The Circuit

New Passports All Wet?

The State Department last week announced it is expanding the rollout of its new state-of-the-art passports to U.S. citizens overseas. The new passports are designed to deter fraud through digitized photographs and other enhanced features. However, overseas embassies and consulates are not yet equipped to produce the new passports, and as a result, the documents must be issued through the National Passport Processing Center in Portsmouth, N.H.

Improved security is a plus. However, the new passports apparently do not fare well in humid or wet weather. One traveler in the tropics found that at the first sign of moisture the passports start to wrinkle up, and prolonged exposure to humidity or sweat tends to do serious damage. Note to self: Before exercising, remove passport from pocket.

Less is More

Agencies traditionally share many lessons with one another when it comes to outsourcing information technology services, but some lessons can only be learned firsthand. The Treasury Department was one of the first to try the large-scale seat management style of outsourcing, where the contractor takes over as the IT support staff for an agency. It discovered that a close relationship between the agency and the vendor is essential, said Mayi Canales, Treasury's deputy chief information officer, at a recent breakfast.

At the start of the contract, Treasury officials kept many of the agency employees at their old jobs to oversee the contractors — essentially assigning two people to each position. However, this caused problems for both feds and vendors for almost a year, until the federal employees were moved to other jobs. Treasury has also cut the number of federal managers who oversee the seat contractor team from 26 to four. And things have never run more smoothly, Canales said.

Interior Takes Another Hit

The American Indian trust fund saga continues. On March 29, U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth denied an Interior Department request that would have allowed the agency to produce paper records of e-mail rather than those stored on back-up tapes.

Court-appointed Special Master Alan Balaran reported in July 2001 that Interior officials had repeatedly and willfully destroyed trust documents, including e-mails.

The plaintiffs in a long-running case over the department's alleged mismanagement of American Indian money recently asked Lamberth to consider additional contempt charges against government officials for the destruction of electronic evidence.

CIO Leaves NIST's Nest

William Mehuron, director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Information Technology Laboratory and CIO for the institute, retired April 3. ITL works with industry, research and government organizations to make information technology more usable, more secure, more scalable and more interoperable than it is today. The laboratory also develops computer security standards and guidelines for the federal government.

Earlier in his government career, Mehuron was director for research and engineering at the National Security Agency. ITL Deputy Director Susan Zevin will be acting director until a successor to Mehuron is named.

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