Honesty on the record

Lord knows that in journalism we hear enough of it--and not just from the government
either.


That's why I particularly enjoyed some recent GCN stories in which folks said what was
really on their minds--for the record.


I give my first award for honesty to Elizabeth McClenaghan, chief information officer
for the State Department, who told GCN she loses sleep thinking about the department's
year 2000 software problems. Maybe the tone is set by Secretary of State Madeleine
Albright, who's no mincer of words.


But let's face it: Given the condition of the year 2000 projects throughout the
government, a lot of CIOs and systems managers are losing sleep, or ought to be, whether
they admit it or not.


When was the last time you heard a fed say, "I'm not interested in efficiency or
saving money or budgets"? That came from the lips of James M. Simon, the chief of the
CIA's collection requirements and evaluation staff. He was on a panel at a recent trade
show arguing for adequate funding for the National Imagery and Mapping Agency.


In all honesty, unless you're a controller or chief financial officer, haven't you
often thought, "The heck with expenses. Just let me get the job done." Say that
in the private sector, and you'd have more trouble than a vegetarian at a cattlemen's
dinner.


But Simon then exhibited even more extreme bravery by declaring that Congress "is
now mostly lawyers and accountants. They don't do business the way we do. They're trained
to avoid risk." Attaboy!


When their wallets are at stake, vendors will skip the honeyed tones, too. At a public
debate about the Federal Aviation Administration awarding a contract to the Agriculture
Department, Bert Concklin, executive director of the Professional Services Council, got
fed up and declared, "There is a real Alice-in-Wonderland quality to this
discussion." Good for you, Bert.


And when he was inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, IBM's Mark Dean, who
developed big speed advances in early microcomputers, said, "We were playing with the
computers back in the lab. We liked the faster computers because they were more fun to
play games on."


Now there's an honest man.


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