The Circuit

GAO (I): Feeling GPO's Pain

The General Accounting Office, which played no small part in forcing the Government Printing Office to give up its monopoly on government work, is coming under scrutiny itself.

Congress is questioning whether the watchdog agency needs to maintain its own printing facility, staff and equipment to produce its publications when it already sends out $1.7 million in printing to private contractors.

The House Appropriations Committee asked for a report by Nov. 15 suggesting other ways GAO could publish its reports. "Given the changes made in printing and publishing technology in recent years and the ability of the private sector to leverage that technology to maximize productivity, the committee questions whether maintaining an internal printing facility is the most cost-effective way for GAO to meet a portion of its printing and publishing needs," the report said.

GPO, we're sure, is ready to help GAO find more cost-effective print services.

GAO (II): Pride and Prejudice

Not that there's anything wrong with the profession, but GAO employees would like everyone to know they are not all accountants. The office submitted a reorganization proposal to Congress earlier this month asking for, among other things, a name change.

Considering the vast number of program performance and management issues GAO now reviews at agencies, officials believe the name "General Accountability Office" is more appropriate, said Chris Mihm, director of human capital issues at the agency.

Up, Up and Away

The Labor Department's financial management system is much like a man lost floating in a hot-air balloon, said Samuel Mok, Labor's chief financial officer.

A man planning to spend his day sightseeing from a hot-air balloon gets stuck in a storm and thrown off course. He spots a man on the ground, lowers his balloon, and asks the man where he is. The man on the ground says he's about 300 feet in the air.

That man must have been a Labor financial manager, Mok said last week at a meeting with vendors. "The information you gave me is technically correct, but absolutely useless," he said.

Mok is aiming to transform the department's financial management system from one that reports the data, to one that can analyze the numbers and put them in the proper context. To keep this goal in sight, he and his staff wear small hot-air balloon pins on their lapels.

Let's PARTy

There is a new word to add to the list of nouns-turned-into-verbs: PARTed, as in putting a program through the Bush Administration's Program Assessment Rating Tool. Now starting its second year of reviewing Federal Programs' effectiveness, the PART is familiar enough to agency managers that at a recent conference, three senior officials used the phrase: "X number of our programs have been PARTed." To make matters worse, senior officials at the Office of Management and Budget are joking about it as well.

Can someone in Congress please propose a "verbing" moratorium?

Travelers Beware (I)

Federal employees could soon have new incentives for taking the bus or train to work.

The House Government Reform Committee will review H.R. 1151, a bill proposed by Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), which would require all branches of government — executive, legislative and judicial — to offer full transit subsidies to all eligible employees.

It also would end a prohibition against agencies' use of shuttle buses or other vehicles to transport em- ployees to and from subway or bus stations.

"Everyone in this room understands the nightmare of Washington [D.C.] traffic, and if the federal government can play a role in getting more cars off the road, then it should," said Jo Ann Davis (R-Va.), the committee's vice chairwoman, in a statement.

Travelers Beware (II)

Going to catch a flight anytime soon? Make sure you wear clean socks.

The Transportation Security Administration has clarified its policy on screening airline passengers' shoes in an effort to gain consistency at airports nationwide. In particular, shoes with thick soles, metal shanks or steel toes will require secondary screening.

Security screeners will encourage passengers to voluntarily remove their shoes and submit them for X-ray examination. Those who remove their shoes before passing through a metal detector are less likely to be selected for a more thorough, secondary screening, according to administration officials.

TSA officials also said that checkpoint lines move faster if people remove their shoes voluntarly.

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