The Circuit

Out of Sight and Sound

Turn 'em off. If you're testifying before the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee and you have a wireless phone, make sure you leave home without it because Rep. Don Young (R-Alaska) has banned them from his hearings.

Young is chairman of that panel, so you can be assured that when the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association and other communications industry representatives testified May 9 before Young's Highways and Transit Subcommittee, their cell phones were out of sight and on vibrate. He's Only a Temp

The Office of Management and Budget wasted no time getting temporary management chief Robert O'Neill into his new position as counselor to the director. OMB moved the still-president of the National Academy of Public Administration into his new office at 17th and Pennsylvania three days after announcing his appointment May 4. But they're not letting him out in public until he's had a chance to fully absorb the administration's position on the issues he will be handling.

For at least the next four months, O'Neill will be filling in for the missing deputy director for management at OMB. This means, according to the agency, that he has oversight of the CIO, CFO and Procurement Executives councils and will "perform critical and sensitive reviews and evaluations of OMB initiatives." Despite this high-sounding charge, the silence could be because he won't be staying long. As one OMB official said with conviction, the chances that O'Neill will permanently fill the vacant slot are "less than zero."

Shocking, Just Shocking

Internal Revenue Service employees are spending far too much time surfing the Web for personal entertainment, including sports, gambling and checking out pornography sites, according to a report spotlighted May 8 by the Senate Finance Committee. The panel's chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), said many IRS employees are "clearly goofing off." He cited a report that said slightly more than half of IRS time spent on the Internet was for personal use. Almost half of 82,000 incoming e-mails reviewed were personal, including an online travel magazine and daily jokes. "Are taxpayers sitting on hold while IRS employees are surfing the Internet instead of answering the phone?" Grassley asked.

Meanwhile, a General Accounting Office study released last week said taxpayers often were unable to even reach an IRS toll-free help line, and when they did, they may have received inaccurate information about filing taxes. Perhaps IRS workers were distracted.

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