Federal Bytes

HEADS-UP THINKING. Rep. Constance Morella (R-Md.) recently chaired a hearing that focused on possible lapses in computer security directly resulting from Year 2000 remediation efforts - lapses that could raise the risk of theft, fraud or corruption by unscrupulous programmers.

But Morella offered some advice on how to protect federal agencies from programmers who may compromise their trade secrets. "We have metal detectors for buildings," Morella said. "Mental detectors would take care of the problem."

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CONGRESSIONAL FOLLIES I. At a House Appropriations Committee markup of an FBI funding bill last month, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-N.Y.) made a keen observation about his powerful position. He pointed out that he's gone from being "a child of the '60s" on whom the FBI likely kept files to being an appropriator who now keeps his own files on the FBI. "Only in America!" Serrano, a native of Puerto Rico, exclaimed.

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CONGRESSIONAL FOLLIES II. Speaking of appropriations, Democrats at last month's markup - covering such agencies as NASA and the departments of Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Justice, State and Veterans Affairs - were more than miffed at the way Republicans have been conducting business. Rep. David Obey (D-Wis.) expressed amazement about some of the processes and numbers involved in the appropriations tango. Obey suggested that some of the rather whimsical legislative maneuvers had been engineered by a Wizard of Oz-like appropriator.

The House Appropriations Committee chairman, Rep. C.W. Bill Young (R-Fla.), clarified that he was not the all-powerful Oz. But he did lay claim to his power to run the meeting. "I'm going to click my heels together three times, and we're going to move on," Young said.

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RUMBLES IN REDMOND. Microsoft Corp. is threatening to make life difficult for a Chesapeake, Va.-based engineering company, Electronic Engineering Systems Inc., which has sold the security-richSuperNet 2000 desktop to the Navy and other federal customers. EES has been put on notice by Microsoft over EES' license for the Windows operating system. One of the selling points of EES' dual system is the considerable cost savings that can be realized from having two systems run on one PC, one network and one operating system (see related story, Page 45). That's not the way the software giant sees it, insisting that, although the two systems cannot run simultaneously, SuperNet 2000 should have two licenses for Windows, a Microsoft official wrote in a letter to EES' president. We're glad to see Microsoft officials haven't let the lengthy legal wrangles with the Justice Department get their spirits down.

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MAKING A POINT. A picture is worth a thousand words, but a color picture may be even more valuable. In one recent report about what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency are doing to curb toxic algae, GAO fired up the color printers. The report includes photos of dead fish that had succumbed to red tide and Pfiesteria. Might other GAO reports also be improved with a color makeover? A GAO spokeswoman said no: Government printing regulations - which are concerned with cost, not aesthetics - allow color only when black and white just won't do.

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