Letters to the editor

Securing software

According to the March 25 online article "Security needs better education for programmers," Lawrence Hale, deputy director of the Homeland Security Department's U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, said programmers can be taught to avoid creating well-known vulnerabilities found in commercial software.

As a computer professional with 30 years' experience, I can tell you that most programmers can figure out on their own how to avoid buffer overflows and other vulnerabilities found in almost all software. But managers must require that security is designed and written into every software application from its creation to the last time it is ever accessed.

Also, software and hardware must be designed together, from the inception of the process, with security in mind to achieve maximum effectiveness and minimum vulnerability to threats.

This is up to the people involved in all of these processes. It is up to the people who tell programmers and hardware designers that the job must be completed ahead of schedule and under budget. It is also up to the users to be aware of all the possible consequences of misusing a computer system. In addition, it is up to all of these people to be responsible for their actions.

Robert Hugh Force II

Senior computer security specialist

Titan Systems Corp.

Sensors and Systems Division

IDEF for the people!

Congratulations on the Feb. 23 article "Pushing the integration envelope." Congratulations, that is, except for the panning of the integration definition (IDEF).

Self-serving interests have been trying to kill IDEF for 20 years. Remember, IDEF belongs to the people. It is the only modeling methodology covered by a Federal Information Processing Standard (FIPS), the same concept that guarantees us that our electric razors will work in all outlets in the United States.

The other modeling methods mentioned, including Unified Modeling Language and Business Process Modeling Notation, are idiosyncratic. They are products disguised as standards, but each really belongs to a company pushing consulting and incompatible software.

IDEF is the only modeling methodology supported by tool software from multiple vendors, which provide a utility that allows users to exchange models. This happened — and can only happen — when and if the methodology is based on FIPS because it costs nothing to belong to the club. The other guys want the world to revolve around their software and only their software. IDEF had and has an egalitarian purpose.

Dennis Wisnosky

Federal carrots and sticks

I read the Feb. 9 article "Wanted: 21st-century manager," and disagree with Patrick Wright's statement that federal managers have less control over employees through rewards and punishments.

Wright, professor of human resources studies at Cornell University's School of Industrial and Labor Relations, needs to do his homework. Managers have significant latitude within the federal salary schedules to reward and reprimand employees. Step increases can be withheld for unsatisfactory performance, and out-of-cycle step increases can be granted for exceptional performance.

I work for the Air Force and this information can be found in Air Force Instruction 36-1001. The authority for this instruction comes from Title 5, United States Code, Chapters 43 and 45, and Title 5 of the Code of Federal Regulations, Parts 430, 531, 532, 315 and 451.

This type of article perpetuates the myth of the unmotivated civil servant. Problems with the federal workforce will not be solved by workers from the outside. The changes need to be cultural and initiated from within.

Pay banding and other gimmicks will be adapted to the existing culture, and we'll have the same situation with a new set of rules twisted to fit the status quo. Why not just enforce what we have and see how that works? Hold upper managers responsible for ethical personnel practices. Stop whining about the aging workforce and use the resources that are available. The federal workforce is skilled, educated and undervalued.

Debra Srite

Air Force


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