Federal Bytes

OLD-BOY NETWORK STRIKES AGAIN. The Transportation Department received an "F" last quarter on Rep. Stephen Horn's (R-Calif.) Year 2000 report card, mostly because the Federal Aviation Administration was behind the mandated schedule for having all its mission-critical systems fixed. FAA officials recently said they will declare victory over the millennium bug by June 30.

However, Horn said during a television interview that the agency is playing catch-up because officials didn't listen to one of their workers who discovered the problem years ago.

"Everybody should have started about the time Social Security did, which was 1989,'' Horn said. "And it's ironic that in the Department of Transportation, nobody picked up on the Y2K problem when one of their outstanding programmers said, 'Look, we've got a problem. We've got to start working on it.' " Horn noted that the programmer was a woman, so "the old-boy network [at DOT] just cast her aside.

"Otherwise, Transportation would be in the 'A' category now,'' Horn declared.

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UNWANTED FEEDBACK. So you spend a few minutes dutifully filling out a form on a federal World Wide Web site that asks for comments about the site. You tell the Webmaster that the site was riddled with misspellings and grammatical errors, that you couldn't get access into half of what was offered on the site and that a hacker had apparently elbowed his way into the site and was filling it with obscenities.

Soon, you think, the Webmaster will see your message and correct the problems.

Think again.

Charles McClure, a professor at the School of Information Studies at Syracuse University and an expert on federal Web sites, said at a forum in Rosslyn, Va., last week that when he asked Webmasters at one federal agency what they did with all of their users' comments, they answered, "We don't look at that stuff."

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THE FREE MARKET AND SECURITY. Agencies and other groups operate several centers nationwide to collect information on cyberattacks and network intrusions. When federal officials met recently with representatives from the United Kingdom, the British complained that having several centers would hinder any international attempts to find the origins of cyberattacks because nations could not access a single central place for all the information needed, said Roger Molander, senior research scientist at Rand Corp., in a speech last week.

Americans, however, saw the issue from a different angle. They said competition among the centers to collect the most information would be more beneficial than pulling them together, where there would be no drive to excel.

Maybe there's still a little pent-up resentment against the former mother country because the consensus was that "the Brits will just have to go to four places," Molander said.

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REFORM IS NOT PRETTY. The final session at April's GSA Trail Boss Roundup '99 had an intriguing title sure to attract fans of procurement reform and spaghetti westerns: "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: Life After Clinger-Cohen."

The panel for the session included representatives from industry as well as the Coast Guard, the Defense Department and the Internal Revenue Service. We will leave it to the reader to determine who was good and who was bad. As for who was ugly, you had to be there.

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