Letters to the editor

Competition Concerns

In his May 20 column, "Outsourcing gripes," Milt Zall suggests that the Professional Services Council (PSC) is "talking out of both sides of its mouth" when it comes to our concerns with the competitive sourcing programs at the Interior and Veterans Affairs departments.

I am not sure where he got his information, but he got it wrong. Our positions in these two cases are entirely consistent. We believe in competition and are concerned when we see policies emerge that could facilitate the avoidance of competition.

There is almost universal agreement that competition is the best management tool for driving optimal performance and efficiency. Yet the Interior and VA programs open the door to retaining significant amounts of commercial work in-house, with no real competition. The PSC, and presumably Zall, has grave concerns with any program in which the incumbent conducts market research for its own programs and has the power to then unilaterally decide to keep the work on a sole-source basis. Yet that is what the Interior and VA programs could lead to.

At both agencies, we have serious questions about the degree of rigor that will be applied, the ability or willingness to genuinely assess cross-functional and cross- organizational solutions, and the tendency to look only at static functional analyses rather than overall performance and process improvement. And in both cases, we have urged that commercial activities be competed, not sole-sourced. In the VA's case, our concern is amplified by the agency's artful ability to fence off from any competition a remarkable scope of activities.

We don't object to market research, as Zall suggests. It is an essential tool in helping establish baselines for ensuing competitions. Moreover, market research and competition are not mutually exclusive; they are fully complementary. At both agencies, if optimization is the goal as it should be, then competition should be a central tenet of their programs. That is and has long been the PSC's consistent message.

Stan Soloway

President

Professional Services Council

KM is Power

Your June 3 article, "Air Force tracks knowledge," is an excellent piece. It clearly defines what many of us have been saying to clients for a long time: Knowledge management is more than a fancy set of Web pages or a repository of information waiting to be used.

The Air Force approach tells it all: Collect information about individual and collective knowledge that will be useful for doing something! In my own practice, we try to get clients to organize knowledge by capabilities, areas of expertise and true core competencies. Not everyone wants to use the same categories, but whatever they use needs to facilitate quick, accurate decision-making. This is true in both the government and the commercial spaces.

Knowledge management scanners have their place in creating digitized records. Web sites also play a role, but collecting information smartly that represents skills for doing new and innovative work is really where the power of knowledge management lies.

I hope that others will emulate what the Air Force is doing. Some probably are, but are not getting their message out so that others can see the power.

John Tieso

Tieso and Associates Inc.

Explaining DGPS

I would like to address some inaccuracies in the article titled "GPS knows no bounds" [FCW, April 22]. Specifically, the statement that the Differential Global Positioning System requires the user to have a beacon transmitter is not correct. Just like Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) corrections, which are transmitted by two geostationary satellites, DGPS corrections are sent out from terrestrial sites throughout the United States and many other areas of the world. No additional equipment is needed if the receiver is capable of accepting the DGPS signal.

Further, the statement that the Coast Guard has installed DGPS sites in foreign ports is incorrect. Maritime DGPS is operated to a standard that is accepted worldwide. More than 35 countries, including the United States, are operating their own sites — all to an identical maritime standard. User equipment installed on ships traveling internationally is thus able to use the signal seamlessly.

I would like to take this opportunity to caution users. WAAS is still under development and should not be relied upon for safety-critical maritime navigation. The Coast Guard stresses that the prudent mariner should use all available information, which may include WAAS, for situational awareness. Dependence on the WAAS signal, which is susceptible to masking by obstructions, is not recommended. An unobstructed line of sight with the WAAS geosatellites is necessary for proper receiver function.

For additional information, visit the following Coast Guard Navigation Center Web page: www.navcen.uscg.gov/news/archive/2001/jan/waas.htm.

Capt. Tom Rice

Commanding officer

U.S. Coast Guard Navigation Center

Alexandria, Va.

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