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FCW : March 15, 2013
Naba Barkakati lems, you can use GAO as a vehicle for recommendations, which will then come to senior management in your agen- cies. Maybe they were not aware of it, and it can do your program good." Along with GAO Chief Scientist Tim Persons, Barkakati leads the Center for Science, Technology and Engineering (CSTE) within the Applied Research and Methods team. ARM is one of 14 teams at GAO that are organized around speci c subject areas, such as defense, nancial management, health care, natural resources, IT and homeland security. The center lends staff support to GAO audits and reports in three ways: as internal consultants to another team that is leading an inquiry (the most common engagement, with 60 to 80 projects a year); by leading audits that are techni- cal in nature (one or two a year); and by conducting broad technology assessments, such as the recent report on cyber- security (one or two a year). Given that GAO is part of the legislative branch, almost every report begins with a congressional request or a legis- lative mandate. GAO managers hold an engagement accep- tance meeting to assign audits to a speci c team and give them a priority level. If there is a technical element to an audit, Barkakati and Persons decide which of their roughly 40 employees will become part of the audit team. Those employees participate in meetings with the government agencies under review, ask technical questions and assess the answers. For example, a CSTE employee might join an audit on biometrics led by the homeland security team or an inquiry into geostationary environmental satellites led by the natural resources team. "There s always a pipeline of work," said Barkakati, a soft-spoken man who is quick with his gentle smile. "I do like the fact that you get to see so many things all the time." An 'element of fate' As a child growing up in Assam, India, Barkakati viewed the United States as the place to be, the country that sent men to the moon. An uncle paid for him to take an exami- nation for admission to a boarding school in West Bengal, so he left home at the age of 9 to pursue an elite education. After graduating from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur with a degree in electrical engineering in 1978, he applied to graduate programs in America, with the main criterion being affordable application fees. He ended up at the University at Buffalo, where he met his now-wife Leha, an immigrant from Vietnam. They married a year later and moved together to the University of Maryland, where Barkakati earned a doctorate in electrical engineering. "I always thought I would stay in the United States," he said. "There s some element of fate. You think like that a bit more, being from India." Take the happenstance of a fellow Maryland graduate student being an IBM employee and getting Barkakati a discount on a personal computer in 1981, which gave him an opportunity to tinker and keep up with programming developments. That eventually led to him writing a tutorial on the C programming language in 1987, the rst of more than two dozen books. Then one of his professors hired him to work for his consulting rm and sent Barkakati to the Naval Research Laboratory to write software simulations as part of a project to defeat incoming missiles. In 1987, he became a federal "I always thought I would stay in the United States. There's some element of fate. You think like that a bit more, being from India." 24 March 15, 2013 FCW.COM
March 30, 2013