Letters to the Editor

Scrap SDB preference

I wish to comment on your editorial ["Preference cutoff handcuffs DOD," FCW, March 15] on the Defense Department's preferences given to small and disadvantaged businesses (SDBs) and how Congress has suspended this policy for one year.

FCW wrote, "Congress has said society benefits from the presence of a host of small entrepreneurial firms." However, the same Congress suspended this procedure, did it not? SDBs get a preference that amounts to a 10 percent price advantage over its competitors, and this saves the government money by paying 10 percent more for its products? I must have missed that chapter in school.

I agree with your editorial - the one-year suspension should be lifted - and then the entire procedure should be scrapped. As you correctly stated, government is not in the business of artificially sustaining small business. Firms are not guaranteed to be successful just because they are owned by "minorities" or whatever group happens to be in favor in Washington this week.

I thank you for bringing this matter out in public. I will be writing my senators and my congressmen and telling them to either sponsor or support efforts to do away with this preferential treatment once and for all.

It is time the taxpayers received some preferential treatment.

Edward WhiteCoast Guard chief petty officer(retired)North Cape May, N.J.

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Hacking 'discovered'

Several of Walter Gary Sharp Sr.'s statements were a bit too assuming of the "proper" relation between information providers and law enforcement, especially in addressing a problem that has existed for some time and has suddenly been "discovered" ["U.S. must fight cyberterror aggressively," FCW, March 15].

Janet Reno compounded the error in talking about the lack of cyberterrorists 10 years ago. Hacking was quite prevalent then. I began investigating computer cases in 1987, and my relationship with the government was usually teaching them about high-tech crimes. I spent my daily job (at Nynex, where I was a "phone cop") trying to explain to federal, state and local law enforcement folks that our information needed to be subpoenaed and not given out to voices on phones.

Investigative tools and maintenance tools are often the same thing. The law needs to distinguish between uses and also persons using the information gleaned.

The Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act has made this very difficult, and I am troubled that some of my technical work may have pointed out the drift of technology. However, even in those dark ages, I tracked people through the Internet, not even fully appreciating what it would become.

I could take many shots at the editorial. But I know where I learned my craft, and I know what I was trying to protect when I kept people out of Nynex's systems.

Tom KaiserKaiser Consultants

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IT brain drain explained

Finally! FCW's March 22 Letters column contained a letter from Susan Smoter ["Finding federal jobs"] that is the first time I can remember seeing in print someone's comments about the federal government not "getting" IT. By IT, of course, I mean information technology professionals. She states that the "really good IT professionals" are leaving federal service because their skills are not properly acknowledged by their federal employers. Her statement is true.

I've actually stopped browsing the federal job notices, no matter how good they might read. I have several skill sets that could be put to much better use in a different federal job than the one I'm currently stuck in, but I'm unable to get my agency to fully recognize my skill potential, and I'm also unable to convince any other federal agency to even interview me. Therefore, I have no promotion potential with my current agency, nor do I get the opportunity to use my other skills in another federal job because of the lack of information that Ms. Smoter wrote about.

Most agencies would prefer to hire a recent college grad or someone just entering federal service than someone like me, who has experience and seniority, primarily because they can pay lower starting salaries than if they hire me at my current grade. Yet this very same plan to hire low, train them and then keep them is backfiring on agencies big time.

Here's a good example: Five years ago my agency had a job opening in one of our Western offices, a "ladder" position for a LAN manager of a Novell system in grades 9 through 12. I was just barely a GS-12 then but wanted to leave the Washington, D.C., area, so I applied. They hired a young lady fresh out of the Navy from California at the 9 level. Seven months later she quit, citing the fact that the office area was too remote for her tastes, and she returned to California. To my knowledge, funding has now prevented them from relisting the job, and the position remains unfilled. I have also found out that I was far better qualified for the job than the young ex-Wave, but I was passed over for the job because I was already at the 12 level. Had I been offered the job - and had I taken it - I'd still be working there because I wanted to move to a place that was more remote. Unfortunately, my agency now has no one in that slot, putting the job responsibilities on someone else who is already overloaded in their job duties.

What this means is that as quickly as I can get the arrangements completed for "early" retirement from federal service, I'm outta here. Uncle Sam does not care about one's skills after you're on board, even when he pays for the training. I'm already being underpaid by at least 30 percent for what I do every day. Why do I want to keep working for an entity that has no clue at all of how to properly use the skills that they have helped me develop? This whole system is just totally insane! At least once I'm "retired," I might be able to earn what I'm worth in private industry or at least be able to better choose who I work for and what I do for them.

Name withheld by request

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