Federal Bytes

HAVING FUN YET? With less than 40 days until 2000, many federal employees and contractors who are trying to fix potential computer problems before the rollover on Dec. 31 are approaching burnout. Then there's the people floating the idea of getting out of town before any of the problems show up.

Even John Koskinen, chairman of the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion, acknowledged at a breakfast meeting last week that he has an itch to put all this Year 2000 work behind him. But much like the fascination surrounding an imminent car wreck, there's a need to watch it until the end.

"There is a temptation to quit while we're ahead, but with only 45 fun-filled days ahead, why leave now?" he said.

***Y2K: THE MOVIE. In the past year, a lot of movie and TV studios contemplated developing disaster movies based on the upcoming climax of the Year 2000 problem. After all, nothing brings in the crowds like the world falling apart.

That's what NBC seems to believe, as it planned to air this weekend "Y2K: The Movie," which, supposedly, had plenty of Year 2000 catastrophes to go around. Although many level-headed people expressed concern that the movie would cause just the kind of panic the government is trying to avoid, others were looking at the, um, Big Picture.

"My biggest concern all along was who was going to play me," Koskinen said at a breakfast last week. "I was kind of thinking along Clint Eastwood lines."

"Go ahead, make my New Year's Day," has a nice ring to it.

***A MANY-MILLENIUM BUG. During the opening session of the Navy's Connecting Technology '99 symposium in San Diego, Navy chief information officer Daniel Porter said he followed a friend's advice and based his speech on the news of the day. Upon reading The Washington Post's Learning section, he discovered topic choices that included migratory birds, roaches and fiber-optic communications.

"So I chose roaches," Porter said, surprising the crowd. Having lived in Manhattan, Porter said he is familiar with the insects. He even found a way to dovetail roaches into the issues and buzzwords that are part of managing IT in the government.

"It's really hard to argue with success," he said. "Roaches have been around for 350 million years. They have a robust and flexible design."

***MILITARY THINK. The crowd listening to the keynote address at the Navy's Connecting Technology '99 symposium learned a lot about military strategy and how information can enhance it.

One of the most important lessons came from Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, president of the Naval War College, who spoke about network-centric warfare. "Warfare is intended not to kill someone but to change their behavior," he said. "If you kill someone, you dramatically change their behavior."

***FIZZY LOGIC. The upcoming Year 2000 rollover may have induced some paranoia in the public. People have been stocking their homes with food and water in anticipation of shortages come New Year's Day. But after reading about a rumored shortage of bubbly, Dave Wennergren, the Navy's deputy chief information officer for Year 2000, information assurance and smart cards, came up with his own priority:"If you're going to stock something, I'd go for the champagne rather than the Spam," he said.

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