Packet Rat: Plague of inefficiencies doesn't infect the Rat

Plague of inefficiencies doesn't infect the Rat

The wired one was way overdue for a performance review'thanks to the inexplicable attrition rate of his managers'when his boss finally invited him to lunch at the Old Post Office.

'At least our workflow's better than the government's visa request process,' his manager-of-the-moment remarked. 'You're still alive.'

Visa request workflow had been getting plenty of high-level attention. The president had grown visibly hot under the collar, the attorney general pale, and the homeland security czar yellow, then orange, then red.

But the Rat couldn't see anything too remarkable in the fact that the Immigration and Naturalization Service had delivered visas to two Sept. 11 terrorist pilots one year after they were requested and more than seven months after approval.

'Just because those guys were dead didn't mean they got any special treatment,' he mused.

Needless to say, the delivery of the visas was merely a symptom of a bigger problem at INS. Agency reorganization had been promised for ages.

'It might help if they started from scratch, and maybe create a genuine CIO position,' the cyberrodent suggested. 'They should at least reconsider the performance of their contractors.'

The security issue isn't going away, either, despite the arguments of IT execs such as Siebel Systems Inc. founder Tom Siebel. He told a congressional committee that if the government had had customer relationship management software last year, the World Trade Center attack could have been averted.

When the whiskered one heard that claim, he switched off C-Span. 'Sure, and who's going to pay for all the Gigabit Ethernet it'll take to browse all that snake-oil portalware any faster than it took those visas to be processed?' he wondered.

There's lots of room in INS' current configuration for circular finger-pointing, what with the agency's major systems being run by three contractors and their performance being managed by a fourth, and IT responsibilities spread across the agency like so many anthrax spores.

'Remember,' said the Rat's manager, 'GS employees in glass offices shouldn't throw stones. We've gotten our share of scarlet letters for inefficiency, too'just not as publicly.'

'True enough,' sighed the wirepuller, recalling his adventures with sock-puppet political appointees. 'Gee, I wonder what would have happened if that Al Gore reinvention of government stuff had actually gone somewhere.'

His boss shook his head as he sucked the last few drops of soda through a bendy straw. 'Larry Ellison would now have Tom Ridge's job.'

The furry one's eyes widened at the thought. 'Then more people than Alec Baldwin would have left the country. I guess there's a silver lining there somewhere.'

'Sure there is,' said his manager. 'At least we don't work at Agriculture. Have you double-checked the numbers on your W-2?'
And with that, the pair returned to their work, secure in the knowledge that there would always be more of it.

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

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