Federal Bytes

INSENSITIVITY. One of the more bizarre story pitches we've received recently concerned a Navy program to provide World Wide Web-based software development training to Native Americans. The program's goals are nothing if not laudable, but we were a bit taken back by the pitch itself:

"Successful software people often have backgrounds including either music or multiple language proficiencies. Where might one go to find such people en masse? Answer: To Native American communities, where tribal languages are spoken along with English at a very early age. (The prevailing wisdom holds that specific brain development brought about by this makes software a 'natural' for such talented folks.) And 54 percent unemployment makes a large pool of people available to be trained in this field."

This sounds suspiciously like the old generalizations that unfairly pigeonholed ethnic and racial groups to a specific type of vocational proclivity.

And while it's doubtful the Navy intended to pigeonhole Native Americans in this instance, politicians have lost elections over less.

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EUNOMIA (AND I KNOW YOU). Breaking from the traditional format of creating convoluted acronyms for IT programs, the Federal Aviation Administration named its new en route automation program Eunomia after a Greek goddess known as the "warden of the sky."

At a meeting with industry last week in which the FAA formally launched the program, officials said some of the most common questions regarding Eunomia have concerned the program's name. After a brief explanation, the puns began to fly. One FAA employee referred to a new illness called "walking Eunomia." Someone else referred to people associated with the program as "Eunomiacs."

As commentator Paul Harvey might say, now Euno the rest of the story.

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UNPREDICTABLE. Here's a helpful tip for all you committee chairs out there wondering how to guarantee healthy participation in your meetings: Always keep 'em guessing.

During a recent presentation of the activities of the CIO Council's security committee, Mark Boster, deputy chief information officer at the Justice Department and chairman of the committee, noted that almost all agencies send a representative to his committee's meetings.

But Boster, who has a reputation for speaking his mind even if it means ruffling a few feathers, noted that agencies may be attending simply because they are interested in "seeing what I may do next."

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CYBERDRAFT. Last week, the Selective Service System activated an online registration page on its World Wide Web site to allow anyone required to register for a potential U.S. military draft to sign up online.

It's a great idea, but it leads one to wonder what might happen if a draft were enacted. Would pacifists and protesters take to burning their computers?

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