Get Down to Business

The Office of Management and Budget has it only half right ("Tangled Lines of Business," April 15). Allowing federal agencies to choose between a private sector or a public sector partner is a recipe for disaster. It illustrates indecisive leadership. Unfortunately, if given a choice, many federal agencies will take the easy path of arbitrarily executing a reimbursable order instead of conducting a rigorous analysis of alternatives.

If the Fortune 100 companies are representative of the state of business process outsourcing, then BPO competitors would more times than not beat their federal government counterparts, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, National Finance Center and National Business Center. Why have well-regarded companies such as IBM, Procter & Gamble, International Paper and Bank of America turned to BPO firms to facilitate the transformation of their human resources and finance processes? Perhaps they know something that the federal government should learn more about.

Scott Schnick
Financial Systems Analyst
Defense Department

No Sale

I just read your article about the Eileen Kent course ("Contracting 101," April 15) on how to appear obnoxious and guarantee you will never win government business from anyone with half a brain. I imagine that her license to give advice based on selling furniture qualifies her to give advice to any kind of business selling goods or services to the government. She has done a disservice to a lot of people, who will now show up at an agency and ask a security guard for the right person to talk to. What a joke! If there is a security guard who would have the slightest clue, I will be amazed.

Moreover, why shouldn't someone do their homework before trying to sell their wares? Unless you are willing to print an article that highlights the real picture, then you are simply taking up space in an otherwise decent magazine with offensive material that actually will hurt businesses with something legitimate to sell. I do not pretend to know all there is to know about government contracting, but I would give people much more sound advice than Ms. Kent's.

David Frazier
McLean, Va.

MRE Memories

Your story on Meals, Ready-to-Eat being sold on eBay ("Meals, Ready-to-Sell," March 15) brought back fond memories of my Army days, which, coincidentally, can explain why MREs have value on the open market.

When I was stationed with the 2nd Infantry Division in Korea, we frequently would go on field exercises. Wherever our battalion traveled, we were followed by a Korean woman who would set up a portable kitchen just outside the perimeter of our camp. There, she would offer a bowl of steaming ramen and chicken in exchange for a single MRE.

For cold soldiers in the field, this swap was a no-brainer. MREs aren't bad per se (though some are better than others), but who wouldn't rather have a hot meal instead? Of course, she wasn't offering this service in a gesture of international good will. She could resell the MREs elsewhere for a tidy profit. We had heard that MREs are highly prized by hunters for their portability. I guess hikers could use them as well. In any case, we were just grateful for the change in diet.

Joab Jackson
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