The Circuit

Ready for a Facelift

Despite its popularity, the Internal Revenue Service's Web site needs a new look, according to Terry Lutes, the new acting chief of the IRS Electronic Tax Administration. He has tapped Greg Parsons, the director of modernization at ETA, to study the site and look at a "fundamental redesign." Lutes also wants to know "who comes there and why." That puts IRS among the agencies trying to keep up with the public's demand for good-looking sites with easy-to-read and easy-to-find information.

Investigating Outsourcing

Bob Dies, the FBI's assistant director for information resources, says the bureau should concentrate on what it does best: investigation. "I'm not a phone company, so I probably don't need to own telephone lines," he said in an interview Oct. 11. However, he said, the bureau buys computer servers and FBI employees write applications — even though the FBI is not in the computer or software business. "The question we should ask ourselves is, "Why don't we outsource it?'" Dies said. "At the end of the day, the bureau is here to investigate. I think we should try to outsource as much as we can." Dies knows what he's talking about. For decades, IBM Corp. — where Dies spent 30 years — operated its own manufacturing and applications operations, he said. Ten years ago, IBM outsourced those areas to concentrate on its core business.

Shh... VA Benefits Online

The Department of Veterans Affairs has been holding up the official announcement of a new Web-based service that would enable veterans to apply for benefits online. The official reason: The VA is still testing it out. The unofficial one: "It's the campaign, stupid." The department and others connected with the site (vabenefits.vba.va.gov/vonapp) have been trying to snag Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore to help with the official launch but were turned down by his campaign. They are now "exploring their options," but so far, there's no time, date or communication to tell veterans that the new service will be available. But Edward Meagher, the special assistant to the secretary who has been nominated to be the next chief information officer at the VA, has been appointed to make sure the VA is able to demonstrate a "single, interactive interface to multiple VA applications." The deadline for compliance is Oct. 16.

Papers, Please

Evelyn Lieberman, the undersecretary of State for public diplomacy, recently underscored how information can be missed even in the Information Age. Sabile "Billi" Tmava came to the United States earlier this year to receive an FCW award for her work at a refugee camp in Germany. The teenager from Kosovo had trained other refugees how to use the Internet to locate and contact family members, but the State Department would not let her in the door because she had no proof of identity, Lieberman said at NetDiplomacy 2000, a three-day program at the State Department. Tmava did make it into the building without the documents and "into the hearts of a lot of people in this building," Lieberman said.

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