Federal Bytes

THE BIGGER THE NERD. At a House hearing on Justice Department financial management this month, Rep. Steve Horn (R-Calif.), chairman of the Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, asked witnesses - in a roundabout way - how realistic their approach to computer security was.

"You ever think about going out to a high school and [hiring] one of these little nerds who stays up all night trying to crack into systems?" asked Horn, explaining that youngsters in search of a thrilling technical challenge are often the source of federal hackings.

DOJ inspector general Michael Bromwich answered Horn bluntly: "We have big nerds."

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UNDERSTATEMENT OF THE YEAR. Amid all of the Department of Housing and Urban Development's problems with Congress, the General Accounting Office and the department's own inspector general over mismanagement of its IT programs and procurement, HUD Secretary Andrew Cuomo and HUD Deputy Secretary Saul Ramirez have been able to find humor in their situation.

Congress and GAO admit that the agency has improved IT management. But in the past month, Cuomo and Ramirez have chosen to understate HUD's progress, both admitting that the agency "is in no danger of bumping up against perfection any time soon."

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E-COMMERCE REVISITED. Many federal agencies are moving aggressively toward World Wide Web-based electronic procurement, but evidently not everyone is on board.

Numerous entries in the Commerce Business Daily continue to carry boilerplate language pointing out that the contract office will not accept requests for documents by telephone or telegraph.

It is hard to imagine some company actually tapping out its response to a CBD notice via telegraph. But those that do may take some comfort in the fact that the boilerplate language says nothing about bidding via semaphore or smoke signals.

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AN ACCOMMODATING BUNCH. Denizens of the nation's capital may have noticed extremely tight security at federal buildings last week, which one assumes was in response to recent developments in Kosovo. Stricter security certainly was noticeable last week at the Commerce Department's headquarters, where a seminar on transitioning to the new FTS 2001 telecom contract was held.

In fact, the Secret Service "asked" that the seminar wrap up early so that agents could scope out the auditorium where President Clinton was scheduled to dedicate a portrait of the late Commerce Secretary Ron Brown the next day.

The seminar organizers graciously agreed to the request. Or, as the seminar's moderator, FCW editor in chief Anne A. Armstrong, put it: "When the Secret Service asks you to do something, you don't stand there and argue."

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