The agenda has changed'and so have we

Thomas R. Temin, GCN executive editor

"We've been told an airplane hit the World Trade Center and, well, the president has ordered all civilian aviation grounded," said the pilot of US Airways Flight 175, Charlotte to Phoenix. The other flight 175 that morning.

It was the second announcement. The first had been even more puzzling. 'There's been an action involving civil aircraft and, well, we've got to land this plane.' The dots didn't connect.

That's how I learned about the events of 9-11. By the time I could connect the dots, as I sat in the airport in Memphis that I hadn't intended to stop at, a new age had dawned for the United States.

In creating this special issue, the editors of GCN have tried to do what we always do when covering stories bigger than but connected to our governmental IT corner of the world: bring home the specific meaning and relevance for our readers' unique perspective.

This issue, dated Sept. 11, a Wednesday, is the first non-Monday cover date in the 20-year history of GCN.

Our theme is how the government IT community has changed'in terms of federal managers' sense of their jobs, in terms of IT and in terms of policy and politics. When you look back on the debates and policies taking place just over a year ago, you can't help but be astonished at how the national and our own parochial conversations have shifted.

Why didn't this change occur after the Oklahoma City bombing? Perhaps because the earlier perpetrators were a few pathetic losers while the 9-11 villains were part of a vast and well-organized conspiracy aimed not merely at our government but at our society and way of life itself.

The government has a fresh agenda, some of which is chronicled in this issue but which GCN has been covering intensely since the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Soon, the government is likely to reorganize around a Homeland Security Department. Defense Department chieftains have revised military doctrine and accelerated deployment of network-centric, force-projecting armed forces. The congressional agenda'and budget priorities'have changed, albeit in the usual messy process that characterizes politics.

Underlying all of that is the human story of Sept. 11. Whether in Washington or New York, public officials responded. Not always expertly, not always with the right tools, but in all instances they responded with courage and selflessness.

For that moment, public servants and the work they do achieved a kind of transcendence. For many, it was a return to the sense of purpose that prompted them long ago to go into civil or military service.

It is to those public servants that we dedicate this issue.

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