Forms bring relief for nominees

Nomination Forms Online

As anyone who has ever completed a complicated tax return, a series of college applications or a set of employment forms knows, having to fill out the same information repeatedly can be irksome.

Presidential nominees, who must complete a multitude of personal and financial forms as part of the appointment process, know the rigors of that repetition all too well — but information technology is coming to their rescue.

Nomination Forms Online (NFO), a software package released Feb. 6 by the White House 2001 Project, a research initiative funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts, enables nominees not only to complete all required forms electronically, but also adds basic information, such as the nominee's name, address, Social Security number and marital status to every form automatically.

The time saved could be significant, according to G. Calvin Mackenzie, a professor of government at Colby College and senior adviser to the Presidential Appointee Initiative, a project of the Brookings Institution, which, with the American Enterprise Institute, supported the development of NFO.

A nominee for a position requiring Senate confirmation typically must file several consent forms authorizing background and credit investigations and fill out four forms asking for extensive personal and financial histories. The White House also requires a questionnaire that covers 23 points, including such items as a description of the nominee's health, a list of the household help he or she has employed, and every book, article, or column he or she authored.

If the new package sounds a lot like the many tax-return applications so popular this time of year — well, it is, Mackenzie said. The package is available free for download from the Project's Web site (whitehouse2001.org/nfo.html).

"I had been studying the presidential appointments process and I was struck by the anxiety that [nominees feel] at having to fill out all these forms over and over again," he said. "I was doing my taxes on my computer at home several years ago, and suddenly I said to myself, 'We need something just like this for the appointments process.' "

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