GAO not turning back; Consolidate the VA now; No SCADA scare; Telework: Clothes required

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SCADA on thin ice

GAO not turning back
“‘Ticked off’ about pay at GAO” in FCW’s May 15 issue contains a number of errors regarding the Government Accountability Office’s new pay system.

First, all GAO employees who perform at a “meets expectations” level or better and who are paid within applicable market-based compensation ranges receive an annual across-the-board adjustment based on changes in the pay ranges each year. If employees did not receive an across-the-board adjustment, it is either because they did not meet the performance requirement or because their pay already exceeds competitive compensation levels.

GAO employees are also eligible for additional performance-related pay adjustments based on how they perform relative to their peer group.

Furthermore, GAO does not use an arbitrary and forced distribution system for rating employees.

With regard to budget considerations, the federal government is on an imprudent and unsustainable fiscal path partially because of the impending retirement of the baby boom generation. As a result, budgets are likely to get tighter in the future.

Therefore, it is of critical importance that we allocate our available compensation resources based on overall market conditions and individual performance.

Finally, it is not surprising that at least one unidentified information technology analyst does not like that employees are not guaranteed annual pay raises regardless of competitive market rates, their performance and our budget. Nonetheless, we will not return to the past, and we will continue to try to lead by example in connection with this and other transformation issues.

David M. Walker
Comptroller General
Government Accountability Office

Consolidate the VA now
Regarding the May 31 FCW.com article, “McFarland: VA lacked info access controls”: As an information technology employee for eight years at the Department of Veterans Affairs, I wholeheartedly agree with former chief information officer Robert McFarland and his efforts to centralize and align IT operations within the entire agency.

The disjointed IT operations within the Veterans Benefits Administration, the Veterans Health Administration, the National Cemetery Administration and the Central Office have had a negative impact on the efficiency, storage and security of veterans’ data and has hindered a smooth transition to medical assistance in all phases.

I am just surprised that it has taken this long for the breach to be exposed.

I hope that the VA will align IT operations with the business of serving our veterans and their families to its fullest capacity and be a model of federal efficiency and operational security.

Name withheld by request

No SCADA scare
Regarding the May 8 FCW article, “SCADA on thin ice”: The sky isn’t falling, as the article implies. According to the article, these systems are 20 to 30 years old and use proprietary software. Does anybody really believe terrorists are going to spend the resources to maybe crack into one of these old systems just so they might be able to do harm? I don’t think so.

I think a terrorist group is much more likely to go after easy targets by dumping chemicals directly into a city’s water supply or taking out a high-voltage grid by blowing up a couple of towers and waiting for the domino effect to take place.

Some of the experts you quoted are merely trying to expand their business — and profits — by misleading the public, uninformed politicians and editors.

David Harrold Consultant AFAB Group

Telework: Clothes required
Regarding the June 6 FCW.com article, “Experts: Managers can impede telework, COOP”: Jack Penkoske, director of manpower, personnel and security at the Defense Information Systems Agency, is a sage man. I telework — in fact, for his agency — and I agree with him on the necessity for a change in view.

I, too, have heard the questions about what employees wear while teleworking. Some of those conversations are not fit for reprinting.

If I am not visible to anyone outside my office space at home, what does it matter what I wear? Does my brain shut down if I don’t put a tie around my neck and hang a jacket behind my door? I doubt that.

But when I am in DISA’s office — or any place where I publicly represent DISA — I don’t hesitate to wear a tie and, when appropriate, a jacket. And if I collaborate via a videoconference, I do what is necessary to present a professional appearance. Thankfully, that hasn’t required a tux — yet. And I am still productive. Just ask my boss.

But no, I do not work naked. Ever.

Name withheld by request
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