Federal Bytes

ACRONYM ANARCHY. The government has been known to play fast and loose with its acronyms, creating new abbreviations at will and sometimes even re-assigning new meanings to the same acronyms. Case in point: FTS. This acronym was derived from the FTS 2000 program and originally stood for Federal Telecommunications System.

A few years ago, GSA established a program office to oversee FTS 2000 and named the office FTS, which stood for Federal Telecommunications Service—a slight variation on the original meaning. When the FTS office expanded its purview recently to include IT services in addition to telecom, FTS was renamed the Federal Technology Service.

At a telecom users' conference this month, FTS chief Dennis Fischer came up with yet another possible meaning for FTS. Boasting of the rock-bottom prices his office obtained from Sprint and MCI on the new FTS 2001 program, Fischer proposed that FTS may soon come to stand for "free telecommunications service." Though Fischer grinned when he made the remark, Sprint and MCI representatives did not.


MUTED. During last week's congressional hearing on how the Year 2000 date change will affect a network of satellites that keeps everything from ships to nuclear missiles on their proper course, a disruption occurred that some say could be typical of disruptions that may happen in the new millennium: The microphone went dead for no apparent reason, which halted the meeting for at least five minutes because the clerk couldn't record testimony.

"Is this what we can expect next year?" asked Rep. Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), chairman of the Science Committee's Space and Aeronautics Subcommittee. "We can't even communicate to each other without the microphones."

Of course, there are some members of Congress for whom this might be an advantage.


INTERNATIONAL DATA LINE. International cooperation among law enforcement agencies is key in the new world of the global Internet, but sometimes that cooperation is not readily given, even between friendly nations.

Scott Charney, chief of the computer crime and intellectual property section at the Justice Department, said he recently met with his counterpart in the Canadian government to compare notes.

The Canadian official asked for advice on possible fraud cases in the country's national health care system. Canada stores all its records in a single location, and the official worried that if the Canadian government were ever to discover that the people maintaining the computer system were involved in a fraud case, it would be necessary for law enforcement to come in, arrest the workers and take over the system themselves.

Wondering how this could possibly involve the United States? Apparently the Canadian system is in Ohio, and Charney assured his counterpart that any Mounties coming across the border to take over the facility would most definitely run into opposition from the Justice Department.


DANIEL IN THE LION'S DEN. Daniel Mehan, less than four months into his first government job as the FAA's CIO, may be facing more challenges than he expected. Tom Falvey, national security director at the Transportation Department's Office of Intelligence and Security, said Mehan knew he would have to deal with the Year 2000 problem and outdated air traffic systems. But when DOT, in compliance with a presidential mandate to protect the nation's critical infrastructure, identified mission-critical systems that need protection from cyberattacks, almost all were the FAA's.

Mehan, now facing responsibility for Year 2000 fixes and protecting the nation's air system, "may be wishing that he was still back in industry," Falvey said.


Y2KIDDING AROUND. The Al Gore jokes just keep a-comin'. You may recall that, in a very "Dan Quayle moment" in March, the vice president misspoke during an interview on CNN, stating that during his service in Congress he "took the initiative in creating the Internet."

Republicans, apparently seeking to suck away political steam from the presidential candidate, let loose with a volley of public jokes and press releases—with some Republicans claiming tongue-in-cheek that they ought to be given credit for inventions such as the paper clip.

Now, one Republican jester has singled out Gore for Year 2000 woes. Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, took a jab at Gore at last week's Outlook 2000 conference held by market analysis firm Federal Sources Inc. Davis said he had traced the origins of the Year 2000 problem to Gore. "When Al Gore invented the Internet, he only left two digits for the date," he said.


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