Editorial Cartoon

In Missouri, they beat seat

The Federal Highway Administration is trying to sell seat management to its field offices as something that will save money and free up information technology specialists to work on more important tasks.

To date, the cost to implement seat management will be an additional $15 million per year and those 'more important tasks' have yet to be identified. Ask any FHWA division administrator what's more important, and I bet the answer will be, 'I want to keep my computer specialists.'

Nationwide, FHWA does not have trouble filling computer specialist slots with highly qualified personnel, so that highly touted reason for outsourcing does not apply.

Grassroots efforts among some forward-thinking field offices have led to commonality of PCs and servers with significant cross-office technical support that meets or exceeds FHWA's service-level commitments with its seat management contractor.

These same offices, in departing from FHWA's usual methods of IT management, have operated on a chronically underfunded equipment budget and yet have delivered an equipment refresh rate of under 36 months for PCs and under 24 months for servers.

Moreover, in surveys, users give high satisfaction ratings because agency personnel make training and individual support available that is tailored for field office needs. It almost appears as if many FHWA field offices are about to be penalized for showing that in-house support can meet and beat outsourcing both in quality and in price.

To date, no one responsible for pushing seat management on FHWA has raised the issues of the Truthfulness, Responsibility and Accountability in Contracting Act or OMB Circular A-76.

Most field office computer specialists would applaud Rep. Tom Davis' (R-Va.) bid-to-goal concept because, in some cases, we've demonstrated our ability to overhaul IT program delivery on a shoestring budget through nothing but informal workgroups.

For us at FHWA, this is not about saving jobs per se because none of us will'technically'lose our jobs. It's about saving taxpayer money and maintaining in the field an already-high level of quality customer satisfaction with IT support.


Computer specialist

Federal Highway Administration's

Missouri Division

Jefferson City, Mo.

Antivirus review bugs reader

I just read the product review 'Antivirus apps fail to stamp out bugs effectively' [GCN, May 28, Page 36].

Please explain to me how fast a product can get downloaded from the Web site at various baud rates is of importance to the effectiveness of an antivirus software package.

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Just exactly what does the user interface, scanning speed, number of files scanned and price have to do with how a program will 'stamp out bugs effectively,' as the article title implies?

What is important in accessing a developer's Web site is how easy it is to find and download a product and its updates. Some sites are better than others. Some seem more intent on selling you additional products than letting you keep your current versions up-to-date.

Nowhere in the article did I read any fact about testing any of these products against each other in actually finding a virus, let alone which program was more or less effective at eliminating a virus.

There are different types of viruses written into Visual Basic Script files, as well as viruses embedded into macros and executable programs. Each of these formats requires a different type of detection method, as well as a determination on whether to notify the user of the virus and whether to isolate or delete it.

Vendors must also determine if an antivirus program should automatically correct any changes to an operating system or to files created by the virus, tell the user how to fix the changes or do nothing.

Nowhere did the review's author even address these issues. I give this product review an overall grade of D'.


Network specialist

Communications and Information Services

County of Winnebago, Ill.


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