Federal Bytes

LET'S NOT DO LUNCH. If you are invited to a luncheon at which Larry Irving, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, is scheduled to speak, don't expect to have time to chat with Irving over dessert.

At a recent luncheon sponsored by Cisco Systems Inc., Irving revealed his strict policy of arriving at speaking engagements after lunch has been served and eaten. The reason: Irving found that he was being invited to so many luncheons that he gained 12 pounds in a single month.

"It's not that I don't want to be social," Irving said. "I don't want to be large and social."

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PROTECTIVE GEAR. In his speech, Irving expressed his infinitely sensible philosophy on the Year 2000 problem: "I'm not one of those people who believe the sky is falling, but I will wear a helmet," he said.

***

PRESENTER'S WORST NIGHTMARE. Agencies are understandably nervous about the Government Paperwork Elimination Act, which gives agencies until October 2003 to conduct almost all their business electronically. Key to making the move will be digital signatures, a technology that confirms the identity of a sender of electronic information and verifies that the data has not been altered.

So the level of anticipation among government officials was great when a JetForm Corp. representative promised to demonstrate at a seminar how easily an electronic signature could be attached to a form. Tension mounted in the darkened ballroom as the JetForm exec filled out an IRS W-4 form on his laptop computer, projecting the form's image onto a screen.

The audience recoiled quietly and sympathetically when the first attempt to attach the signature resulted in an error message. The demonstrator nearly had the feds convinced that the failure was intentional. But when the second attempt failed, they expressed themselves with a loud groan.

It might have been the first pronounced pain caused by the policy of parting with paper.

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A Y2K BUG'S LIFE. Rep. Karen Thurman (D-Fla.) last month introduced the Businesses Undergoing the Glitch Act, or the BUG Act for short. The bill would allow small businesses to deduct from their gross income the cost of Year 2000 computer conversion. Wonder if Disney has any plans to make that into a movie.

***

HMRAWRD. It's really true: Prisoners do make license plates.

This month the General Services Administration's Office of Governmentwide Policy won a Hammer Award for its work with the District of Columbia's Department of Corrections to streamline ordering and recordkeeping for federal license plates. The reforms include consolidating 62 order forms into one and creating a database to house the information. It now takes only 2.5 minutes and 71 cents to order a license plate instead of five hours and $52.28.

Talk about getting time off for good behavior.

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