The Circuit

Reap What You Sow

At least in the eyes of Office of Management and Budget officials, agencies may spend the money saved through performance improvements made under the President's Management Agenda any way they like, said Angela Styles, head of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy.

For some time, OMB has debated what to do with agencies' savings. But now, White House officials have decided that a strong incentive to get agencies to move on the agenda is to allow them to keep the savings, free and clear, Styles said.

But agencies shouldn't start spending the money right away, she cautioned. OMB leaders can set as many policies as they want, but there is no way to tell, or control, what Congress will have to say about the allocation of that money, she said.

Calling Security

The local phone service rep and agencies' disregard for security precautions may be the biggest threats to homeland security, if the experience of a West Coast unit of the Coast Guard is anything to go by.

Last week, the Atlantic Area Command Center sent out an alert that made its way up to the Defense Telecommunications Service and the headquarters of the General Services Administration's Federal Technology Service. The alert detailed a security breach by a man masquerading as a service representative from Verizon Communications. The man came to the office with "what appeared to be proper identification," proceeded to the utility closet and removed all the phone cards, cutting all phone service to the unit.

The alert directs Coast Guard units to check the identity of all utilities representatives, particularly those from Verizon, and to provide escorts to all sensitive areas. The Defense Telecommunications Service also urged its officers to maintain "utmost diligence" and "err on the side of caution."

Attention All Taxpayers

The Internal Revenue Service is considering giving a break to taxpayers who file their yearly returns online. IRS officials may soon ask Congress to extend the April 15 filing deadline by a few days for e-filers only, so those citizens get the same advantage of "floating" their tax payments as paper filers do. Currently, a taxpayer who writes a check to the IRS gets to hold on to the money for several days, until the check clears. E-filers do not have the same advantage — their electronic payments are made as soon as the tax agency receives their online returns.

And speaking of the IRS, there's word from insiders and tax advisers that the long-delayed economic stimulus package now being considered by Congress could result in delaying tax refunds next year. IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti says it may mean a few days' delay because the tax agency will have to upgrade and rewrite its software to comply with the new tax code. But don't worry, folks; the delay is expected to be minimal.

What — No Laptops?

Now comes word from Comdex, the nation's largest technology show, that laptops will not be welcome at this week's event in Las Vegas. The only exceptions are exhibitors and the media. "Yes, it's going to be a zoo.... But we've been advised that that's what we should do for this event," said Kim Myhre, president of Comdex Worldwide. Organizers, who expect 150,000 attendees, say security will be tighter than ever with metal detectors and bomb-sniffing dogs.


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