Letters to the editor

Cruising Off Course

The article "Cruising toward e-biz: Coast Guard forces sea change with document management system" [FCW, Aug. 27] does not even remotely resemble reality within the U.S. Coast Guard's civil engineering community.

What has really happened is less communication, less information and chaos. We live with frequent crashes, needless data loss, uncoordinated software "upgrades" by competing Coast Guard information technology groups, and some absurd centralized decision-making on IT management and software use. One recent "upgrade" at my unit resulted in an entire work week of downtime.

It is true that files and drawings have disappeared from some work sites, but the data is lost and not accessible via search engine. A usable database of as-built drawings no longer exists for some facilities, and Synergis Technologies Inc.'s Adept search engine does not have enough parameters entered into the system to find the typically incomplete data in the database.

The result is higher operational costs instead of efficiency, because project managers must survey sites from scratch instead of using the once-available historical data.

Name withheld by request

Pointing at Managers

At first I was disheartened by Office of Management and Budget Director Mitchell Daniels Jr.'s comments about federal IT workers "not being the best" [FCW, July 30]. After further thought, I realized that the slam is not at us, but at our managers.

The initiative is to provide our managers with industry experience and give us (hopefully) the best that industry managers can provide in return. Maybe we will finally get some competency and logic in management now. And maybe we will finally get someone in charge who knows the benefits to be derived from a properly trained and developed workforce.

Martin Bridges Internal Revenue Service

Software is to Blame

It is unbelievable that the General Accounting Office flagellates the Defense Department regarding implementation and use of American Management Systems Inc.'s Procurement Desktop software application. It's not DOD, it's the software itself.

Procurement Desktop is plainly a lousy piece of software. The conscientious program offices should be let off the hook.

The pilot program testing at the Interior Department identified 209 pages of functional deficiencies in Procurement Desktop. (The buy still went through.) Procurement Desktop was terminated at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. User groups throughout government have made end runs around being saddled with it by finding budget dollars to buy alternative programs from the other four General Services Administration automated procurement software vendors, all of whom charge much less than AMS. AMS' main sell is that who you buy from is more important than what is being bought. Many agencies get hoodwinked that way. In the case of the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board termination, AMS' main defense is that, "Hey, we wrote 1.2 million lines of code." The issue, however, isn't how many lines of code were written, but how well the codes that were written actually function as a program. As with other AMS victims, such as the state of Mississippi, the answer from the board is not at all.

Procurement Desktop, by any of its myriad names, is by and large a bluff. It is amazing that good people are getting blamed for its total nonfunctionality. It's not DOD, it's the software, stupid!

Jennis Strickland AAM Press

Improve USA Jobs

I read articles in Federal Computer Week about how the impending retirement of information technology personnel in the federal government is causing a crisis. These same articles talk about how difficult it is to attract and retain young IT workers. I would submit that the federal government could do itself a great service by improving the USA Jobs Web site (www.usajobs.opm.gov), operated by the Office of Personnel Management.

Put yourself in the shoes of someone who has experience, for example, building software to analyze satellite imagery and wants to find a civil service position. This person is skilled in C/C++, Java and Motif programming. How is this person supposed to search the USA Jobs Web site for a job requiring similar skills? As far as I can tell, he or she must read the description of every computer specialist position the government has, looking for the keywords in which he or she is interested. The same individual could go to Monster. com or Dice.com and set up job agents that e-mail him or her about a job description containing the keywords the job-seeker specifies. And we wonder why the government has trouble attracting young people to its ranks.

Name withheld by request


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