The Circuit

Call to Order

Sen. Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) thinks laptop computers belong on the Senate floor, but not everyone agrees. In an April 24 letter released last week, Enzi asked the Senate Rules and Administration Committee to reconsider the rule that prohibits computers in the Senate chamber.

Times have changed, Enzi said. Computers today are more powerful, smaller and lighter and have become a valuable legislative tool.

"Just as BlackBerries have become a vital tool for members to use in monitoring the proceedings of the Senate and keeping in touch with their offices, so too can a small notebook computer increase the ability of the members of the Senate to follow and participate in the proceedings of the Senate," he said in his letter. Enzi referred to Research in Motion Ltd.'s BlackBerry product, a wireless handheld computer.

Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.), chairman of the Senate Rules and Administration Committee, agreed to take up the matter at the committee's next meeting.

Don't hold your breath. Congress barred laptops from chambers in 1995, after Republicans won control of both houses, and many of the same Luddites are still in office. It might take a second revolution to repeal that ban.

Secret's 0ut

As of last week, the Bush administration had not announced the makeup of the new Performance Measurement Advisory Council, but the agenda for the council's first meeting June 27 confirmed rumors about who will lead the group: Mortimer Downey.

While serving as the deputy secretary of the Transportation Department during the Clinton administration, Downey was often a leader for performance management efforts in government, experts said.

For the council to truly be successful, it must include experts who know about commercial practices but also understand the government's mission and the differences that they can make when considering performance and budget decisions, said Bruce McConnell, a former chief of information policy and technology at the Office of Management and Budget and now president of McConnell International LLC, a marketing and consulting firm.

A Leg Up

Because of the condensed schedule for the Bush administration's 24 e-government initiatives, the General Services Administration is leading the development of a pilot program that likely will start before vendors even get a chance to bid on the final solution. And that has industry officials somewhat worried.

The e-Authentication initiative's proposed gateway has complex technical and policy issues, because it is intended to validate multiple levels of credentials from multiple sources. The initiative team will create a prototype of the gateway to test some of those issues. (See related story, Page 16.)

Several vendors at the e-Authentication industry day held last week expressed concern that the solutions used in the prototype would have an advantage over other solutions proposed in response to the request for proposals (RFP).

The initiative team assured industry officials that there would be no advantage given to participants in the prototype, stressing the importance of developing a better understanding of the government's needs for the RFP.

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