Letters to the editor

Righting the Course

I'd like to respond to the "Cruising off course" letter to the editor in the Sept. 24 Federal Computer Week.

Synergis Technologies Inc. prides itself on providing unparalleled service to its customers. In keeping with this corporate philosophy, we'd like to address the concerns of the letter-writer at the U.S. Coast Guard whose name was withheld from publication.

The writer's assertions at the Coast Guard are not valid. The Civil Engineering Technology Center (CETC) at the Coast Guard has the data to back up claims about the benefits of implementing Synergis Adept software and the visionary role the CETC team has taken in transforming the Coast Guard's document management processes that were communicated in the original article, "Cruising toward e-biz: Coast Guard forces sea change with document management system" [FCW, Aug. 27].

According to data from the telecommunications division of the Coast Guard's Maintenance and Logistics Command, Atlantic, the overall reliability of the Coast Guard data system is greater than 99 percent.

Upgrading software at the Coast Guard is very systematic and carefully coordinated. In comparison to most commercial sites that we have seen, it is an extremely detailed process that is closely monitored.

All unit upgrades are coordinated by the Electronic Systems Support Unit, which receives a workstation image directly from the Telecommunications and Information Systems Command (TISCOM). Further, upgrades are scheduled at specific times to avoid disrupting staff.

The writer's unit may use software that was not part of TISCOM's and CETC's standard image for engineering workstations. With nonstandard software, the system naturally does not allow for easy fixes.

According to our communications with the Coast Guard, the only site that has removed manual/paper drawings from a work site is the Civil Engineering Unit Cleveland, and these documents have been gone for more than a year. The Cleveland site has 36,000 fully indexed drawing files accessible electronically.

Any drawing documents that may not be available at other Coast Guard sites likely did not conform to the Coast Guard's electronic engineering computer-aided drafting and design standards that were published as a commandant's instructions.

These CADD standards have been available since the early 1990s, and CETC has written automated programs that work in conjunction with the standard design automation tool to facilitate compliance with the commandant's instructions.

No software system — including Adept — will locate files that do not include standard data that can be indexed. Standards and rules are established to help companies run smoothly.

We recommend that the writer take the time to learn these standards and to contact Synergis or his or her internal Coast Guard information technology manager to address any concerns he or she may have regarding the indexing of documents and their accessibility.

Todd Cummings, director of product development

Synergis Technologies Inc.

Biometrics Endangers Privacy

Introducing biometric identity devices at airports for anything other than airport and airline employees, where real security issues require correction, is uncalled for and presents a danger to privacy ["Facing the need for biometrics,"FCW, Oct. 1].

The reasons for requiring identification at airports are questionable at best. You are scanned and searched as you move to your flight; what does ID do? It certainly does establish for the airline that you have not resold your ticket, but how is security improved? Let us all keep in mind that the terrorists of Sept. 11 were here on student and tourist visas, they had ID, and that did not stop them from doing what they did.

Any move to improve security that infringes on citizen privacy must come with a risk analysis that justifies the cost, demonstrates a tangible increase in security and makes a solid case for why privacy should be violated.

We're all too willing of late to go with knee-jerk meas.ures to "improve" security that are not based on any analysis but do give the facade of something being done to make people safer.

Current technologies provide many opportunities for extraordinary invasiveness into private lives, and we must guard against our current national tragedy being the springboard for those who sell such tools to feed on the body of our damaged sense of safety.

James Nugent, U.S. Navy

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