Letters to the Editor

I could not agree more with your editorial ["FTS 2001: Let them all compete," Federal Computer Week, May 13, 2000]. The federal government needs to "get out of the business of managing agency telecom services."

For the past 11 years, my company, Electra Ltd., has provided telecommunications services and equipment to the federal government. While the commercial market for telecommunications services has flourished during this period, the federal market has been severely constrained by an anachronistic reliance on multibillion-dollar, omnibus contracts. Whether through mandatory-use, minimum-revenue guarantees or massive contract bundling, the government has all but assured that only oligopolists can participate.

However, our experience has shown that when agency managers have had the courage to seek waivers from these underperforming bundled contracts, they have been rewarded with the pricing, service and innovation that only open competition can provide.

With the wave of mergers among primes on contracts such as FTS 2001 and the DTS-CE [Defense Information Systems Network Transmission Services-Continental United States Extension], there has never been a better time for agencies to demand the choices that are available in the commercial marketplace.

GSA should stop clinging to acquisition strategies based on contract bundling and instead offer agencies procurement mechanisms such as Federal Supply Schedules and electronic commerce bid boards, which promote continuous competition and maximize vendor participation.

Craig Brooks

President, Electra Ltd.

Bethesda, Md.

In support of "weenies'

Dan Verton's review of Dan Carrison and Rod Walsh's book "Semper Fi: Business Leadership the Marine Corps Way" was insightful and well-written ["Always faithful' at the office," Federal Computer Week, May 15]. The 10 winning strategies will help managers and team leaders become more successful.

Unfortunately, Dan incorporated some of the authors' inherent biases into his review. The authors continue the Marine myth that managers lack the requisite courage to lead and that there are two variants of Marines: real ones (or operators) and staff "weenies." Staff "weenie" is not a benign characterization: It is very pejorative and causes rancor and hostility within the Corps.

What makes the Marine Corps, and its leaders, so unique is the fixation on team-building. This belief is predicated on the philosophy that no member of the Corps is irreplaceable. All Marines must be rifle men and women first, and even the most junior Marine must be prepared to assume command.

However, most Marine leaders lack an essential management skill: strategic vision.

Another fault is that to most Marines, the most plentiful and least valuable asset is the individual Marine. This needs to change.

If corporate America adopts these two principles, our continued prosperity is endangered.

Read the book! Take advantage of the healthy advice! Disregard that which is dangerous or shortsighted. Be a great manager and lead by example. Trust your subordinates. Challenge them to improve. Reward them for innovation and success! Exceptional subordinates always reflect favorably on their boss.

Just in case anyone wants to take me to task for my views, they had better do their homework. I was a staff "weenie." However, I have a breadth of operational assignments and experience. I wore a Marine Corps uniform for almost 22 years of continuous active duty and rose through the grades from private to warrant officer, and then through captain.

I was a key player (maybe the key) and driver in the Marine Corps' victory against the abortive Bush-Cheney-Powell plan that would have reduced the Marine Corps' active duty numbers to below 160,000 Marines by the end of fiscal 1997 ("USMC 2001").

Without us staff "weenies" to defeat the "purple suit" warriors, about 14,000 officers and enlisted Marines would not be wearing Marine Corps green today. Without us, the Marine Corps would not have completed the rebuilding of the MPF assets in half the expected time. Without us, many of the Marine Corps' legendary exploits might never have occurred.

Marine Corps staff "weenies" can do everything that the operators can. Unfortunately, the operators cannot do our jobs.

Stay away from pejorative class distinctions.

There is only the mission, the team, and success!

Thanks. Semper Fidelis!

Gary Dickson

Manassas, Va.

WRITE US

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Letters may be edited for clarity and for space constraints in the printversion of FCW.

May 23, 2000

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