Turning tech into customer service

Lt. Col. William P. Golden director of command control communications and computers for the President's Office of National Drug Control Policy sees himself as "a gadget person."

At home he has a computer-driven lawn sprinkler and pool system he carries the latest model of cellular phones and he wears a Casio Telememo 50 watch—essentially a computer on the wrist. With technology infiltrating every aspect of our lives "we're going to be like the Jetsons " Golden said.

However despite his fascination with technology Golden is not interested in technical jargon that confuses people or distracts them from the role technology plays either in government operations or in people's daily lives. "You get these people who start to talk about bits and bytes and RAM there are other people who don't know what they are talking about " Golden said.

Golden would not describe himself as a hands-on computer buff he does not even have a computer at home. He knows the technology but his main interest is how that technology can improve people's jobs and lives. The gadgets he owns are computer-driven but the computers are under the hood.

Given Golden's down-to-earth view of technology it is no surprise he describes his job in terms of "customer service" rather than in complicated technical terms.

His definition of customer service covers everything from building a basic technology infrastructure—including electronic mail and Internet access—where there was none before to installing reliable communications pipelines to wherever "Drug Czar" Barry R. McCaffrey director of the agency may travel.

Taking Critical Assignments

Golden an Air Force employee since 1980 joined the drug czar's office early this year after completing an assignment at the Defense Information Systems Agency and earning a promotion to lieutenant colonel. He turned down a command position to take this job although he hopes to have another shot at a command job when he finishes his two-year assignment in the Executive Office of the President.

"This is the best job I've ever had " Golden said. "It allows me to research what's out there and make decisions about what technologies I feel can help this agency. [When I came here] we didn't have anything."

If Golden discusses technology like a layman the critical assignments he has undertaken in recent years belie that impression.

At DISA he was responsible for meeting the systems requirements of the nation's top leaders within the Pentagon and the White House including requests for systems on board aircraft used by the president and his Cabinet. Among other tasks Golden oversaw the rapid deployment of the Global Command and Control System (GCSS) to peacekeeping operations in Bosnia.

On assignment at the National Military Command Center during the Persian Gulf War Golden was responsible for overseeing around-the-clock and around-the-globe connectivity for Colin Powell then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. At the time Powell communicated regularly with then-Secretary of Defense Richard Cheney and President Bush.

While Golden is no technology layman he did take up command control communications computers and intelligence (C4I) as something of a second career.

Strategic Airborne Officer of the Year

He began his tenure in the Air Force as a pilot. In 1984 during his fourth year in the service and as a member of the 2nd Airborne Command and Control Squadron "Looking Glass " Golden was selected as the Strategic Airborne Officer of the Year.

However he was grounded several years later for medical reasons so the Air Force sent Golden to the University of Southern Mississippi to get a master of science degree in teleprocessing sciences which he received in 1987.

Although he loved being a pilot he now asserts that part of his life is over and that he has "moved on." But he added that he has always looked for assignments close to airfields in the years since he gave up piloting.

The turning point in his second career was his work last year in Bosnia. To support the U.S. peacekeepers in Europe the Defense Department wanted to replace its existing command and control system with GCCS the system of the future.

Unfortunately GCCS was not quite ready to be fielded when the peacekeeping mission began. Golden then ranked a major trained the team that tested the system and took it overseas for deployment.

Golden does not consider himself an especially skilled computer operator he never worked on a computer at his desk until he joined DISA in 1993. "But I convinced myself I could do it and I convinced [my staff] we would do it " he said.

They did it and GCCS performed well earning Golden high praise from DISA officials who requested his promotion to lieutenant colonel. The promotion came through earlier this year.

Golden said he finds the work satisfying because he recognizes the difference technology can make in people's lives. He said he especially enjoys seeing the impact the technology has on the people around him.

Golden's initiatives to bring his organization on-line and set up e-mail has made it possible for staff members who sometimes work until nine or ten o'clock at night to telecommute from home. In cases like this technology means more than bits and bytes it means improving the "quality of life" for office staff he said.

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