FEDERAL BYTES

Light Up and Solve the Year 2000 Problem

Federal agencies and Congress are pulling their hair out trying to figure out how they're going to pay the estimated $30 billion it will take to make the federal government's computers able to run into 2000.

But a possible solution some members of Congress like has come from the Midwest. Gov. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) recommended recently that the state raise its cigarette tax 2 cents a pack to bring in tax revenue that could cover the cost of reprogramming the state's computer systems, Rep. Constance Morella (R-Md.), chairwoman of the House Science Committee's Subcommittee on Technology, was so taken with that approach that during last week's hearing on the Year 2000 problem she asked Peter De Jager, a Canadian computer consultant and a witness at the hearing, what he thought about it.

De Jager said the proposal was "incredibly ingenious and inventive." Without missing a beat, De Jager added, "It's ironic that smokers, who don't worry much about the future, will be reminded of it everyday."

Parental Guidance Suggested

People at the National Performance Review apparently are not doing their homework.

Earlier this month the NPR helped sponsor the Federal Conference on Strengthening the Role of Fathers in Families, which included a session on the Transportation Department's National Telecommuting Initiative.

But the conference began at 8:30 a.m., which would have made it difficult for fathers who drop their children off at school in the morning to attend. Maybe the NPR should have also included a session on distance learning, for children whose parents don't have time to take them to school.

For Lovers of Scary Movies

Computer renderings of a mummy coming back to life? It's good science, according to the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, home of the National Science Foundation's National Center for Supercomputing Applications.

The U of I is hosting the 30th International Symposium on Archaeometry, where scientists demonstrate analytical techniques to solve civilization's great mysteries. On display: computer-enhanced images of the original CAT scan of the U of I mummy, plus some special computer animation of the mummy returning to the Land of the Living.

We'll fix the bowls of Cheerios; it sounds like a great Saturday morning cartoon.

Reading With a Critical IAC

With all the criticism we've heard lately about how the Industry Advisory Council (IAC) runs its board elections, we thought we'd take a look at the organization's bylaws to see what they have to say about electoral procedures.

We were immediately struck by Article VIII, Section 1: "Executive committee elections will be conducted annually within one month of the end of the FGIPC annual conference. Terms of office will last two years."

Does this mean that board members will be fired halfway through their terms and replaced with a newly elected counterpart? Does it mean IAC had twice as many board members in its second year of existence as it had in its first?

Limited Sunshine

Last week's Federal Register contained a notice about a meeting of the advisory board of the Commerce Department's National Technical Information Service. The notice stated that the meeting—the purpose of which was "to review and make recommendations regarding general policies and operations of NTIS, including policies in connection with fees and charges for its services"—would be closed to the public.

The reason given in the notice for keeping the public away was that "premature disclosure of the information to be discussed would be likely to significantly frustrate implementation of NTIS' business plans." Hello?

One Ring-y Ding-y...

If you ever need an argument for better office automation, or just want people to feel sorry for you, try putting a message on your voice mail like Peg McNamara's.

"I can't find my phone," cries the Financial Management Service employee, in a mock panic that suggests to callers it might be a while before she uncovers it.

We imagined a desk piled high with outmoded paper technology and forgot our own problems immediately.

FTS 2000 Recompetition Gets Hammered

Vice President Gore last month presented a National Performance Review Hammer Award to the General Services Administration team responsible for recompeting FTS 2000 prices.

The recompetition, which pitted the two FTS 2000 vendors against each other for an increased share of the federal long-distance market, will cut rates by more than a third and save nearly $200 million a year.

When the recompetition results were announced in December, Gore praised them as "an outstanding example of how federal government services can work better and cost less."

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