30-minute rule is history

Homeland Security Department Secretary Michael Chertoff announced last week an end to one rule that has affected Washington, D.C., travelers since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. People flying into and out of Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport will no longer have to remain seated during the first 30 minutes after takeoff or the last 30 minutes before landing.

The rule went into effect after four planes were hijacked in the worst terrorist attacks in U.S. history.

Chertoff said last week that other actions, including bolting the pilot's cabin and better preboarding screening procedures, are effective deterrents. Now if only airlines would add a few lavatories on the plane to shorten the lines…

Shhh! It's a secret

The federal government reports that the number of classified documents jumped 10 percent last year to 15.6 million, while the number of pages that the government declassified dropped.

Last year, 28.4 million pages were declassified, a 34 percent decrease from the previous year. The numbers come from the Information Security Oversight Office in its latest annual report to the president.

The report states that classifying information is essential for national security, but it can be a double-edged sword. For example, intelligence agencies' failure to share information contributed to the government's inability to spot and deter the plot that led to the 2001 terrorist attacks, according to people who have studied the issue.

The report also states that the increase in classified documents raises concerns that the government is being too secretive. It stops short, however, of recommending that fewer documents be classified.

"It cannot be said conclusively from this report's data that recent increases in the number of classification decisions were due substantially to the phenomenon of overclassification," the report states.

Find a link to the report on Download's Data Call at www.

Young and in the job market

Looking to switch jobs between the public and private sectors? The Bethesda AFCEA chapter's Young AFCEA Council is holding a luncheon July 26 to talk about "Switching Sides: Transitioning Your Career Path from Government to Industry (and Vice Versa)."

The luncheon will include information about benefits and problems of transitioning your career between the public and private sectors. Speakers from government and industry will help you plot your path.

IRS gets the fax

We saw a press release from the Internal Revenue Service announcing that the agency is accepting facsimile signatures on employment tax forms. We don't know about you, but when we saw the headline, our first thought was, "A fax? How 1990s!" But read on (emphasis added below).

The IRS "has issued new rules allowing corporate officers or duly authorized agents to sign employment tax forms by facsimile, including alternative signature methods such as computer software programs or mechanical devices.

"The rules, outlined in Revenue Procedure 2005-39, will reduce burden on business taxpayers by simplifying employment tax filing and lowering the number of returns rejected by the IRS because of signature issues."

Ta da! This is more than just a small step for e-government.

Do government workers waste time?

A Web survey by America Online and released last week found that American workers admit to wasting 2.09 hours per day at work, not counting lunch. The public sector ranks No. 2 among time-wasting industries, losing 2.4 hours on average, right behind the insurance industry, the survey says.

Most human resources managers expect employees to waste about an hour a day. The wasted time costs $759 billion in salaries, they estimate.

Of the 10,044 people who responded to the survey, 44.7 percent said they send personal e-mail or instant messages or play games during the workday.

Instant messaging has become an issue for many organizations. Some see it as a critical business tool, but it is a potential time-waster. But so is e-mail.

The most common reason given for wasting time is that people don't have enough to do.

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