Shhh ...reading in progress

Federal information technology officials aren't just reading instruction manuals these days. From Harry Potter to the latest how-to book, they are digging in for summer reading.

At last week's Interagency Resources Management Conference in Cambridge, Md., Federal Computer Week took an informal survey to find out what members of the high-tech community are reading.

Karen Evans, the Office of Management and Budget's administrator for e-government and IT, doesn't stray too far from work even in her free time. She's busy reading "Managing IT as a Business: A Survival Guide for CEOs" by Mark Lutchen. Ira Hobbs, chief information officer at the Treasury Department, is deep into the fifth Harry Potter book, "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," by J.K. Rowling. He is anxiously awaiting the sixth installment, which will be released July 16.

Among the heavy readers:

  • Ed Meagher, the Department of Veterans Affairs' deputy CIO: "Confessions of an Economic Hitman" by John Perkins.
  • Rose Parkes, the Energy Department's CIO: "My American Journey" by Colin Powell.
  • Paul Brubaker, executive vice president of SI International: "Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking" by Malcolm Gladwell.
  • John Johnson, assistant commissioner for service development and delivery at the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service: "Airframe" by Michael Crichton.
  • Marty Wagner, associate administrator of GSA's Office of Governmentwide Policy: "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond.
  • Jim Payne, senior vice president of Qwest Communications International's Government Services Division: "American Brutus: John Wilkes Booth and the Lincoln Conspiracies" by Michael Kauffman.
  • Got duct tape?

    Folks at the Homeland Security Department who are creating have been reading too many science fiction novels. They still have not figured out what qualifies as good advice for people to follow in the event of a catastrophic event, especially a nuclear one.

    The Web site offers an intuitive plan of action for responding to a nuclear attack by terrorists: "Find yourself about a block away from the blast? Consider if you can get out of the area." To that, we'll add this advice: "Trust but verify," a motto from the Cold War that may someday come in handy.

    Your check is not in the mail

    More than 80 percent of federal workers receive their paychecks electronically, which means no payroll paper trail exists. More than 1.4 million workers take advantage of e-payroll services offered by a number of organizations, including the National Business Center, the National Finance Center, Defense Finance and Accounting Service, and GSA.

    If your agency is not one of them, don't feel left out. Other agencies and departments will soon be using those e-payroll services, including the Environmental Protection Agency, FBI, Broadcasting Board of Governors, Transportation Security Administration, U.S. Coast Guard, Office of Thrift Supervision, Federal Aviation Administration and the VA.

    Good things come in small packages

    Last week, Rep. Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) outlined the House Republican High-Tech Working Group's priorities for the 109th Congress with a list that includes good things for high-tech companies and bad things for intellectual property theft. Just as the 108th congressional working group encouraged antispam legislation, this working group will go after spyware, phishing and piracy.

    Legislation will also focus on research and development tax credits, math and science education to fill high-tech jobs, and fairness in government IT acquisitions. Goodlatte, the working group's chairman, has said he opposes giving every American a computer but wants to forge ahead with health IT and patent reform. And he wants to give everyone broadband access.

    "We will work to fulfill the president's goal of access to broadband by working to create economic incentives, to remove regulatory barriers and to promote new technologies to help make broadband affordable for all Americans," Goodlatte said.

    Don't we need computers for that?

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