Letters to the Editor
FTS 2001 Vendors to Blame
The opinion piece by Warren H. Suss concentrates on federal agencies'
fear or reluctance to transition to the new contract and completely overlooks
the total lack of preparation the FTS 2001 vendors have demonstrated ["A
war over FTS 2001," FCW, March 27].
My experience is in dealing with Sprint. When the contract was awarded,
they didn't know how to take an order or how to track an order. We began
faxing orders to them before the online system became available. Even with
the online ordering system, orders placed with Sprint must be manually re-keyed
into three or four different systems often causing errors. Sprint operations
are not a very good example of a contract that is supposed to lead the
government into new ways of doing business.
Local exchange carriers can reject an order as a bad address for as
little as having "Ave." instead of "Avenue." Sprint is completely at the
mercy of the LECs as far as circuit delivery is concerned. Sprint has yet
to deliver an invoice system that satisfies the request for proposals allowing
direct billing and information roll-up.
Yes, the contract offers significant savings, but the lack of transition
enthusiasm cannot be dumped solely on the doorstep of federal agencies.
The vendors are at least partially to blame.
The lack of preparedness demonstrated by the FTS 2001 vendors should
be sufficient grounds for the General Services Administration to say that
the first year's minimum revenue guarantee is void. The entire minimum guarantee
concept was very poorly thought out. It would have been much better to give
them a significantly smaller guarantee ($100 million) and say, "There is
lots of money to be made on this contract, and your performance will dictate
how much of it goes to your company."
I am not trying to bash either Sprint or MCI WorldCom, but putting all
the "transition reluctance" on the federal agencies is not fair to the hardworking
government staff trying to make transition happen.
Name withheld by request
Department of Veterans Affairs
A Tangled Web
I think that, with exceptions like the Library of Congress, federal
Web sites aren't what you'd expect to see from the government that invented
the Internet ["Customer disservice," FCW, April 24]. In my experience, one
reason is that good agency developers can't install anything to the Web
without getting approval from a central agency authority in charge of Web
servers, partly because they're in control of giving out new URLs.
In most automatic data processing areas, a single inner-driven government
employee who sees a problem can take the initiative to make it better, but at least in my organization, the Department of Veterans Affairs the
Web is different. That stuff gets done s-l-o-w-l-y, it often gets done without
industry-standard eye candy and it only gets done by those experienced in
"hacking" through the internal bureacracy in question.
Part of it is that government Web sites are more likely than most to
be challenged by real hackers, so anything newish generates lots of security
discussion. But just because folks spend a lot of time justifying their
security approach to upper management doesn't mean they're doing a superior
job of it.
We need more columns like these. This kind of feedback will make those
lousy agency processes and systems better, unless the managers involved
are foolish enough to turn defensive.
Name withheld by request
Faster, Cheaper Not Better
Steve Kelman's article praising NASA's "risk-taking" administrator missed
the point ["Don't pounce on failures," FCW, April 24]. The question is why
it took three successive mission failures before an "independent panel"
was brought in to review the situation.
One wonders if top NASA managers were so busy basking in the glow of
the "faster, better, cheaper" limelight that they forgot to listen to their
people. Lower-echelon folks are the first to know when frugality has pushed
the project to the ragged edge and beyond. That begs the culture question:
Would anyone who raised early concerns still be considered a team player
by the administrator?
If Kelman's math is correct, the "new age" NASA leadership has been
unable to improve on the mission success rate achieved by the old NASA "bureaucrats,"
despite having far better technology and ample data from the successful
missions. That's food for thought.
Michael D. May
General Services Administration
Federal Way, Wash.
E-filing: The Other Story
I'm glad Jim Wyant had a good experience e-filing using TurboTax ["Letters,"
FCW, April 17]. However, I think Intuit has a way to go. Actually, I think
the Internal Revenue Service should eliminate the middleman and permit taxpayers
to e-file directly with them.
I tried e-filing with TurboTax. For the federal return, Intuit indicated
the transmission was successful. However, after several weeks with no receipt
[from the IRS], I filed to the IRS using paper. Intuit's failure to process
my electronic return thus resulted in a delay of my refund.
I also tried filing my Maryland return electronically with Intuit. I
got an error message, which seemed to indicate to me that Intuit had programmed
the state tax for Maryland incorrectly for electronic filing. So I filed
my Maryland return the old-fashioned way too, but didn't have the delay
I had with the IRS since I knew immediately that Intuit wasn't processing
Intuit batted 0 for 2. Get rid of the middleman!
Environmental Protection Agency
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