Year-end thoughts

In 1995, several big bets on change were made. But 1996 will show how much payoff we'll

On the technology front, the biggest story was the mass deployment of World Wide Web
authoring and browsing tools. Hundreds of agencies and members of Congress already have
built Web pages, as have tens of thousands of private companies and people.

So far, the establishment of Web sites has had a stampede quality, with few stopping to
think through why they need it--other than everyone else seems to have it, too. The
resulting Web sites, with few exceptions, are disappointing affairs. Thus the purported
benefits of all this Web activity--high-quality information and meaningful
interactivity--haven't arrived yet.

On the acquisition side, '95 saw major reform of both procurement law and regulation.
But the changes haven't settled in culturally. So the question of how agencies will deal
with their newfound freedom is still open.

Cyber-Congress's Office 2000. That's what House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls the planned
overhaul of the House's kludgy, little-used e-mail system.

The title sounds like something from a bad space-cadet movie. But this long-overdue
project will bring our lawmakers into the 20th century.

I can't help but think of the flaming possibilities. With the speed and facelessness of
e-mail, members will be able to shed the last confining shreds of civility to one another.
They'll be able to flame with abandon, and at high speed.

Now I hope the Senate makes its system compatible. We could see some exciting
cross-chamber warring. But it would take some doing to surpass Rep. Preston Brooks
(D-S.C.), who, on May 22, 1856, walked onto the Senate floor and caned Sen. Charles Sumner
of Massachusetts nearly to death.

The departure of Lloyd Mosemann II, deputy assistant secretary
of the Air Force for communications, computers and support systems, leaves a hole you
could fly a C-17 through.

While the Air Force's software record is far from perfect, it is arguably better than
those of the other two services. Mosemann can boast a number of accomplishments, not the
least of which is elevating the idea of software as a separate and strategically critical
asset that covers and interrelates the domains of MIS, command and control, and embedded

Mosemann also was instrumental in establishing the yearly multiservice Software
Technology Conference as one of the most important forums in the field.

To achieve penny-ante savings, his office will be broken up and its functions dispersed
throughout the Air Force. That's a bad omen for the future of software throughout
government, and a curious testimony to one of civil service's most distinguished members.

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