The circuit

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Before the Senate power shift June 5, at least one former chairman was clearing off his desk with flair. Early that day, Sen. Fred Thompson (R-Tenn.) released a two-volume report on the top management changes facing the federal government. Because staff members of the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee compiled the findings, normally the report would have gone out under Thompson's name as chairman. But knowing he would be reduced to ranking member, the cover simply says "Senator Fred Thompson, Committee on Governmental Affairs."

Staying Wired

The CIOs at the Department of Health and Human Services — all 13 of them — have decided that Research in Motion Ltd. BlackBerry handheld computers are the best way to keep in touch. So far, about half of the CIOs have been equipped with the $400 wireless devices that enable them to communicate even if the agency e-mail system crashes. Considering the state of some federal IT programs, a backup's a good idea.

Settling in, Sort of

The newest information technology executive at HHS is in the building. Janet Hale was nominated for assistant secretary for management and budget — that's the chief information officer, folks — and awaits confirmation. Until then, we hear she's not allowed to work in her real office and instead is working out of temporary digs at the Humphrey Building.

That must be hard for this high- powered business executive who most recently served as associate administrator for finance at the House of Representatives. Hale, who has a master's degree in public administration from Harvard, was vice president of the U.S. Telephone Association from 1995 to 1998.

Seamless Borders

The Customs Service is moving toward making modernization a reality. IBM Global Services Inc., which recently won the $1.3 billion Customs Modernization Prime Integration Contract, awarded $150 million to subcontractor Computer Sciences Corp. to develop information and network security for the contract. IBM Global also plans to lend a hand if needed to keep the aging and often unreliable Automated Commercial System (ACS) running on life support.

"We see this holistically. We are in place for the success of Customs operation, not just modernization," said Harry Sundberg, director of the e-customs partnership for IBM Global. And if ACS is having problems, "IBM is ready and willing to bring solutions," he said. Customs has launched a Web site ( to keep the public up-to-date on its progress.

Push on Paperless

Three companies — Chromalloy Gas Turbine Corp., General Dynamics Aviation Services and BF Goodrich Aerospace — are the latest firms seeking the government's approval to go paperless. They want to make repair manuals available to the Federal Aviation Administration on disk instead of on paper, according to NetCompliance Inc. (, an Internet solutions provider that is helping many companies take the paperless route.

NetCompliance boss Krish Krishnan said, "The aviation industry could better track, refine and methodically improve" its compliance record by throwing out the pencils and putting it all in a computer.

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