Who's Who in Technology
Here are six of the most influential policy players in the infotech business. They play central roles in shaping government policy on encryption, privacy, security, the year 2000 date-change repairs, procurement and telecom deregulation. The November elections will determine to some degree if all will be reappointed. But like many Washington players, they can always return to their K Street law firms and lobbying groups to prepare for their next government role.
Position: Commissioner, Federal Trade Commission
First policy job: Secretary to the Cabinet for President Bill Clinton
Number of e-mails responded to daily: 50-60
Christine Varney is either the persistent paladin for people's privacy protections or a carping critic of corporations' computerized collation of customer choices, depending on whom you ask.
A lawyer by profession, she has worked hard at the Federal Trade Commission to earn both reputations.
On Sept. 20, the commission asked Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., to tighten rules governing companies' use and sale of information about consumers' identity, such as their social security number, past address, date of birth or mother's maiden name.
The impetus for the Sept. 20 letter was a public protest over an extensive database maintained by Lexis-Nexis Inc. The database is dubbed P-TRAK and allows the company's customers to identify and locate people via their social security number. With such information, "fraud artists could open credit lines in innocent customers' names and run up unpaid charges, thereby ruining the customers' credit histories," said the commission's letter.
Not surprisingly, the letter has yielded no legislation, partly because of the upcoming November elections.
But, "the political reality is that we are in a time when Congress is not likely to regulate," Varney said Sept. 12.
The chief roadblock to regulation is the Direct Marketing Association, a lobbying alliance of 3,600 companies that generates $1 trillion of the nation's $7 trillion economy. The association defends the data-gathering because it is extremely valuable for marketing everything from computers to condoms. The alliance, which includes numerous members of the infotech industry, earlier scuttled an effort in Congress to restrict the collection and marketing of data about children.
Children are particularly vulnerable to industry's data collection, said Varney, because they gladly hand over personal data about themselves and their families as they troll the Web in search of online games and other amusements. Companies "are getting enormous amounts of information... [and] it is not clear to me what they do with it," she said.
Varney is trying to get around industry's opposition by holding public hearings about online privacy, conducting investigations and discussing her concerns in the media. The short-term goal is to pressure industry into self-regulation with the threat of new laws from Congress or regulation from the FTC.
"Industry ought to step forward with a plan to get verifiable parental consent," before collecting information from children, she said. "You can be responsible corporate citizens or we can regulate for you," she warned.
Her threat is not without some force, partly because she is well-connected in the Clinton administration. She joined the FTC in October 1994, after serving as President Clinton's direct link to his 20 cabinet members, including the secretaries of Commerce, Defense, State and Energy. That job also gave her the task of coordinating several major initiatives and the task of coordinating multiagency disaster response measures.
Varney came to the job well-equipped, having served as chief counsel of the Clinton/Gore campaign in 1992, and having practiced law in Washington with the firm of Hogan & Hartson. She dealt with election law, as well as health, communications, energy, transportation and trade issues. Varney earned a 1986 Ph.D. in law from Georgetown University Law Center and a 1978 master's degree in public administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University.
Position: Associate Commissioner for the Office of Systems Design and Development, Social Security Administration
First job: management intern at the Bureau of Health Insurance
Number of e-mails responded to daily: 50 -60
Kathy Adams' name is synonymous in government with the year 2000. Since 1989 she has served as the point person for the government's agencywide effort to address the year 2000 software conversion problem.
Adams, who has helped government officials focus on planning and budgeting for the year 2000 problem, is the chairwoman of the Year 2000 Interagency Committee. This panel is in charge of educating agencies about the software conversion problem and managing their plans for correcting their computer systems.
The committee's mission stems from a problem that involves a two-digit field in computer hardware and software that reads the year. A problem will arise when the year 2000 comes and computers are unable to understand '00' as a year. Input, a market analysis firm in Vienna, Va., estimates it will take $30 billion to fix the year 2000 problem in government agencies alone.
In 1989, Adams ran into a software problem that would change her role in government forever. Her office was running a program that tracked social security payments 10 years into the future. When the program was unable to process projected payments for the year 2000 or beyond, Adams knew she had stumbled onto something serious.
Her staff ran tests on the office's software and realized the problem was spread across the entire agency. Adams' concern was justified. Her office runs the software that calculates recipients' benefits and sends out 50 million payments a month.
