Letters to the Editor

Outsourcing Hot Buttons

I just finished reading your article on San Diego County's outsourcing of information systems services. I found it interesting that no IS professionals were in the decision-making process. I wonder how Ron Roberts would feel if IS professionals decide to outsource the county administrative functions.

I have been in the IT profession for 20 years, and I have seen it over and over again. I can tell you that outsourcing does not work! It always starts out with promises to save money, but in the long run it will cost twice as much.

Why can't the county hire the same type of personnel that the outsourcing company has but without the 150 percent overhead charge? Remember, there is no loyalty in outsourcing. Eventually, a decision must be made: Doing what's best for the county or what's best for the company-making a profit.

Gary Ehrenfeld

Director of Information Services

City of Hillsboro, Ore.

I read with great interest your March article on San Diego's outsourcing and its impact on county employees featuring Mary Grillo. Lost among the constant talk about IT falling outside the government's "core competency" is an agency like the San Diego Data Processing Corp. SDDPC's positive contributions in areas such as Year 2000 compliance and law enforcement technology have been overlooked by Larry Prior and other local officials.

SDDPC contradicts strong-held beliefs in favor of outsourcing. The board members are experienced community and business leaders handpicked by City Council. They monitor and advocate

SDDPC's objective efforts and work to continually improve the city's IT services.

I tend to think that broad, negative generalizations arise in the outsourcing debate which don't apply to every organization or municipality. I think civic.com readers and San Diego residents should understand that SDDPC and the city are exceptions to the rule.

Gerald Poindexter

MJE Marketing Services

San Diego, Calif.

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Online Auctions: Savvy Purchasing or Pandora's Box?

Your March article and editorial on Pennsylvania's intent to use online auctions raised more questions for me than it answered.

By definition, an "auction" is a sale to the highest bidder. In auctions, the bids of one bidder are available to another. By definition, government procurement is "purchase from the lowest responsive and responsible bidder." For reasons of ethics, fairness and equity, all bids are revealed at the same time, and bids are not allowed to be changed after opening.

If Pennsylvania and FreeMarkets OnLine Inc. have established a tool to receive and open bids online at a certain date and time followed by acceptance of the "lowest responsive and responsible bidder," then I applaud them for moving to the forefront of government electronic commerce.

If, however, as your editorial and article imply, they have established a Pandora's box of frantic "can you top this?" responses with the selected supplier to be the last one online at deadline, then I believe they are dangerously close to undermining basic procurement principles.

I know of no professional public procurement official opposed to using electronic methods of seeking bids and proposals and ordering. Most of us cannot wait for the day when we and a majority of our suppliers have the capability to use this powerful tool.

Turning the procurement process into "auctions," though, will be anathema to many of us.

Jack T. Pitzer

Purchasing Agent

City of Alexandria, Va.

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From VPNs to AOL for Cops

Great piece on the Kansas Bureau of Investigations and virtual private networks! I'm a 10-year cop at a small police department in Minnesota. My dream is of a "police version of AOL," if you will, in which even the lowest-budget departments will be able to access shared police records (more than just criminal histories) using a Web browser.

Although VPNs are a major advance in networking, I have a bigger dream. If only we could manage security issues, it seems an ideal solution to fall back on that universal, platform-independent client-the Web browser-that takes advantage of a ubiquitous network-the Internet. Many small-budget departments that have been isolated forever would suddenly be brought into the fold.

Cpl. Todd Mitchell

Fridley Police Department

Fridley, Minn.

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