The Circuit

O'Neill Goes to Work

Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill wants to make sure that the 150,000 department employees are not hurt at work. The number of on-the-job injuries has been far too high, he told Congress recently. As a result, he ordered a system set up similar to the one installed when he was the chief executive officer at Alcoa Inc. All employees will be able to tap into a computer database and find accident reports posted within 24 hours, along with recommended changes to keep similar accidents from recurring. "We need to get closer to zero [accidents] than Alcoa, and it should not take years to do it," he said.

Meanwhile, O'Neill is on the warpath over other problems in his domain. He told members of the National Treasury Employees Union it's unacceptable that the Internal Revenue Service is able to answer only 65 percent of its phone calls. "If you called the airlines, and they only answered two out of three times, you would stop calling," he said. O'Neill said he will address the problem and wants recommendations on his desk by November. Welcome to Washington, Mr. O'Neill.

Muddied Message

How better to tout the benefits of high technology than to have a prominent pollster use an online discussion to announce his latest findings that 73 percent of U.S. adults favor making electronic government a top federal priority. Or so thought the Council for Excellence in Government, which is promoting e-government as "the next American revolution."

But when pollster Peter Hart tried to speak from Los Angeles to a roomful of reporters and technology advocates in Washington, D.C., his head jumped around the screen and his words were choppy and scrambled. The demonstration perhaps better illustrated another of Hart's findings—"the majority of people said "go slow.' " The poll results were disclosed Feb. 21 by Guy Moilyneux, a Hart employee who took over the briefing when the electronics failed.

Deciphering Delayering

The vocabulary gaffes President Bush became known for on the campaign trail have, of course, followed him into the White House. Now they are entering into official administration policy, as shown by a recent memo from the Office of Management and Budget. OMB Director Mitchell Daniels Jr. issued a memo on the plans to improve the federal government's record on performance and management. In listing major reforms that Bush outlines in his 2002 blueprint budget, the memo leads off with "delayering management levels." OK. We were unable to track that new synonym for "removing layers" in any dictionary we found, but maybe the White House has a different edition.

What About Budget Stuff?

Speaking of OMB, President Bush's nominee for the position of deputy director, Sean O'Keefe, spent nearly all of his confirmation hearing in front of the Senate Governmental Affairs committee last week fielding questions about the management side of the agency. But he's supposed to direct the budget side.

Several senators noticed the trend in questioning, and committee chairman Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) even took time out to apologize for asking questions that would normally be aimed at the deputy director for management—a position, as Thompson pointed out, that the White House has yet to fill.

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