Adams started alerting other federal agencies to the problem in 1989. Bruce McConnell, the bureau chief for information policy and technology in the Office of Management and Budget, asked Adams to champion the year 2000 solution across government in 1995. The Year 2000 Interagency Committee, within SSA, appointed Adams as chairman of the committee.
First, the committee created a standard for data exchange among agencies. Committee members worked with the National Institute of Science and Technology and the OMB to develop a standard that all federal and state agencies must use -- an eight-position date to represent the century, the year, the month and the day. That standard will be introduced to government agencies from now until the turn of the century.
The committee then focused on getting all federal agencies to collectively boycott non-compliant year 2000 software. Government agencies will only purchase software that has been designed to accept date fields for the year 2000 and beyond.
Adams then targeted contractual language relating to software and hardware purchases and services. The committee worked with the General Services Administration and the Information Technology Association of America to develop language to protect agencies from purchasing any more non-compliant year 2000 products.
Adams' next step is get the CIO Council, a newly formed group of information technology representatives from each federal agency, to adopt the language. At that point, she says, the language will be recognized across the government.
The next item on Adams' agenda will be to decide what role industry plays in solving the year 2000 problem. She says contractors are not yet staffed with the right programmers to develop solutions. And they are not going to find the right programmers until they start seeing government contracts. Government agencies are not ready to put out requests for proposals because they are still measuring the scope of the problem.
Adams has held a roundtable discussion with officials from the Armed Forces Communications and Electronics Association, an industry association in Fairfax, Va.
Adams finds it hard to speculate on what her future holds. Five years ago she could not imagine doing what she is doing now. "I don't think I can answer that question," said Adams. "Hopefully I will still be in this business and we will have gotten through a smooth transition to year 2000."
Position: Director, Technology Policy, Federal Communications
First policy job: current position
Number of e-mails responded to daily: 35
Although he has the broad title of director of technology policy at the Federal Communications Commission, the one segment of Mark Corbitt's job that keeps him under wide industry surveillance is his role in determining how the agency should regulate the Internet.
FCC Chairman Reed Hundt brought Corbitt on board to serve as an adviser on Internet and emerging interactive media. Corbitt's realm of investigation includes cable, satellite, telecommunications and wireless industries.
Since joining the FCC on Jan. 3, 1995, Corbitt has been making the rounds in the Internet and personal computer business world, talking to executives about policy-making for the Internet. So far, he's not saying what rules to expect, but has started in the past few months speaking at conferences and other public forums about the FCC's role. Hotwired, the electronic sister publication of Wired, recently called Corbitt a "cultural ambassador" for getting business involved rather than just ignoring those in the trenches.
For a person who could have been blasted in the infotech industry for trying to curtail the Internet's freedom, Corbitt is well-liked, mainly because he actually asks executives for their advice.
The respect he has gained from industry also comes from the fact that he is one of them -- this is Corbitt's first public-sector role. Besides stints at Cray Research Inc., Digital Equipment Corp. and Intel Corp., Corbitt in 1994 founded an Internet start-up for World Wide Web directory services that was bought by Kleiner Perkins Caulfield & Byers. Corbitt's satellite communications knowledge comes from positions at NASA and TRW.
Corbitt is rumored to be a computer geek at heart rather than a lawyer. He has a bachelor of arts degree in mathematics and computer sciences from the University of Florida and has done graduate work in engineering and economics at UCLA and Harvard Business School.
While many outsiders think businesses are pressuring Corbitt to be light-handed, that's not the case. Internet companies and libertarian groups, of course, are lobbying for as little regulation as possible. But traditional telephone companies are worried that Internet access, especially Internet telephony, will take away customers. Four of the regional Bell operating companies -- US West, Bell Atlantic Corp., Nynex Corp. and Pacific Telesis Group -- have told the FCC they want the agency to put strict regulations on Internet companies. Several months ago, the America's Carriers Telecommunication Association asked the FCC specifically to forbid people to use the Internet to make long distance phone calls. The agency has not responded to that request.
Like the rest of the FCC, Corbitt's goals include promoting competition, innovation and open markets. He also wants to encourage high-speed Internet access for consumers and public institutions.
"Collaboration between government and industry produces the most effective outcome," said Corbitt. "Once the public interests have been championed, the private sector should be allowed maximum latitude to offer creative solutions."
It will be an interesting next year for Corbitt, who industry insiders say has Hundt's ear. Together they'll likely make some historical decisions.
