, Congress, Justice, Defense, domestic security, etc., for all of the information-related activities and government responsibilities.

This agency would have to report to Congress and the executive branch and to American enterprises and the public about the state of the nation's telecomputerization (telecommunications, computers, Internet, intelligence, information, etc.) annually.

It would also contain the Federal Communications Commission arm of the U.S. government...to guarantee standardization across our military and civilian communications with those of the world and all commercial enterprises....

This would greatly downsize/rightsize these various combined agencies that have dealt with and deal with the collection of information in one way or another. It should also be the arbiter, protector and guarantor of computer industry standards such as open file and protocol formats and application program interfaces that further the efficient creativity and economic efficiency in the merging computer and telecommunication industries.

There is no longer a need...to have all of the independent and semi-independent intelligence and information agencies, commissions and groups within the government.

Name withheld upon request


We welcome your comments.

To send a letter to the editor, e-mail us at [email protected]. Please include your full name and a phone number for verification. We can withhold yourname upon request.

Letters may be edited for clarity and for space constraints in the print version of FCW.

July 24, 2000

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