Federal Bytes

From bad to worse

It is often said that the effort to fix the Year 2000 problem is one initiative with an immovable deadline. Well that may not be true. It appears the deadline could be shortened by about four months.

According to the Financial Times many programmers in the 1970s used a Sept. 9 1999 date field to indicate the end of a project or program routine bringing processing to a stop.

The date apparently was chosen randomly because programmers did not foresee that their software would still be running in 1999. While this bug is easy to fix it just adds to the work already under way.* * *

An informed decision-maker on Capitol Hill?

Despite all the publicity regarding the three-year criminal investigation of Phil Zimmerman the inventor of the encryption product Pretty Good Privacy (PGP) Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) learned about the product just earlier this month. Zimmerman was investigated - the charges were later dropped - for violating export-control policies because he posted PGP to a news group which reached international Internet users.

Ironically the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman did not find out about PGP until earlier this month during a committee hearing on encryption export policy.* * *

Better late...

The sometimes-contentious relationship between program managers and procurement shops was brought home by a joke we heard last week at a conference on programs managed by the General Services Administration's Federal Telecommunications Service.

Jerry Slaymaker acting director of enterprise technology services at the Environmental Protection Agency told the audience that acquisition people in his agency have a special place in his heart. "I want to be with them when the world comes to an end " he told the audience "because it will happen to them two years later."* * *

Tongue twister

From the federal IT one-liner department: News that Lockheed Martin Corp. is working on a very alliterative project - a "model mobile map-making terrain-analysis system" for the Army - prompted one IT industry watcher last week to quip that the Army "should've gone to 3M." (Insert rim shot here.)

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