-- Shannon Henry
Position: Deputy Attorney General, Department of Justice
First policy job: Vice chairwoman, Task Force on the Evaluation of the Audit, Investigation and Inspection Components of the Department of Defense
Number of e-mails responded to daily: n/a
If President Bill Clinton is re-elected in November, place bets on Jamie Gorelick taking the top slot at the Justice Department.
She's currently deputy to Attorney General Janet Reno, who is expected to resign for health reasons. With Gorelick so close to the top, the infotech industry had better take a closer look at her impressive career and pay close attention to her concerns, which include the security of the nation's critical networks.
Gorelick graduated cum laude from Harvard Law School in 1975, before taking mid-level jobs in Jimmy Carter's administration during 1979 and 1980. During the Bush and Reagan years, she litigated civil and criminal cases for Washington-based Miller, Cassidy, Larroca and Lewin. She also published a variety of articles and worked on a series of boards and panels for the American Bar Association before being elected president of the D.C. Bar Association.
When Clinton was elected, he asked Gorelick to head the Defense Department's 6,000 lawyers, who have their fingers in every piece of the Pentagon's pie -- covert operations, procurement, international treaties and interagency disputes. She was also involved in cutting-edge legal issues, including the bitter battle over homosexuals in the military that led to the "don't ask, don't tell" compromise policy.
Success in that job won her Reno's support, so when the No. 2 slot at the Justice Department opened in March 1994, she got the nod.
For the moment, Gorelick is busy promoting the administration's controversial encryption policy and spearheading the White House's Critical Infrastructure Protection Commission.
At a Sept. 25 hearing before the House Judiciary Committee, Gorelick stood her ground before several industry-backed critics, including Rep. Sonny Bono, R-Calif. "In the din of the debate, the impact of universal encryption on [law enforcement officials, citizens] and national security have been understated and ignored," she insisted.
The latest iteration of the encryption policy gives U.S. industry two years to develop key-recovery technologies. If a company fails to develop suitable technology, which is intended to let law enforcement officials peek into encrypted messages after getting a court-ordered wiretap, the government will block the export of its encryption products.
It's a reasonably clever divide-and-rule strategy that may crack the infotech industry's united front against government controls on the export of encryption technology. That's because the plan offers lucrative commercial advantages to companies that cooperate with the government and it hurts those companies that won't cooperate. In the short term, that's good for the more cooperative, large systems integrators, such as IBM Corp., and bad for the libertarian-minded software executives in Silicon Valley and Redmond, Wash.
Gorelick is also the moving force behind the infrastructure protection commission, which is slated to develop a national anti-hacker plan by late 1997. To succeed, Gorelick must somehow create a series of legal and technical compromises between government and industry officials who are already at loggerheads over encryption.
"We have just begun our effort to reach out... [but] we have a lot to overcome. We don't always get the reception we would like" from industry officials, she told a Sept. 20 conference in Washington.
-- Neil Munro
Regina Markey Keeney
Position: Chief, FCC Common Carrier Bureau
First policy job: Attorney, tariff division of the Common
Carrier Bureau, FCC
Number of e-mails responded to daily: 25-35
If Regina Keeney is appointed to fill the commissioner vacancy at the Federal Communications Commission -- which is widely expected -- she will be the first career FCC staffer to have graduated to the top.
Keeney not only was a lawyer at the agency when AT&T was broken up in the 1980s, but was also chief of the Wireless Telecommunications Bureau these past few years when the first spectrum auctions were held. Now, in her current role as chief of the Common Carrier Bureau, Keeney is at center stage as her division spearheads the FCC's rule-making for the Telecom Reform Act of 1996.
FCC Chairman Reed Hundt and his commissioners endorsed Keeney's nomination by President Clinton Aug. 1. So did executives of telecom organizations such as Ameritech Corp. and the National Association of Broadcasters.
President Clinton has for the past few years received glowing letters recommending her from the likes of Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich, Sen. Larry Pressler, R-S.D., former Sen. Bob Packwood and soon-to-retire Sen. Paul Simon, D-Ill.
While Keeney is a Republican, she is known to have bipartisan support in the communications industry.
