Welcome to the Federal Government

The Washington Post reported today that new White House staff was quite disappointed by the quality of the IT equipment and the restrictive rules on the use of IT. As a federal employee all I can say is welcome to the federal government. The poor quality of the tools provided to me is my number one complaint about working for the government. 

When I joined the Department of Energy in 2000 the department was still running Windows 95. We have reached Windows XP after several years of Windows 2000, but we are still running Internet Explorer 6.

People working in jobs with similar responsibilities in the private sector have a laptop that can be docked when they are at their desk. Laptops in my department are only used for travel and are never connected to the internal local area network. We do not have wireless in the building since we do not use laptops. I cannot count the number of times I have been meetings arguing over some fact or budget information that could be looked up in two minutes if we had access to the LAN from a laptop taken to a meeting.

We are limited to a basic suite of office software. It is one size fits all. Microsoft Office, Internet Explorer, and that's about it. If you can't do it with those programs, you probably can't do it at all. When I wanted to get some data off the website of one our labs on a weekly basis, I wrote a small python script to scrape the pages and calcualte some totals. Once the script was written a weekly 15 minute task became a 1 minute task. I could write the script at home, but I could not run it at work. Python is not on the approved software list.

Perhaps the new President can get us some decent tools to allow us to do our jobs better.