Buzz of the Week: Eyeing a milestone

This was a week with a lot of buzz, including talk about a stolen laptop loaded with personal data and the ongoing drama of the Alliant program — both of which are covered in this week’s news section. But when all was said and done, the most memorable moments happened during Federal Computer Week’s Federal 100 awards gala.

Aside from the event itself and the winners being recognized, the evening featured numerous dignitaries who have left the federal technology community or will soon leave. Four people stood out:

  • Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.), who has announced he will not seek re-election.

  • Lt. Gen. Charles Croom, director of the Defense Information Systems Agency, who announced that he will retire in July.

  • Karen Evans, administrator of information technology and e-government at the Office of Management and Budget, who has said that she will retire at the end of the Bush administration.

  • Deidre Lee, who retired earlier this year after a 30-year government career.

Besides those who have announced their plans, others are pondering how much longer to remain in government. Perhaps it’s true that the long-expected wave of retirements by federal employees might turn out to be something of a workforce tidal wave rather than a tsunami.

However, it also is increasingly clear that feds eligible for retirement are actively considering all of their options.

This year’s crop of Federal 100 award winners included more industry award winners than usual. In one sense, it is good to recognize exceptional work, whether it’s performed by government or industry. But the large number of Fed 100 award winners from industry also caused more than a few people to pause and ponder what it means for government IT and government.

So when four government IT power players such as Davis, Croom, Evans and Lee are gathered in one place and all actively contemplating their next steps, that is a milestone that shouldn’t go without notice.
The Buzz Contenders

#2: A USO event to remember
Imagine being in a room with 34 Medal of Honor recipients.

The concentration of heroes at the annual awards dinner of the Metropolitan Washington Chapter of the United Service Organizations this past week left some of us wondering whether all those blue ribbons and gold stars on the men in tuxedos were the real deal. They were. Nick Wakeman, Washington Technology’s editor-in-chief, posted a moving account of the evening on his blog.

Check it out at blogs/editornotebook.

#3: Too many contractors?
The Defense Department relies on a blend of government contract specialists and contractors, but congressional auditors reported last week that the mix is wrong. Auditors found too many contractors and not enough government people doing procurement and acquisition at the Army Contracting Agency’s Center of Excellence. That imbalance is costing rather than saving the Army money, so fix the mix, the auditors said. Shay Assad, director of Defense procurement, acquisition policy and strategic sourcing, responded to the findings by promising to meet with Army procurement executives “to accelerate the transition of contractors out of the contract specialist role.”

#4: Pay incentives at NNSA
The Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration aims to succeed where some others have failed. The agency is undertaking a five-year project to test the feasibility of an alternative to the General Schedule pay system. Managers will be given greater leeway to offer higher pay to some employees through appointments, promotions and performance evaluations. The agency, whose mission is safeguarding the country’s nuclear weapons stockpile, said it must attract high-quality, technically skilled employees.

And in an increasingly competitive job market, money is honey.

#5: What about free isn’t clear?
Here’s one way to win converts to a new way of doing business. Proponents of network-based information technology services are weighing the option of offering some of those services at no cost for a period of, say, five years. “I want to make them free,” said Michael Krieger, principal director of information management and technology at the Office of the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, speaking at an Input breakfast last week in Vienna, Va. Krieger challenged anyone to find a better deal on IT services than free. “If you want to buy your own out of a declining budget, knock yourself out,” he said.


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