Helping widows and their children

"To care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow, and his orphan."

That quote from Abraham Lincoln's second inaugural address — delivered a month before the end of the Civil War and Lincoln's assassination — is inscribed on the front of the Department of Veterans Affairs building in Washington, D.C. The VA continues to fulfill that mandate by creating a new Web site for surviving spouses and dependents of military personnel.

The Survivor Benefits Web site at is a one-stop shop for helping family members of deceased veterans receive benefits and other assistance. According to figures from the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, a spouse and two children of an enlisted service member killed while in the military could receive more than $600,000 in benefits. The Web site offers a helping hand for making that happen.

Office expansion

MetaCarta has outgrown its offices in Vienna, Va. The company recently announced that it will move to a larger office space in the same town, which is another indication that business is good for the geographic intelligence provider. Because of MetaCarta's growing roster of public-sector clients, the company has hired more employees to handle meetings and demonstrations of its technology, according to a company statement.

A doctor in the house

Not to be outdone by a bureaucratic nightmare, Homeland Defense Department Secretary Michael Chertoff has created a new position at the department: chief medical officer. Dr. Jeffrey Runge, who currently serves as administrator of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, will move into the post in mid-September.

Chertoff said Runge and the DHS team will work with the Agriculture, Health and Human Services, and other departments to complete comprehensive plans for preventing and mitigating the effects of biological weapon attacks.

Several layers of federal medical experts already deal with many of those issues. For example, the U.S. Surgeon General, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and National Institutes of Health are conducting similar studies. Stay tuned to see if this is just another layer of the onion or if real work exists for DHS' chief medical officer.

Imagining e-government

When federal agencies begin issuing uniform electronic identity credentials to employees next year, the possibilities for expanded e-government are limited only by people's imaginations, said Michael Butler, director of the Defense Department's Access Card Office.

Butler said the uniform identity credentials, which President Bush authorized under Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12, might help fix the federal purchase card program. Banks issue the purchase cards to federal employees to buy office supplies and other small items. "We haven't had good control over who has these cards," Butler said.

Federal agencies could better control the cards by requiring employees to use their HSPD 12 credentials to register for a purchase card, Butler said. Agencies would then have information in a database that they could use to revoke the purchase cards when people leave government "without having to worry about the bank policing that," he said.

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