Letter From the Editors
On March 23, 1997, Federal Computer Week celebrated its 10th anniversary. Milestones are important, and we wanted to publish something special for the occasion. But we didn't want to produce a typical anniversary issue, complete with nostalgia about computer systems of old and predictions about the technologies of the future.
Like most newspapers, FCW spends much of its time reporting the bad news of information technology programs that are behind schedule or over budget, negative General Accounting Office reports and criticisms from end users. To celebrate 10 years in publishing, we wanted to do something different. We wanted to write about federal computer systems that work.
In this era of the Government Performance and Results Act and the Clinger-Cohen Act, agencies are under pressure to prove that their investments in IT help them accomplish their missions in measurable ways. In the same way, we decided to find and profile 10 federal computer systems that help government meet its ultimate mission: to improve the lives of all Americans.
We began our research last summer, interviewing more than 100 IT professionals in the public and private sectors and in academia. We researched 47 systems that we thought might qualify for the list. With the help of an outside panel, which consisted of representatives from the Library of Congress, the National Academy of Public Administrators, National Public Radio/WETA and the federal CIO Council, we narrowed the list down to 10 systems.
The systems profiled here represent the broad range of federal government functions, including defense, law enforcement, disaster recovery, environmental monitoring, air traffic control and weather forecasting. Some of the systems are owned and operated by the government, others are operated by contractors, and one is operated by industry under the direction of a regulatory agency.
FCW reporters and free-lance writers traveled around the country— and overseas, for one story— to interview the citizens whose lives were directly affected by these 10 systems. In all, we interviewed more than 225 people from all walks of life, from soldiers in the field, to policemen on the beat, to parents grieving over the loss of their children.
The agencies that developed these 10 systems will receive FCW Monticello Awards, named after the home of Thomas Jefferson, who said, "The care of human life and happiness, and not their destruction, is the first and only legitimate object of good government." We will select additional systems each year to receive the FCW Monticello Award to create an IT hall of fame for the federal marketplace.
The 10 systems profiled here show the vast potential of the federal government to serve its citizens quickly, efficiently and with compassion. We are proud to report on and be a part of the federal IT marketplace. We look forward to the next decade.
Carolyn Duffy Marsan