Letters to the editor

Falling Behind

I read that our brothers to the north (Canada) are so far ahead of the United States in the e-government area ["Canada securing e-gov," FCW, July 9].

It seems a shame to me that a country that cannot even settle on a single language should be so far ahead of the United States (just a joke). But in all honesty, if U.S. officials don't get their heads out of their "you know what," they (we) will be left behind just as in so many areas. I really don't think the president or any of the others who are trying "to fill a slot" (federal chief information officer) have the slightest knowledge of what they need. They really need somebody who has been in the trenches and gotten their hands dirty; somebody who knows how and where to get the kind of help needed to do a job like that.

Bernie Keany

Misled on Security

Your article regarding the Safeguard program is very misleading ["Agencies get new safeguard", FCW, June 18]. But it's not your fault, because you are being misled.

The Center for Information Security Services, formerly the Office of Information Secur.ity, has been directed to dissolve its hands-on telecommunications security work and become strictly a project management organization. Therefore, the cybersecurity and vulnerability assessments, including the telecommunications security work that we are now performing for other government agencies with our handful of cleared security experts, will soon be completely contracted out to the private sector. Currently, the National Security Agency is the only other government agency that does vulnerability assessments for other government agencies. And, because of NSA's workload, they're unable to provide vulnerability assessment services to civil agencies.

Quite a few government agencies have sensitive information that they do not want to drift into the hands of a contractor. Therefore, con.sidering the increasing cyberthreat, and in view of Presidential Decision Directive 63, why are these services being discontinued?

Name withheld upon request

XML Experts

To quote Larry Stevens' article "XML: Immature but growing," June 4: "As far as I know, there are no major government XML-based systems in production."

This is not quite accurate. The Defense Information Systems Agency's Defense Information Infrastructure Common Operating Environment Consortium includes an organization known as Shared Data Engineering (SHADE). They have established a DII COE XML Registry, which constitutes guidance in the generation and use of XML within the COE v4.x data environment and is the authoritative source for registered XML data and metadata components.

There are already a dozen Defense Department namespaces (collections of sharable data constructs) with close to 10,000 data items registered. More information is available at the XML registry Web site (diides.ncr.disa.mil/xmlreg/index.cfm).

While no actual "systems" may be in production yet, XML standards are being developed to ensure that XML among the DOD commanders in chief, services and agencies is structured for compatibility, interoperabil.ity and collaborative use.

Kim Frisby

U.S. Joint Forces Command

Pay Stubs, Prying Eyes

The idea of sending our pay stubs ["The Circuit: Goodbye, Paper Trail," FCW, July 9] over the unsecured government e-mail system is frightening! At least with mail service, anyone caught tampering can be prosecuted.

This provides even more unauthorized access to private information! Furthermore, the first thing people will do is print their stub. Who keeps prying eyes from seeing this info when it spits out of the printer and you haven't jogged over yet to pick it up yourself?

F. Holt

Washington, D.C. Disagreeing with "Disability'

I must disagree with Milt Zall's "Disability round about" column in the June 4 issue. The woman in question, Agnes Cheers, was "medically disqualified" and fired from her position because she chose to use an illegal drug, cocaine. Drug use opens the door to many issues that impact operational security and raises the question of trustworthiness on the part of the individual, especially those in sensitive areas (e.g., nuclear weapons operations or handling of sensitive materials). Plus, IT IS ILLEGAL!

Ms. Cheers chose to use drugs, bottom line. We don't continue to pay personnel in the military who choose to break the law and get caught doing it; we reduce them in grade and send them packing, sometimes with a layover in a federal pen!

We (taxpayers) should do the same for other members of the federal workforce who violate the special trust vested in them by our government.

Scott Hull
Chief, Network Service Center Vicenza
509th Signal Battalion Army


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