Dear Santa: Feds have visions of Pentium dancing in their heads

What if Santa--presumably more benevolent than, say, Newt
Gingrich--made stops at agencies across the government? What would all those good program
managers and systems execs like to find under their office trees?


For starters, Santa had better forget musky colognes or lime-green sweaters if he wants
to make Defense Department techies happy.


"A Pentium based PC--minimum 32M RAM, multimedia with CD-ROM drive and a 1G hard
disk to start," said Jim Glenn, Internet manager at the Naval Computer and
Telecommunications Station in Pensacola, Fla.


He also asked for Windows for Workgroups or Windows 95, "hard disks and more hard
disks," Ethernet switches and a few hundred Unix minicomputers to support the Navy's
Internet e-mail, videoconferencing, news feeds and World Wide Web sites.


And: "A few more satellite connections for the unclassified Internet so the
sailors can use the Internet to mail home Xmas wishes."


Serious hardware is on Don Drumtra's list, too. He's director of the Defense Department
megacenter at Robins Air Force Base, Georgia. He asked the jolly old elf to deliver a
"mass storage capability to allow instant access to terabytes of data from multiple
processors to get us out of the tape hanging/silo loading efforts."


Beleaguered GSA officials chuckled with delight at the idea of stockings full of
information technology toys.


Jack Finley, manager of the Governmentwide Electronic Messaging Program Office, said,
"I'd get Pentium machines with paper port document scanners and good color
printers," Finley said. "We'd definitely be looking at multimedia use."


Stephen Meltzer, director of GSA's Federal Computer Acquisition Center, wants, for the
FEDCAC staff, new PCs with unlimited storage for those "pack rats" who never
seem to have enough file space.


For himself, Meltzer would like a "truly intelligent" workstation, one that
could read his mind and respond to his mental commands.


"I would love to have a machine where all I had to do was look at it to log
on," Meltzer said. "It would be a special system that would automatically give
me what I want, when I want it--without having to type in any commands. There would be no
more Alt, Shift or help keys for me."


Ron Piasecki, deputy commissioner of GSA's IT Service for current and emerging
technology, has three holiday wishes.


One is for a "technology crystal ball" that would give IRM officials a look
ahead so they could prepare for the technology and programs to come.


Two is for a successful final year of government service with quantum leaps of progress
for the governmentwide e-mail and Internet initiatives and federal-state interoperability
programs.


And third, Piasecki wants a guarantee that his staff is "firmly established,
working to maximum and receiving the recognition it deserves."


At the National Science Foundation, Charles S. Kelly, a computer systems analyst and
GCN columnist, has something much more elfish in mind. He wishes Santa would have "a
couple thousand shares of Microsoft Corp. stock delivered to the Justice Department."


John Hwang, associate director for IRM at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, has
visions of open systems dancing in his head.


"The one thing I would definitely want to have is a totally open
environment," he said. "Just what Bill Gates says in his book."


FEMA elves have been busy, busy, busy in 1995, using the Internet to shovel out data
during fires, floods, earthquakes and hurricanes. Ah, but could it be done better with
limited budgets?


It can, by an open environment with equal access to all, in and out of government,
Hwang said.


"That's what I would like to have right now," he added. "Everybody in
his or her office to have access to all of the information."


A virtual open architecture, with no compatibility, interoperability or portability
problems, regardless of the hardware or software used, is also on an e-mail to Santa from
Alan Balutis, chief information officer at the Commerce Department.


With attachments, that e-mail from Commerce is very long.


"I believe we need a national commitment to information technology that will be as
effective as Kennedy's commitment to land a man on the moon within the decade,"
Balutis said. "We want to be able to design a major system, initiate a procurement
and successfully install that system with state-of-the-art technology within a decade. We
want to see that happen once."


Other Balutis hankerings: adequate funding for the modernization of the National
Weather Service, deployment of the Advanced Weather Information Processing System on
schedule and within budget, and a budget process that extends beyond one year and allows
use of carryover funds for major information systems projects.


Oh, yes--and a lot fewer pictures of Bill Gates, Balutis added.


At the Postal Service, workers wish for Santa's sack to clog their chimney with vendors
bearing process re-engineering proposals and better ways to serve customers.


"We're looking for strategic allies with great ideas for serving customers. We can
integrate that with some great IT providers," said Robert Reisner, the service's vice
president of technology applications.


Those methods could involve anything from interactive television to the Internet, he
said.


Gloria Parker, director of the Education Department's Information Resources Group, has
a new year's resolution for the year 2000.


"What I would like to see, and absolutely must see, is a strict focus of resources
for the year 2000 conversion for the department," Parker said.


Both the public and private sectors are beginning to grapple with the prospect of
checking millions of lines of computer code for two-digit year designations.


"I'm getting ready to let senior management know just how urgent this is and that
I don't want them to get caught sleeping," she said.


And finally, like little Sally Who down in Whoville, GSA's Vivian Ronen requests:
"That Congress, the president and the American people would respect and appreciate
the federal employees who have dedicated their careers to serving the public with honor
and distinction."


Paul Constance, Christopher Dorobek, Vanessa Jo Grimm, William Jackson, Susan Menke
and Kevin Power contributed to this article.


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