Letters to the editor
I am troubled by the last sentence in The Circuit item headlined "Got a
Minute?" from the Feb. 5 issue of Federal Computer Week: "In this age of
viruses and hackers, it's better to be safe than sorry."
Recognizing that security risks exist also means recognizing that prohibition
never works. If we give up productivity enhancement tools because the security
folks are concerned about security, we might as well start using Etch A
Sketches for letters and intra-office memos.
If the State Department had not lost so many laptops and briefing books,
this prohibition on personal digital assistants probably would not be an
issue. If the information assurance folks think that publishing a policy
against PDAs is going to stop people from using them, well, I have some
great "future" oceanfront property for sale that is a few miles from Edwards
Air Force Base in California.
In other words, doing the ostrich routine is not the way to deal with
the potential PDA worms and viruses dilemma.
If the security folks truly want to maintain secure networks, then they
have to treat end users as adults. Then, these end-user adults need to be
educated about the problem. Most PDA users would die rather than knowingly
contaminate their networks.
Educating them about the risks will produce greater returns and safer
networks than the alternativewhich is surreptitious use of PDA synchronization.
Federal Highway Administration
Getting to the Source of DMS Problems
As someone who has been involved with the Defense Message System since
1991, I believe that your March 5 article on DMS was a fair and levelheaded
attempt to assess the current state of the program.
However, I feel that you have missed the mark in identifying sources
of the program's problems. The original goal of DMS was to allow Autodin
to be decommissioned by Dec. 31, 1999. DMS was a two-part procurement. The
bidders were required to bid firm-fixed price for replacement of Autodin.
After that was completed, the vendors would be able to sell additional products
through an indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) portion of the
contract. Out of four bidders, one was deemed noncompliant. Of the three
compliant bids, Loral Space and Communications Inc. was the lowest cost,
but was also assessed by the Air Force evaluators as having the highest
risk of the three approaches.
To date, DMS has not accomplished its primary goalto turn off Autodin.
However, hundreds of thousands of seats of commercial workgroup software
have been sold through the IDIQ portion of the contract. In my view, this
situation constitutes noncompliance with the mandatory requirements of the
procurementthe "shalls" that vendors complain about.
The U.S. taxpayer funded these purchases, which were not supposed to
occur until after Autodin could successfully be replaced. And now, we taxpayers
get to lay out another $120 million dollars to keep Autodin running for
yet another four years!
In my opinion, the biggest fault in this program lies in an almost total
lack of accountability. By the time this farce has run its course, we will
have spent more than four times the original amount bid for the contract
and may actually get to turn off Autodin a mere four years late (which is
four years past the end of the original DMS contract).
I cannot see that the prime contractor, the contracting agency (the
Air Force), the Defense Information Systems Agency's DMS program office
or anyone else connected with this program has been held properly accountable
for delays, missed deadlines, lack of compliance with mandatory contract
requirements and cost overruns.
As a taxpayer, I am livid with indignation. As someone who has to deal
with these parties on a regular basis, I have been forced to hold my opinions
to myself for several years.
Perhaps someday, someone will conduct an impartial review of this program.
The resulting report should provide very interesting reading. My best guess
is that this review won't happen until a good many people have retired.
Until then, I suppose everyone will keep shaking their heads and pointing
to DMS as a good example of yet another huge government procurement that
"just didn't work."
Name withheld upon request