"Gina's experience as chief of two bureaus, Wireless and Common Carrier, would be invaluable to our deliberations as commissioners in furtherance of the extraordinary responsibilities delegated to us under the Telecommunications Reform Act.... She has both the experience and acumen to bring new distinction and invaluable wisdom to the commission," said Hundt in recommending Keeney to the spot vacated by Andrew Barrett. Barrett resigned in April to join Edelman Public Relations Worldwide.
Still, it's taken Keeney many years of work to be recognized so favorably. She spent nine years as the Republican communications counsel on the Senate Commerce Committee. Before that, she had her first experience at the FCC as an attorney in the tariff division of the Common Carrier Bureau. Keeney began her career in tax law at the Washington firm of Hamel, Park, McCabe and Saunders.
Keeney's main focus now is overseeing the Common Carrier Bureau, which is the bread-and-butter division of the FCC. The CCB regulates all wireline domestic telephone and telegraph companies. That means numbering, phone bills and pay phones are all under the bureau's jurisdiction. Fraudulent charges on bills, as well as slamming -- the practice of a phone company switching a customer to their service without the individual's permission -- would be handled by the bureau, and then by the enforcement division of the CCB.
The primary objective of the CCB is to provide customers with rapid, efficient nationwide and worldwide telecommunications service at reasonable rates.
Soon, Keeney may be overseeing the effectiveness of the nuts and bolts she's now putting together.
-- Shannon Henry
Position: Administrator, Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, Office of Management and Budget
First policy job: Deputy Director for Program Policy of the Council of Wage and Price Stability in the Executive Office of the President.
Number of e-mails responded to daily:
To some, Sally Katzen could easily be labeled the federal government's baroness of information technology. The 54-year-old attorney's high-tech ambitions seem too energized for someone who prefers to simply identify herself as the Clinton administration's information technology policy spokeswoman.
All titles aside, Katzen's mission is enormous. The dogged administrator is today working to re-engineer information technology practices within all federal agencies.
Moreover, Katzen is responsible for establishing the Clinton administration's information technology policy. One of her duties is to advise President Clinton on how much information technology funding each government agency should receive. She also is the chairwoman of the National Information Infrastructure Security Issues Forum within the National Information Infrastructure, and she sits on the CIO Council, a group of chief information officers from 24 federal agencies formed under the Information Technology Management Reform Act of 1996. The council was established to improve management of the government's information resources.
"We're looking to ensure that agencies take more responsibility for activities in information technology," said Katzen.
She said one of the her greatest moments as administrator in the last nine months was when Congress passed the Information Technology Management Reform Act, a Clinton measure to establish a chief information officer in each agency. She said this is a major step toward improving how government manages information technology resources. She has also worked on privacy issues within the National Information Infrastructure, a system being developed by the private sector of high-speed telecommunications networks, databases and advanced computer systems that will make electronic information widely available and accessible to individuals, organizations and government. She also hailed passage of the Electronic Freedom of Information Act, which continues to increase the amount of information available to the public.
"An enormous amount remains to be done," said Katzen.
Moving into the next six months, Katzen, in what she describes as an urgent matter, will be making some informed decisions on the direction of privacy in the NII. Security and privacy on the NII are among the most important issues she faces. Her task is to engage the private sector and members of the public in a dialogue to ensure that the information superhighway is trustworthy and reliable.
Katzen is also facing 1998 budget preparations for federal agencies. In an effort to efficiently distribute IT spending, she wants agencies to re-engineer their systems and eliminate procedures that are inefficient and redundant. Her office is also responsible for year 2000 initiatives to create awareness within federal agencies, promote sharing of management and technical expertise, and to remove barriers that may impede technicians fixing systems.
"This [year 2000] is a terribly important issue," said Katzen, referring to computer hardware and software unable to understand the new date field of the year 2000 and beyond. "This problem is not unique to the federal government. The private sector is faced with the same problem."
Katzen said she wound up in her position by just "going with the flow." The Pittsburgh native attended University of Michigan Law School, "at a time when girls didn't go to law school," she said. In a class of 400, she was one of eight women. Following graduation from law school, she was a law clerk for Judge J. Kelly Wright of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.
Prior to becoming an administrator, she was a partner in the Washington law firm of Wilmer, Cutler & Pickering, specializing in regulatory and legislative matters. She served in the Carter administration as general counsel from 1979 to 1980. She then served as deputy director for program policy of the Council on Wage and Price Stability in the Executive Office of the President.
Katzen would not speculate on where she will be 10 years from now. She simply plans to continue to "go with the flow."