The circuit

CIOs: We're Listening

Attention information technology personnel: The CIO Council wants to hear from you.

The council set up an electronic survey for all federal IT personnel to find out what they know and what they do. The survey (at www.surveyit.cio.gov) satisfies the Clinger-Cohen Act requirements for annual surveys across every department.

Ira Hobbs, council chairman for workforce issues, said the survey only takes five to 20 minutes to complete, and it will give the government a clear picture of the IT workforce's competencies.

So fill it and send it in!

Nader: Fed Fan

Believe it or not, citizen advocate Ralph Nader is a big fan of civil servants.

In fact, Nader suggested that more work should be performed in-house instead of being outsourced.

Nader, a keynote speaker at last week's Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md., told the gathering, "People have virtually no idea what you do." But Nader does. And he recounted how he convinced the General Services Administration in 1964 to order 40,000 government cars equipped with seat belts.

Years later, he convinced them to order 5,000 cars with airbags.

Buckle up!

E-Canada!

Meanwhile, could Canada be an example for the United States on providing e-government services?

Simon Gauthier, deputy chief information officer for Canada and another keynote speaker at IRMCO, said his government is moving much faster than the United States to create e-services.

The Canadian government's goal is to have its most frequently used services online by 2005, including 135 services such as secure access to tax statements, family benefits and real-time evaluation of eligibility for veterans.

Of course, all of this is much easier to accomplish when the population totals 25 million, instead of nearly 300 million in the United States. Canada is logging 1.2 million visitors a month on its Web sites, which is a tiny percentage of what some of the federal government's busiest Web sites experience, such as the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration.

Small Businesses Question COMMITS

The Commerce Department may be doing small businesses a favor with provisions in its new COMMITS NexGen, the $8 billion small-business set-aside contract, that ensure that the smallest small businesses aren't forced to compete with much larger companies. But not everyone is happy or certain they understand the contract. A series of two presolicitation meetings that Commerce hosted last week filled the auditorium at the agency's Washington, D.C., headquarters.

Tina Burnette, COMMITS acting program manager, discouraged companies from forming teams before they receive task orders. Companies should apply based on their past performance and technical skills, she said.

"The [selection] is not based on your team at all," muttered one business owner. Businesses also objected to a provision that allows a company to compete down to challenge smaller competitors only if it is the incumbent vendor on the task. Once a company grows enough to move into the higher tier, it should be completely barred from smaller contracts, some meeting attendees said.

DHS Readies Show and Tell

The Homeland Security Department is planning an October industry day for vendors who have devices and ideas for alert systems.

Rose Parkes, acting chief information officer at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said the event is intended to help the new department find the best and newest technologies to alert the public in the event of a national emergency or a terrorist attack. And the day is certain to make vendors happy. Many have reported they have had trouble getting past the front door at the new department to show off their wares.

Combat Evolved: The Next Generation?

Most Air Force personnel asked Steve Ballmer about Microsoft Corp.'s security practices in the wake of the Blaster and Welchia worms when the company's chief executive officer spoke Aug. 26 at the service's IT conference in Montgomery, Ala.

But a 20-something Air Force user wanted to know when the software giant would release the next version of its popular Xbox video game "Halo: Combat Evolved." The hip question evoked laughter from the tent-covered crowd.

Ballmer quipped that his teenage son asks him that same question. He said Microsoft has plans to release a newer version of the hit video game, which features a cyber-enhanced soldier whose mission is to keep a threatening alien race away from Earth.

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