Letters to the Editor

Uncomfortable With Seat Story

Your story "What's up with Seat?" [FCW, July 24] gives the wrong impression that the Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of the Inspector General is having problems with its implementation of seat management.

The story uses sensational quotes — taken out of context — from a wide-ranging interview that took place about three months ago to paint an incorrect picture of our experience as well as our relationship with our contractor, DynCorp.

More regrettable, the story fails to understand the enormity of the task that the HUD OIG has taken on.

In 24 months, the HUD OIG has gone from a standing start and "Jurassic technology" to its own secure system and support structure, featuring the zenith of auditing and investigative software that will set a new standard for the inspector general community. Three steps have been required to implement it:

n Site preparation (which was accomplished by Signal Corp. with the General Services Administration).

n Seat management (which is being accomplished by DynCorp).

n A new auditing and investigative software (which is being accomplished by Paisley Consulting).

In the story, HUD OIG is portrayed as not having addressed requirements until November 1999 and not being involved with the design of the system that DynCorp is implementing. In fact, three months were devoted to gathering requirements so that we could choose functional specifications in the seat management task order based on our business rather than trying to dictate equipment specifications based on the latest technology.

The reason implementation was suspended in October 1999 was that it had become apparent that our schedule was overly aggressive in assuming that the three parts to our implementation could occur simultaneously.

During this brief hiatus 10 months ago, HUD OIG had time to reassess our ag-gressive implementation schedule. HUD OIG also was able to complete the staffing of our new information technology organization.

The new approach added time for testing and communication with our employees. HUD OIG staff had a natural skepticism — as you would expect from auditors and investigators — about the prospects for a successful implementation of a new system featuring radical new auditing/investigative software. Essential for us was making sure that everything worked the first time and that we had built confidence internally.

As proof of our success, just this month DynCorp has begun to roll out seat management. Implementation is complete for the entire district of New York and New Jersey with little disruption.

William Stine

Director OIG Information Systems

Department of Housing and Urban Development

IT Diplomacy

Your article ["Lack of embassy e-mail 'laughable,'" FCW.com, July 20] paints an unnecessarily grim picture of the state of information technology at our diplomatic missions overseas. The picture is not perfect, but not nearly as dire as the article would have readers believe, and efforts are under way to improve interagency collaboration and communication.

The State Department recently completed an aggressive modernization effort to upgrade the unclassified IT infrastructure at all of our diplomatic missions overseas. In 1997, State's IT infrastructure included some 250 obsolete minicomputers, which suffered frequent breakdowns, were expensive to maintain and did not provide employee access to the Internet, robust e-mail or other powerful, Information Age IT services.

During the past three years, State has transitioned to a state-of-the-art PC-based infrastructure that provides a full range of reliable and modern IT capabilities. This new system — A Logical Modernization Approach (ALMA) — is an unclassified intranet that allows Internet e-mail capability. Today, every State employee has access to a PC with Internet e-mail capability, and every embassy has Internet e-mail capability. But this is only the first step in improving our IT capability.

State is leading the inter-agency effort to develop and implement an interoperable IT infrastructure and a knowledge management system to enable all U.S. government agencies resident in our diplomatic missions overseas to share data, provide rapid, secure e-mail and work collaboratively to achieve foreign policy objectives. With congressional support and timely and adequate funding, we will pilot the new infrastructure and systems at our diplomatic missions in Mexico and India during 2001.

Fernando Burbano

Chief Information Officer

State Department

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