Federal Bytes

FOIA FOUL-UP. There are hazards to responding to requests made under the Freedom of Information Act, as the Peace Corps found out last month. Seems the agency mistakenly released pre-solicitation information on its upcoming procurement for financial management software in its response to a FOIA request.

Once it became aware of the possibility that the released information could give a potential bidder a leg up on the competition, the Corps attempted to keep the peace by issuing a notice that it would make the pre-solicitation information— basically a statement of work and a list of technical requirements— available to all interested parties.

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YEAR OF THE BUG. An astute reader took us to task for our last Federal Bytes column, in which we critiqued a futuristic novel on the Year 2000 problem that depicts the Chinese Navy invading Hawaii. We expressed skepticism that the U.S. military would be crippled by the Year 2000 problem while the Chinese would suffer no ill effects.

Our reader's response: "Read your Ding How placemats. [The Chinese] are already at Y4K and working on the Y5K issues!"

We don't know the extent to which Year 2000 might affect computers in China, but this reader raised a valid point. We can only hope President Clinton took some time on his recent visit to China to grill government officials there on their extensive experience with millennium changes.

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HOLD THE PHONE. It's no surprise that people attending the E-Gov 98 conference last week love their technology. But one gentleman (you know who you are) took it a little too far when he took a call on his cellular phone during a keynote speech and proceeded to talk at an audible level for nearly five minutes.

One can imagine all sorts of reasons he needed to talk at that moment, but none for not getting up and taking the conversation into the hall.

Maybe next year's E-Gov conference should include a session on IT etiquette.

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TO HIS CREDIT. Rep. Michael Castle (R-Del.) helped ease some of the tension during a live demonstration of a new Treasury Department e-commerce pilot. It seems Castle's application for a MasterCard that would allow him to participate in the demonstration was denied because of some minor glitch. Without missing a beat, Castle joked that credit card companies often deny credit card applications when the company finds out it's a congressman trying to obtain one.

And we thought credit card companies like customers who spend a lot of money without the means to repay it right away.

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PC PCs. Typewriter manufacturer Smith Corona, the newest player in the federal PC market, certainly is not lacking in political sensibilities. On its red, white and blue government products World Wide Web site, Smith Corona labels its systems as "The perfect computers for Democrats," which then quickly switches to "The perfect computers for Republicans" and back again.

The new systems, announced last week at the E-Gov 98 exhibition in Washington, D.C., are "the most politically correct line of computers ever to be offered to the federal government," the Web site claimed. As if we might missethe point.

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