Circuit

Putting financial management on steroids

In March 2005, the House Government Reform Committee heard testimony about steroid use in professional sports from several Major League Baseball players. The hearing drew an abundant number of reporters and spectators.

More recently, Rep. Todd Platts (R-Pa.), chairman of the committee’s Government Management, Finance and Accountability Subcommittee, griped about the lack of attention paid to his Sept. 13 hearing on financial management at the Homeland Security Department. The department’s chief financial officer and assistant inspector general testified before a smattering of onlookers.

“If I could get one of you to admit that you’re using steroids, we’d have a packed house,” Platts said.

Neither official admitted to steroid use.

Scientists rile DHS over Web site

DHS said the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) violated the agency’s intellectual property rights by creating an emergency preparedness Web site that looks a lot like its own site, Ready.gov. FAS said its site, ReallyReady.org, is indeed similar, but it lacks the inaccurate and incomplete information on the government site.

In a letter, DHS informed the group that ReallyReady.org contains designations and logos that resemble service marks for which DHS filed registration applications with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

“The intent and use of your organization’s designations and logos are for a similar purpose, if not the same purpose, for which the department is using its marks,” wrote William Anderson, DHS’ deputy associate general counsel for science, technology and intellectual property. “This will cause substantial confusion to the public and, in our estimation, already has confused the public. We request that your organization immediately halt the use of the designations and logos.”

After receiving the letter, Ivan Oelrich, vice president for strategic security programs at FAS, posted a blog entry Aug. 28 in which he asked whether DHS is more interested in serving the public or in saving face.

“An unbiased observer would be forgiven for at least suspecting that DHS is not really concerned about confusing the public,” Oelrich wrote. “We could hope for more, but the DHS that we are dealing with turns out to be a bunch of petty cover-your-ass bureaucrats more concerned about embarrassment than doing their jobs.”

He added, “Today we announce that we have altered the graphics so that we can focus on the fact that DHS’ emergency preparedness Web site, Ready.gov, is inadequate and sometimes misleading and that they should fix it, and we have explained how and why.”

For those of you who are as confused as DHS had feared, here is what happened. In February 2003, DHS released Ready.gov. According to FAS, the site contained false information, and DHS’ changes in the past three years did not fully address those errors. So FAS responded by creating ReallyReady.org, which it says gives the public “comprehensive and correct information.”

FAS posted this statement on the ReallyReady.org site: “We recommend that DHS request the assistance of scientific, military and emergency response experts to make crucial alterations to Ready.gov.… We hope this site will demonstrate to DHS that their multimillion-dollar site can be useful, and we hope they will update their site as quickly as possible.”

Congress is tardy for math class

The Business Roundtable wants Congress to take a lesson from schoolchildren this fall and raise their hands during roll call in support of more rigorous math and science classes.

Earlier this month, the organization that represents chief executive officers at big-time U.S. companies urged Congress to seize the limited window of opportunity before winter recess to pass laws that promote U.S. competitiveness.

Their campaign involved delivering lunchboxes containing foam apples to lawmakers’ offices. Each bright red lunchbox was emblazoned with the slogan “Back to School…Back to Congress…Back to Action on U.S. Competitiveness!”

“As children head back to school and Congress heads back to work, there is no better time for lawmakers to ensure that our children have the tools they need to succeed in the 21st-century workforce and global economy,” said John Castellani, the group’s president.

Each lunchbox also contained a checklist of items the group wants lawmakers to address before the end of this session of Congress. They are:

  • The components of President Bush’s American Competitiveness Initiative that strengthen math and science education.

  • Expanded undergraduate and graduate science and engineering programs.

  • Doubled funding for basic research in the physical sciences in the next 10 years.

  • Visa and green card programs for highly educated, foreign-born professionals.

  • A permanent, strengthened research and development tax credit.
  • Got a tip? Send it to asternstein@fcw.com.

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