2010-11-11 / Sam Bari

Acronym and abbreviation subterfuge creates an endless maze

You can’t beat a system you can’t understand
By Sam Bari

The week after mid-term elections is a good time to address a subject that is long overdue for a major overhaul. Acronym subterfuge on the part of government and other institutions must be curtailed.

Whenever a questionable organization, committee, panel, institution, or company wants to operate with impunity, it is given an acronym, initials or label that is a subtle abbreviation that nobody understands.

Some of them are really annoying. For instance: if you went online and wanted to see the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, it would be perfectly logical to enter “SI swimsuit issue” into Google or some other search engine.

There is not a heterosexual male on the planet who does not know that the famous “SI” stands for Sports Illustrated, the male bible of all things good and fun – not so!

If you do that, do not be surprised if you are sent to the Smithsonian Institution home page. Not exactly what you had in mind? Too bad. SI is the official acronym for the institution of old stuff, educational stuff and notable memorabilia. You will not find scantily clad swimsuit models there.

As if that weren’t disappointing enough, try checking into the Saturday Night Live website to view old episodes and peruse the current TV schedule. If you enter SNL, you could be sent to the offi cial government website of the Sandia National Laboratories. You don’t want to know what they do there.

Their slogan is: “Securing a Peaceful and Free World through Technology.”

Their security missions include: nuclear weapons, defense systems and assessments, Homeland Security and energy and infrastructure assurance. The company belongs to Lockheed Martin. It is a scary place. Do not look for laughs at SNL; it is not Saturday Night Live.

There is more, much more. If you want to get a little extra assurance for your aging car when it breaks down, the logical choice would be to join AAA, wouldn’t you think? Well – not so fast.

The next time you’re stuck in the middle of the desert with a flat tire and no spare, be careful when you attempt to look up AAA on your smart phone. Do not be surprised if you are directed to “Archives of American Art.” Those are the initials officially assigned to that division of – now take a deep breath . . . The Smithsonian Institution. Kinda makes ya wanna go hmmm.

Is this a government joke? Unfortunately – no.

The government labels strange combinations of initials and acronyms to organizations that you didn’t know existed, even if you wanted to access information on certain subject matter.

An example of this would be: AcqNet. The upper and lower case initials stand for Acquisition Central. It is a federal government website that has a menu designed to not be understood. I visited the site and sure enough – I do not understand what they do there. I am convinced that highly paid government authorities planned it that way.

Why would they want any citizen in the private sector to know what and how their government acquires anything? Consequently, the information is obfuscated in esoteric terminology, and given an abbreviated name that most cryptographers could not decipher.

Leave it to the federal government, and probably all federal governments, not just ours, to make searching for accountability as difficult as possible.

Let’s just say we wanted to learn how much the government spends on research. They give out huge federal grants to various organizations and institutions in the name of research that most of us know nothing about.

You can find out a little bit if you know enough to go to FEDRIP. That is the Federal Research in Progress Database. Now who couldn’t figure that out? The answer is obvious – most of us. And that’s the way they like it.

Here’s one that is of interest to all, but I bet you didn’t know it existed. The PCIE. It stands for the President’s Council on Integrity and Efficiency. When you go to the website, you will be redirected to another website called CIGIE.

The organization was renamed the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency. I cannot think of any government that would want its constituents questioning that organization. No wonder they keep it under wraps.

Look it up. Enter CIGIE in an Internet search engine if you want a much clearer understanding of why we live in a system you can’t understand.

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