Federal Bytes

MIDNIGHT MADNESS. The General Services Administration promised it would release the solicitation for the Washington Interagency Telecommunications System 2001 on Aug. 7, and it kept its promise. Just barely.

Repeated checks of the WITS2001 World Wide Web site that day turned up no request for proposals. When a reporter called the contracting officer on Aug. 7 to ask if the RFP would be released that day, she was told, "Today lasts until midnight."

Hard to argue with that statement. And sure enough, a quick stop at the Web site last Monday morning revealed the new RFP and a message at the bottom of the page: "This page was last updated 7Aug98 11:10 p.m."


WHO NAMES THESE THINGS? (PART ONE). It appears someone in the Commerce Department has a sense of humor. In a recent Commerce Business Daily notice, the department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said it enlisted the help of Boulder, Colo., to study the best way to build a new fiber-optic network there.

The name of the network? The Boulder Research and Administrative Network, a.k.a. BRAN, a wonderful name for an all-fiber network. We just don't know if we should take this notice cereal-ly.


WHO NAMES THESE THINGS? (PART TWO). There may soon no longer be a Federal Commons program. Federal Commons, a collaborative effort among the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health and the Transportation Department to develop a common electronic interface for applications for federal grants, will not go away, but it is likely to see its name change.

Gerard Glaser, an NSF official working on the project, last month briefed the Government Information Technology Services Board on his work. And although GITSB members questioned Glaser about some unresolved issues surrounding the project, the only concrete suggestion came from Treasury chief information officer Jim Flyzik, who apparently thought little of the name Federal Commons.

According to the minutes of the meeting, Flyzik— experienced CIO that he is— said the name should have something to do with the purpose of the system. He suggested the new name should— get this— perhaps contain the word "grant." Glaser agreed.

Maybe the new name will sound more like an electronic system and less like a townhouse development.


THE PENDULUM SWINGS. For years, computer companies have made a practice of dropping their original names in favor of acronyms. Some companies, such as IBM and EDS, adopted acronyms as common references. Others, such as TRW and PRC, changed their names for legal reasons.

This practice has even carried over to the food industry, where Kentucky Fried Chicken became KFC.

But maybe the trend is reversing itself. Systems integrator CTA Inc., Bethesda, Md., last week announced that it had changed its name back to Computer Technology Associates Inc. The move "reflects our renewed focus on information technology systems and services," the company said.

Of course, this leads us to wonder what the company focused on before it changed its name. But we feel reasonably certain it wasn't fried chicken.


THE FUNCTIONAL EQUIVALENT. Politicians usually are pretty good at recognizing a dodge. That was the case in a hearing last month before the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem when Judith List, vice president of integrated technology solutions at Bellcore, said telecommunications software must be "Year 2000-functional" or it is likely to fail.

But when Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) asked why she was using the phrase "Year 2000-functional" instead of the more conventional "Year 2000-compliant," List wiggled in her explanation. She said "functional" was Bellcore's preferred term, and the difference between the two terms really depended on one's definition of "compliant."

To which Dodd responded, "You ought to pursue a career in politics."


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