The Circuit

Young Powell's Push

Michael Powell, new chairman of the Federal Communications Commission, is quickly signaling that he's carving his own path. At a Valentine Day's reception thrown by the Congressional Internet Caucus, he told FCW that he supports the E-Rate — the program that funnels billions of dollars a year to poor and underserved schools and libraries to wire them to the Internet. But Powell, son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, said it would be "up to the politicians" to decide what form the program takes. Of course, we know from an earlier comment of his that Powell doesn't think the "digital divide" necessarily exists.

The remark is just another indication that the E-Rate, created as part of the Telecommunications Act of 1996, may face turbulence. Hints are surfacing that the first Bush budget may cut government programs that encourage Internet use among minorities and those in rural areas. Among those under scrutiny is the Technology Opportunities Program, a Commerce Department initiative that may be facing a big cut.

The Case for IRS IT

The jury's still out on which of the Clinton administration's information technology initiatives President Bush will chart a new course for. But the Internal Revenue Service modernization program is probably safe from the winds of change, according to Stephen Kalish, president of Computer Sciences Corp.'s Civil Group. CSC is leading the IRS Prime Systems Integration Services contract to update the agency's archaic systems. Given that the president's proposed $1.6 billion tax cut looms on the horizon, it is more important than ever that the IRS have an efficient and accurate system, Kalish said. There's no room for mistakes, or failure of the government to meet its tax-collection projections, he said.

Beef Over Bundling

Rep. Donald Manzullo (R-Ill.), the new chairman of the House Small Business Committee, is hot on the heels of government procurement. He intends to take a sharp look at the government practice of "contract bundling," which essentially combines several small contracts into one large one and has been in place for major contracts, such as the Navy Marine Corps Intranet. Manzullo plans a series of oversight hearings into the issue of how small business can get shut out when the big boys play ball on bundling.

"Small business doesn't have a chance to compete," said Manzullo spokesman Rich Carter.

Customs Has Heart

Seems the U.S. Customs Service has feelings after all. Its computer system was in need of a tune-up, but it decided to wait until after Valentine's Day to tinker with the system. Jerry Russomano, executive director of software development at Customs, said officials waited until Feb. 17 so the tune-up wouldn't interrupt the flow of the large volume of flowers arriving at airports from overseas for the romantic holiday. How thoughtful.

No Exit — Yet

Steve Colgate, chief information officer at the Justice Department, hasn't left yet, but we hear it's only a matter of time. He's already told new Attorney General John Ashcroft of his intention to depart. No word yet on where he's going.

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