The Circuit

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It's one thing to call on your friends for advice, but can Secretary of State Colin Powell really tap a trio of notable high-tech executives to assess State's information technology needs without going through normal channels? That's what Powell says he's planning to do — bring in Steve Case, chairman of AOL Time Warner Inc.; Andy Grove, chairman of Intel Corp.; and Michael Dell, chairman and chief executive officer of Dell Computer Corp., to evaluate the agency's systems and recommend changes.

We're wondering about the legal ramifications, as noted in 31 U.S.C. Sec. 1342, Limitation on Voluntary Services. Although we don't presume to tell the new guy on the block how to do his job, we do hope that State lawyers figure out the limitations on seeking advice.

And speaking of Powell's affinity for high tech, we hear that State has decided the new secretary cannot use his Palm Pilot anymore. Handheld devices pose a major security issue because users often sync up with their desktop and laptop computers to upload and download information. There's sure to be some pretty sensitive information on Powell's computers. In this age of viruses and hackers, it's better to be safe than sorry.

No Delays Here

If only every airplane flight could go as smoothly as Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta's trip Jan. 24 through the Senate confirmation process. Even while Mineta was explaining his commitment to finding technological solutions to growing air traffic delays before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the Senate was completing a 99-0 vote to approve his appointment. Mineta laid out the alternatives for dealing with air traffic control system congestion. They include making more efficient use of the radio spectrum for communications, limiting the phase-out of existing technologies until new technologies are in use and, of course, a recession, which would suppress demand.

The quip may have caught the committee off guard, but Mineta assured senators he wouldn't advocate it as an option.


The Agriculture Department's ex-chief information officer, Joseph Leo, is pointing his silver Jaguar toward Florida, where he plans to sit on the beach for a month. Leo promises he'll return with a tan to start work at Science Applications International Corp.'s Northern Virginia offices in March.

Harold Gracey, the former acting CIO at the Department of Veterans Affairs who left the federal government last year for the private sector, has decided to "play the field" and hang out his shingle as a consultant. Gracey spent seven months at but left the struggling company on Jan. 12 to strike out on his own. "I'm not going to take a job but [will] do some consulting and decide where I will go next," he said.

Meanwhile, Alan Balutis, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Technology Program, is leaving government after more than 25 years to be executive director and chief operating officer for the Federation of Government Information Processing Councils and FGIPC's Industry Advisory Council, a nonprofit group that promotes industry/government cooperation.

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