Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was at a loss for words for only a moment when asked whether he would take the job heading the proposed Homeland Security Department if asked by President Bush.
"You're not President Bush," he quipped to the person who posed the question at last week's E-Gov conference. Giuliani, as well as many others, has been floated as a potential candidate. But he's got his own "field of dreams," so to speak, and it has nothing to do with homeland security, information technology or politics.
"As far as what I do in the future, I don't know," Giuliani said. "My real desire is to manage the Yankees." But that's unlikely to happen. "The person who's doing it is so good that there's no way that's open."
Giuliani also said he supports some kind of national identification card. It would not erode "our fundamental freedoms," but instead would be a trade-off the public would have to make, he said.
"I think we need the ability to properly identify people that's more effective than the system that we" currently have, Giuliani said. "The systems exist in free countries, in countries that are democracies and in countries that respect human rights."
Only days after President Bush unveiled his plan to take pieces from various federal agencies to create a Homeland Security Department, officials began to buttonhole Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), handing him lists of reasons why their agencies shouldn't be moved.
They received a frosty reception, however, said Davis aide Melissa Wojciak.
Davis, who leads the House Government Reform Committee's Technology and Procurement Policy Subcommittee, staunchly supports Bush's plan, Wojciak said.
But the almost instinctive effort to undermine the president's plan illuminates what is likely to be the biggest problem for the Homeland Security Department — "tribalism."
While the administration's senior policy-makers wrestle with problems such as information sharing, interoperability and database integration, rank and file government workers grapple with fear of change, said organizational psychologist Joyce Doria.
"People choose the familiar — even the dysfunctional — over change," she said. Wojciak and Doria spoke at E-Gov's Homeland Security 2002 conference.
Much discussion since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks has focused on how to get agencies to share information and better communicate with one another.
"The hurdles are more bureaucratic than technical," said Doria, a vice president at Booz Allen Hamilton. "Tribal ways will beat change every time if you're not careful."
We all know it's hard to keep secrets in Washington, D.C., but it's unusual to scoop yourself. The Transportation Department's public affairs office jumped the gun last week when it sent out a press release announcing the winner of the Coast Guard's $17 billion Deepwater modernization program a few hours before officials were to hold a press conference announcing the award.
The press release, which went out via e-mail to reporters, was almost immediately recalled. But the word was out: A Lockheed Martin Corp. and Northrop Grumman Corp. joint venture had won the coveted prize.
Long Road Ahead
Slow agency progress on enterprise architecture development is worrying Joel Willemssen, managing director of information technology issues at the General Accounting Office.
Last week, Willemssen said the government's status in this area is "not encouraging right now," which does not bode well for the proposed Homeland Security Department.
Speaking at last week's E-Gov conference, Willemssen went a step further and said that when information assurance issues enter the mix, "it puts an additional layer of complexity beyond anything else the department has to deal with."
Making information assurance tools Web-based or linking existing systems holds little promise, and although there have been some "excellent candidates at times," any comparable federal systems still have a "long way to go," he said.
Last month, two NASA Web sites won Webby Awards, the Internet's Oscars.
Earth Observatory, an interactive site highlighting the agency's Earth science research, snagged the People's Voice Award for Science.
Meanwhile, NASA's home page took the People's Voice Award in the Government and Law category. Ironically, the site, which is managed by the public affairs office, has daily problems linking to its news releases. Clicking on a headline more often than not leads to the following message: "The page cannot be displayed." After a delay.
But, the people have spoken and NASA.gov is in.
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