Federal Bytes

Y2K SURVIVAL GEAR. During a recent hearing on personal preparedness for the Year 2000, Sen. Robert Bennett (R-Utah), chairman of the Senate Special Committee on the Year 2000 Technology Problem, presented Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), the committee's vice chairman, with a special gift.

Dodd received a white T-shirt on which was written: "The 100% Y2K T-Shirt." The shirt came with instructions on how it can help its owner survive the new millennium. It can be worn as a diaper, the instructions stated, and it also can be used to beat up people who say the millennium starts Jan. 1, 2001. "We want the senator to be prepared with these personal instructions,'' Bennett joked. "The T-shirt is recommended by three of the four horses of the apocalypse.''

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IT'S GOOD TO BE THE CIO. The General Services Administration got a new chief information officer last week. Bill Piatt is making the jump to the agency's head IT guy less than six months after leaving the Peace Corps to become the CIO at the Public Buildings Service.

When Piatt took the PBS job, he invited us to call him back in six months to get his opinion on how he likes life at GSA, and we did. He said he loves being at the agency and added that the teamwork and dedication of his staff have been wonderful.

But he also admitted that getting such a major promotion less than a year into the job hasn't hurt either.

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BOWING TO THE HYPE? In case you're wondering, Piatt was appointed to the CIO job because his predecessor, Shereen Remez, has been named the agency's first chief knowledge officer. Remez now is responsible for helping the agency embrace the highly hyped "knowledge management" concept, which is supposed to help people find the information they need when they need it.

Though not meant as a reflection on the highly capable Remez, upon hearing the term "chief knowledge officer," one observer remarked that the title sounds like a contradiction in terms. Another noted that CKO sounds like a new fragrance from Calvin Klein.

We have just one question: Is her boss going to be the chief enlightenment officer?

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GSA HITS THE ROOF. The General Services Administration's Northwest Arctic Region—Do you get the impression this is where GSA managers send employees they don't like?—this month issued a notice stating that it is looking for vendors to coordinate management of the agency's rooftop telecommunications program.

The notice made us imagine anguished federal employees working at their desks on the roofs of federal buildings in Alaska, anxiously waiting for a vendor to deliver a new telephone.

Actually, the notice calls for a vendor to "market the rooftops to both federal and commercial customers, with the goal of maximizing revenue." This must mean that the winning vendor will oversee the rental of rooftop space to those seeking to install transmitters or receivers on top of federal buildings.

But we still think rooftop space would be uniquely suited to particularly troublesome employees.

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A NEW ROOM AT THE WHITE HOUSE? At a House hearing last week on geographic information systems, Rep. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) suggested that the president needs more than a War Room. He needs a Peace Room too, according to the congressman.

Horn said that the president can use computer systems in the War Room—or the White House Situation Room—to monitor conflicts or crises. But Horn said the president has no similar computer-filled room he can use in peacetime to study domestic issues. The Peace Room would be the perfect solution, he said.We like the idea, but we wonder about the name. President Clinton has a bit of a reputation as a former hippie, and we are a little concerned about how he might decorate a Peace Room. Beaded curtains? Incense? Tie-dyed wall coverings?

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NOT MAKING THIS UP. We've learned something about journalists from the featured speaker at this week's Federal 100 Awards banquet, columnist Dave Barry. Barry once wrote that reporters covering news events spend about 1 percent of their time getting information, 6 percent of their time writing stories and 93 percent of their time "trying to get the computer to send the story back to the newspaper by pressing keys pretty much at random with growing panic until we have sent our stories to some destination—possibly the Kremlin, possibly the radio room of the Titanic—but not to our newspaper."

Alas, Barry's comments are too true. We at FCW are IT journalists who actually know computers, and often we still end up employing the time-honored journalistic tradition of calling an editor and dictating our stories over the phone.

At least the phones we use no longer have cranks.

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