LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR




Editorial Cartoon


Another eerie coincidence?

Since January of this year, the Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board has been conducting research on our recruitment and retention crisis. The other day I came across the GCN cartoon with the caption, 'Sorry, you FAA folks are on your own this time' [GCN, March 5, Page 18], and I got chills as it eerily reminded me of the events of Sept. 11.

Many of us are playing 'what if,' wondering if the tragedy could have been prevented.

We published our report, The Federal Employee Recruitment and Retention Crisis: A Failure of the Federal Employees Pay Comparability Act of 1990, in August. Ironically four of the agencies that have had the greatest recruitment and retention problems are those in the spotlight since Sept. 11: Customs Service, Federal Aviation Administration, FBI and Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Coincidence? Who knows'all I know is that your cartoon is haunting. Based on the proposed legislation and policy decisions being made, it looks as if, once again, the FAA folks are on their own. FAA is not to blame; it has been underfunded, downsized and stripped of authority over many airport security considerations.

For example, in 1973 FAA had 137 inspectors for 600 aviation manufacturing plants. In 2001, FAA had 137 inspectors for 2,210 plants. No wonder programs are less effective.

Although there has been some limited success with the IT salary issue, until legitimate locality pay is included in the salary formula, agencies will continue to be overly reliant on contractor support.

Am I the only one struck by the irony that we must federalize airport baggage scanners, yet all federal computer systems are developed and maintained by contractors? Nearly all of the IT staff for FAA's Asian Western Pacific Region are contractor employees. Many speak broken English, yet they have access to the nation's infrastructure for aviation security because we refuse to pay salaries adequate to attract federal employees, who are required to be U.S. citizens.

In the Los Angeles area, airport screeners are paid up to $13 per hour'more than we pay GS-5 Border Patrol agents.

Readers can view our report at www.losangeles.feb.gov.

KATHRENE L. HANSEN

Executive director

Greater Los Angeles Federal Executive Board

Los Angeles


Report from Berlin

I recently attended the International Council for Technology in Government Administration's annual conference in Berlin. Twenty-four other nations participated.

I chaired a session to identify changes 20 governments are discussing following the Sept. 11 disaster, and thought GCN readers would be interested in some of the findings:

  • Physical forms of security are becoming more visible in public areas

  • Citizens might have to give up a measure of privacy as governments engage in more surveillance and tracking of individuals

  • A growing number of countries are expanding police authority

  • ICA member nations are considering wider use of smart cards with photo IDs

  • Wider exchange of information across agencies is a real possibility

  • Many governments are reopening the question of how centralized or decentralized they want their operations to be.

    Delegates said they are finding that the processes and networks they developed to deal with the year 2000 switchover are proving invaluable as they consider re-sponses to terrorism.

    Some countries'and many banks'with long experience in dealing with terrorism run parallel transactions on separate computer systems in different locations.

    At least one country has embarked upon a centralized approach to provide enhanced security not possible with many distributed systems. But the centralized approach can be an attractive target to terrorists who could bring down an entire sector of a government.

    Other governments are considering a broker solution, using third parties to host transactions. But this, like the parallel approach, requires a mirror operation and can prove costly.
    ICA delegates identified three areas for further action:


    1. Governments need to assess the cost of not being in business, or failing to provide a service for more than a day or so. The loss of public confidence in time of disaster must be avoided, whatever the additional costs of parallel processing.


    2. Agencies must review their backup and hot-site strategies, given that ancillary services such as access roads, public transportation, telecommunications services and personnel may not be available when needed. New York City was cited as an example of what can happen when physical infrastructure is destroyed.


    3. Managers might need to duplicate personnel skills at two locations at all times in the event of a disaster.



    FRANCIS A. MCDONOUGH

    Deputy associate administrator

    for Intergovernmental Solutions

    General Services Administration

    Washington

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