Buzz of the Week

Doan’s BlackBerry talks

Clinton adds health IT plank to presidential platform

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You know that you didn’t have a good week if your name is uttered in the same breath as the Bush administration’s punching bag, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales. Last week, Lurita Doan, administrator at the General Services Administration, managed to reach that esteemed pinnacle.

Many people have tuned out the whole Doan drama, with its many twists and turns. The entire Doan affair has left many in a quandary about how to deal with GSA and the administrator in particular. There also is ongoing concern that Doan’s problems could bleed beyond her office to have a broader impact on GSA, which has been working to turn itself around.

Yet even amid that quagmire, the findings of the Office of Special Counsel on allegations that Doan violated the Hatch Act seemed to stand out. The OSC report states that Doan violated the Hatch Act, which prohibits using the business of government for political purposes, and the report all but accused the administrator of lying.

A case in point: Doan’s BlackBerry.

Doan has insisted that she didn’t remember the details of the meeting and that she didn’t believe it was inappropriate. She said she didn’t pay much attention during the briefing — which included slides on vulnerable Democrats — because she was using her BlackBerry. The special counsel sought to corroborate the BlackBerry distractions, yet when investigators reviewed Doan’s personal and government e-mail messages during the post-lunch meeting, there was no evidence that Doan would have been particularly distracted.

“The documentation establishes that Ms. Doan received nine e-mail messages to her private e-mail account on Jan. 26, 2007, with the latest one received at 1:08 p.m.,” the report states. The meeting took place from 1:30 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. “The documentation Ms. Doan provided concerning her private e-mail account did not establish that she sent, read, composed, deleted or moved any messages during the January meeting.”

Doan’s response so far focused on the report being made public, not on the alleged Hatch Act violations. On May 24 Doan’s personal attorney, Michael Nardotti, sent a testy letter to Scott Bloch, the special counsel, asking for the report to be withdrawn because it was made public.

Nardotti expressed “utter outrage that the confidentiality of the report” made its way into the public sphere.

Doan has until June 1 to file her official response. We can only assume that Gonzales will not be reviewing that response.

The Buzz contenders

#2: How to say ‘standard configuration
Look for a memo this week from the Office of Management and Budget containing recommended contract language for the government’s now-mandatory requirements for standard desktop and laptop PC configurations.

OMB requires civilian agencies to enforce standard configurations for the Microsoft Windows XP and Vista operating systems by February 2008. The standards should make it easier for agencies to manage their large inventories of desktop and laptop PCs and automatically install patches to fix new security vulnerabilities, which technicians discover almost daily.

#3: OMB: Let’s restate those numbers
The Office of Management and Budget restated the federal government’s proposed information technology budget, raising the Bush administration’s fiscal 2008 request by almost $1 billion.

OMB officials recalculate the administration’s IT budget numbers, usually by April, after receiving missing data from agencies. Based on that new data, the administration’s IT budget request for 2008 rose to $66.4 billion, an increase compared with OMB’s February estimate of $65.5 billion.

The biggest beneficiary of the new budget request is the Homeland Security Department. Its request increased by more than $1.4 billion since February.

#4: Sen. Clinton campaigns on health IT
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has put health information technology high on her list of ways to rein in the country’s health care costs while improving the quality of care. As she campaigned last week, Clinton proposed spending $3 billion a year to help doctors and hospitals create electronic health records. Clinton said she wants the country to have a program of incentives for doctors to use IT to lower administrative health care costs.

Citing studies that show Americans pay more for health care than people in any other country but get worse care, she said her future administration would take action on health care IT if Congress doesn’t pass a bill this session.

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