The Circuit

The Circuit took its show on the road last week to Austin, Texas, to cover the 15th annual Information Processing Interagency Conference (IPIC).

Fine for Charity

Rick Turner, chief information officer at the Federal Trade Commission and president of the Government Information Technology Executive Council, which sponsors IPIC, thought he had found a new way to raise money for worthy causes. As usual, IPIC awarded $12,000 in scholarships to local students, held a golf tournament and threw an evening of games to raise money. But Turner announced at the start of the conference that every time a cell phone or pager went off, its owner would be fined $20. Suddenly, there was silence. The devices went quiet for the most part, but every once in a while, a red-faced atendee raced out of the room to take a call and avoid the fine.

Groovy Memories

There's something about the 1960s that makes people nostalgic. Remember when there were no desktop, laptop or handheld computers and telephones had rotary dials? IPIC conferees honored the decade of discontent with an evening of '60s dancing and music. At the DynCorp display, employees wore tie-dye shirts and displayed a poster of a hippie holding a wireless phone that said, "What would your life be like today if you had this technology in the '60s?" We're not really sure ourselves. There were large posters of guitar legend Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles — musicians famous long before the latest crop of IT professionals were out of diapers.

Wise Before His Time?

And speaking of youth, the average government IT worker is about 48 and expected to retire in the next five years, according to Ira Hobbs, acting CIO at the Agriculture Department. Hobbs may have been preaching to the choir at IPIC, except for a few high-profile types. One was Brian Wood, who heads Dell Computer Corp.'s public-sector division. At 39, Wood looked about 30 until he delivered a dynamite talk on the IT marketplace. "The number of mistakes being made in the private sector are unbelievable," he told the conference.

Now, is that youth talking or old age?

Call Me in the Morning

Is there a doctor in the house? Well, not exactly. Most of the folks wearing white coats at IPIC's showcase for businesses and technology were doctors of another sort — high-tech ones at the National Institutes of Health. Standing in front of a sign that declared "NIH has the Rx for IT," these IT professionals wanted to advertise the NIH computer center available to every federal agency — for a fee, of course.

Tom Mason, a project manager at the center, said a host of agencies currently use it, including the Department of Health and Human Services. To make it more attractive, Mason said the center has three levels of firewalls that have never been successfully hacked. "Have IT ailments got you down?" their slide show asked as NIH officials handed out packets of aspirin and Band-Aids to make their point.


Milton Cooper, president of the federal sector at Computer Sciences Corp., is retiring at age 62. He'll be replaced by Paul Cofoni, president of CSC's technology management group. Cooper said he'll be playing a lot more golf. He got a jump on that at IPIC, where his golf team came in first at the annual charity tournament.

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