The Circuit

Going Paperless

Congress mandated that most tax and information returns should be filed electronically by 2007, but some top tech.nology folks in government acknowledge that achieving a paperless government will be easier to reach "in spirit" than in reality. At a March 20 session at the annual FOSE conference, even members of the CIO Council's Executive Committee acknowledged it's a tough target.

Treasury Department chief information officer Jim Flyzik, whose agency generates more than half the paper forms in government, said it would take the help of Congress to get there. Between the Internal Revenue Service and other Treasury agencies, the department generates reams of paper forms. "We will make it if Congress will allow the tax laws to make it," Flyzik said.

Acting Agriculture Department CIO Ira Hobbs said his agency is prepared to deliver customer-centric government, but a large part of his agency is still working the old-fashioned paper way. Meanwhile, NASA's CIO, Lee Holcomb, was more optimistic. His agency is well on its way to becoming a paperless institution except for some areas such as their oversight of nuclear waste material, which still requires a paper trail.

Energy Problem?

When the Energy Department's deputy secretary, Francis Blake, announced earlier this month that he would head back to the private sector to join the Home Depot Inc.'s corporate offices, it caused some raised eyebrows.

Blake is Energy's champion for consolidating information technology at headquarters to bring together the department's help desks, e-mail system and servers. Now that he's leaving, at least one senior official in Energy's CIO office is concerned that the project may lose some momentum or, perhaps, even die on the vine. Will offices that didn't want to go along with the consolidation be inclined to do so now? It's too soon to tell.

Meanwhile, the consolidation is proceeding, including the development of an enterprise architecture plan. And there is some good news. President Bush is expected to nominate Kyle McSlarrow, Energy's chief of staff, as the next deputy secretary and manager of Energy's key programs. This continuity may help keep the IT consolidation effort on track, the official said.

Justice Gets Hitched

He developed Maryland's Information Technology Strategic Plan and automated Philadelphia's records department. Now the Justice Department wants Vance Hitch to oversee its troubled IT.

From dysfunctional computer systems at the Immigration and Naturalization Service to the antiquated systems of the FBI, Justice is plagued by technology problems.

Attorney General John Ashcroft appointed Hitch March 19 to solve them, naming the former Accenture executive as Justice's CIO.

In November, when Ashcroft announced a departmentwide "wartime reorganization," he said Justice needed an IT strategic plan to guide future investments. Developing that plan also will be one of Hitch's tasks.

Hitch was a senior partner at Accenture until he retired in July 2001. He also was chief technologist for the 2000 Republican National Convention — the first political "e-convention." About 2,000 delegates, 10,000 convention goers and 15,000 reporters were able to tap into the convention via computer. Members of the public could also log on to become "virtual delegates" and to e-mail representatives on the convention floor.

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