Federal Bytes

Borderline automation

Members of Congress last week criticized an effort to install a system at U.S. land borders that would require travelers to present identification before crossing to or from Canada or Mexico. At a hearing last week many lawmakers agreed that the system would represent a major irritation to those on both sides of the borders.

Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he opposed the system for political and personal reasons. He said his wife's entire family is French-Canadian and traveling on family visits could become a major headache for him if such a system were in place. But then he added that he has experienced some family gatherings that made him wish there were more delays at the border.

An FTS tradition

Some observers have expressed concern that the departure of Bob Woods commissioner of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service might disrupt or even change the direction of ongoing programs such as the FTS 2001 procurement. But with the arrival of Woods' successor Dennis Fischer it appears that at least some traditions will continue.

At an industry briefing late last month Woods said he had pretty much cleared out his office and was making way to let Fischer move in.

Fischer immediately asked Woods if he intended to leave his putting green a comment that indicated golf will continue to be held in high esteem at the FTS office.

Nice to know some things won't change.

Ideas gone to pot

You can talk all you want about lofty ideas at conferences but it's the practical details - such as where the bathrooms are - that people really care about. Those organizing last week's National Performance Review road show in Baltimore to discuss IT issues took that sentiment to heart.

Not only did the staff inform attendees where the facilities were located but they took steps to allay any fear of long lines during short breaks.

The Baltimore Convention Center has 267 toilets attendees were told though only 162 sinks.

Thinking like a computer

The Department of Veterans Affairs' Robert Kolodner started his career as a psychiatrist. So how did he get to be associate chief information officer making IT policy for the department?

Kolodner addressing the audience at the NPR conference in Baltimore said he switched from his job as an analyst for those seeking psychiatric advice to a job as "a computer analyst."

"I use my computer skills at headquarters a lot " he added.

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