Federal Bytes

Giving credit where credit is due

Rep. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) co-chairman of the commission that is revamping the Internal Revenue Service has spent the last few weeks trying to get witnesses to grade the agency on how well it has mastered its technology problems. Most demur saying only that they hope the IRS gets an A by the time the term is up.

This month Portman asked one panel for a report card on the commissioners themselves and this time the witnesses didn't hesitate. The first said he'd give them a B to start but would hold out for A+ work. The next handed out A's to the commissioners simply for "showing up" to address the problems. Portman speculated that perhaps there was some grade inflation going on but wisely noted that showing up is more than half of what constitutes success in life.

We suspect however that this is one of those courses where the grades depended mainly on how well one does on the final exam. Let's hope everyone is keeping up with the reading.

Napoleonic code

Apparently the Marines in using computer-simulated battlefield training agree with William Faulkner that not only is the past not dead it is not past.The 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit aboard the USS Dubuque in the Pacific has been running computer-simulated exercises from the Napoleonic Era to teach noncommissioned officers some of the basics of warfare strategy. While you might assume the Marines would be engaging Napoleon Bonaparte's forces in a classic good-vs.-evil scenario that is not the case. Instead the young NCOs fight from the perspective of Napoleon's battlefield commanders according to the Marines.

While this innovative approach seems harmless enough and probably beneficial it does raise a few questions not the least of which is whether the Marines feel comfortable with the potential of nurturing a new generation of little Napoleons to send into battle.

How 'bout a souvenir?

Is NASA's Ames Research Center perhaps trying to help with the agency's budget woes by molding itself into a retail establishment? It seemed that way earlier this month when the center was routing all calls intended for its public affairs office to the gift shop in the visitor center.

The gift shop operator while very polite seemed bemused to get calls from reporters. She directed us to call the main operator back and tell her specifically that we represented the press and needed to speak to someone in media relations. The main operator again said that all public affairs calls were to be directed to the gift shop and that this procedure had been in place for several days.

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