PACKET RAT

The Rat gets a heads-up view of what position as info czar would look like

R. Fink

'I just want to make it clear up front that I don't want the job,' the Rat fumed and hung up the phone.

His better half looked over from her PC at the breakfast bar. 'Another headhunter, dear?'

'No, nothing like that,' the cyberrodent replied. 'I was just calling another contact at the White House to make sure my name doesn't get brought up for governmentwide chief information officer.'

Although the info-czar post was still just the subject of congressional meditations, the Rat wasn't leaving anything to chance. He called everyone he knew who had any kind of potential influence over appointments, including the campaign chiefs of all the presidential contenders. Green Party candidate Ralph Nader was especially gracious when the whiskered one reached him, despite the uncivilized hour.

So why was the Rat taking such a role in removing himself from a contest that didn't even exist yet? First of all, it's bound to happen'if only because the Office of Management and Budget is resisting it.

And the way the Rat's life has been lately, he's sure that he would get tagged with the job as some sort of karmic punishment for misdeeds in a previous lifetime.

Second, he has experienced a disturbing vision'while coaching youth-league soccer'of what the job would be like.

Bad move



It all started a few months ago when fall sports forms came in the mail from the ratlings' school. In a spasm of parental guilt, the Rat ignored his longtime slogan: NAVY, for Never Again Volunteer Yourself. He signed up to help with the eight-and-under league. Little did he realize that 'help with' is soccer code for 'head coach.'

Now the Rat finds himself out on the field as often as three times a week partaking of'eek'physical activity with a whole herd of ankle-biters. Soccer practice has amply demonstrated how well his situation mirrors what the uber-CIO will face.

'OK, guys, this is our goal. That is their goal. Our job is to keep the ball out of our goal and put it into their goal, OK?'

Getting the undivided attention of a dozen first- and second-graders is hard enough. Getting them to act on what they are told is another game entirely.

The whiskered one's leading scorer has made seven goals so far, five of them for the other side.

The Rat bets that a czar of federal information services will have the same fundamental challenge when it comes to communicating policy and strategy to agency heads. The czar probably will have just about as much luck, too.

'Really, guys, I don't think you should leave classified data disks behind the copy machine. Uh, guys?'

The soccer team's budding Mia Hamms and Cobi Joneses all want to be the star of the game, and so they all bunch around the ball. The same thing will happen to an uber-CIO, only he or she will be the ball.

Every career-minded agency info officer will be all over whatever project looks to be the most prestige-enhancing. Getting agencies to coordinate efforts and cooperate will be like getting 6-year-olds not to ball-hog.

But there's one thing that the Rat has going for him on the soccer field that a federal CIO wouldn't have.

'At least I can wear shin guards,' the whiskered one sighed.

The Packet Rat once managed networks but now spends his time ferreting out bad packets in cyberspace. E-mail him at rat@gcn.com.

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