Federal Bytes

Timesavers, part one

Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the new Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, is apparently learning that high-tech jargon involves a lot of acronyms. Bennett said at a press conference last week that he has been using the term "Y2K" at home, thereby confusing his wife.

Bennett said his wife asked why he insisted on using "Y2K," to which he replied: "It's easier than saying Year 2000."His wife retorted, quite logically, "You only need to say one extra syllable. What's the big deal?"

Although Bennett could not give his wife a satisfactory answer, one assumes that the term "Year 2000" has been bandied about so frequently these days that the fraction of a second needed to pronounce the extra syllable could add up to hours, given repeated usage.

Timesavers, part two

Government agencies are fond of assigning catchy acronyms to programs . So naturally, when a new contract comes along, one of the first questions is what does the acronym stand for.

Wanda Smith, program manager of the General Services Administration's Seat Management contract, said people automatically assume that the program's name is an acronym, and they ask her what "Seat" stands for. Smith put it simply: "It stands for the body part that supports the rest of your body."

Skip Kemerer, who runs NASA's version of a desktop outsourcing procurement, is not so lucky with the explanation of his acronym. Kemerer called his contract the Outsourcing Desktop Initiative for NASA— a somewhat arduous way to arrive at the name ODIN, a mythological god of gods. The acronym sounds good, but Kemerer then confessed that the god Odin cut off one of his arms and poked out one of his eyes in search of wisdom. Hmmm.

A performance tool

In response to a question about forcing agencies to reprogram their funds to fix Year 2000 problems, Ed DeSeve, the acting deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget, told the annual gathering of trail bosses last week in Williamsburg, Va., that he worked for the new, kinder and gentler OMB.

"We give out Hammers now; we don't use them on agencies," DeSeve said, referring to the National Partnership for Reinventing Government (formerly the National Performance Review) Hammer Awards that are given to agencies that improve the efficiency of their operations.

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