Letter to the editor

Following is a response to an FCW.com poll question that asked: "Should managers joining the proposed Homeland Security Department have to reapply for their jobs?"

There are too many people — and not just in government — who rely on titles or connections instead of performance to maintain or obtain a position. It's time for the "old boys' network" (or other appropriate name) to die. Start letting people deliver what they promise, and hold them accountable for not doing so.

The proposed Homeland Security Department will rely heavily on information technology for successful operation. Considering all of the failed IT projects that have been attempted in most organizations (and government) in the past decade, it would be wise to choose from U.S. citizens who have had at least a modicum of success in executing one or more complex IT projects in addition to a broad and deep technical understanding of how all of this stuff should work.

Another key skill for managers in this new department is to be able to construct an appropriate plan to allow for changing technology standards — often the bane of any long-term effort. It just isn't good enough any more to say, "We will use the latest standards," and then try to do it.

For example, World Wide Web Consortium and Internet Engineering Task Force requests for comments change or are updated almost weekly, as do various de facto standards published by the numerous consortia and trade groups trying to make their mark on industry. This makes it impossible to remain "up to date" during the course of any serious IT effort. Ask the existing managers for the project and IT metrics reports they did during past projects. Would your inbox be empty or full of meaningful reports?

It is never an insult to competent professionals to ask them to explain why they are qualified for a position, and re-applying for a new agency should be no exception. It's like the old adage: "If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Tom Plemich Independent technology consultant Arlington Heights, Ill.

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