Waiting game

The Department of Veterans Affairs, Congress and a few interested vendors must wait a little longer to find out what kind of reorganization plan is in the works for the VA's information technology shop.

Robert McFarland, the VA's chief information officer, has a proposal on his desk from an independent consultant. But a hearing scheduled for last week to discuss the plan was postponed until Sept. 14 because of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath. VA Secretary Jim Nicholson invited Rep. Steve Buyer (R-Ind.), chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, on a trip to New Orleans to survey the devastation, which forced the hearing's delay.

The VA has kept plans for IT changes tightly wrapped. No one except for a few top VA officials and a couple of congressional aides know what's happening. But we can tell you that after the dust clears, Craig Luigart will be the Veterans Health Administration's CIO and Dr. Robert Kolodner will be the new health informatics official responsible for expanding the VA's e-health records initiative.

When a hearing is not a hearing

Rep. Tom Davis (R-Va.) chairman of the House Government Reform Committee, announced Sept. 6 that he would conduct a hearing to examine what went wrong with the government's response to Hurricane Katrina. But a short time later, his boss, House Majority Leader Rep. Tom Delay (R-Texas), canceled the hearings, at least according to a CNN report. No word from Davis yet. Delay said the "emergency response system was set up to work from the bottom up."

Those comments may not ring true in many parts of the Gulf Coast. After all, most people don't care whether it was a federal, state or local responsibility.

Regardless of what the House does, there will be hearings on this subject. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), chairwoman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee; Sen. Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), the committee's ranking Democrat; and other members of Congress said government officials at all levels share the blame for inadequate preparedness and response plans.

Do not despair

In an outpouring of offers to help victims of Katrina, the Department of Health and Human Services is harnessing the power of the Internet to direct the right kind of assistance to the right people and places.

Medical professionals who want to volunteer should visit https://volunteer.ccrf. or call (866) KAT-MEDI. HHS officials said volunteers can expect to serve for at least two weeks in field locations on the Gulf Coast or shelters nationwide that provide health services to hurricane victims.

Any language will do

Google has asked book publishers to submit non-English material to its vast Internet search engine, a move that is popular among critics who say the company's digital library relies too heavily on Anglo-American content. It's the first time Google is looking for submissions from non-English publishers since it began scanning books into its search engine index last year. Google has contacted publishers in France, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands and Spain.

Free money

Nothing is totally free, but the University of Maryland would like to encourage a few feds to receive a free education at the Robert H. Smith School of Business. The program provides full and partial tuition scholarships to the school's executive MBA (EMBA) program. The scholarships provide more opportunities to executives from sectors that have fewer leaders with MBAs, including the government and nonprofit organizations. Some of the scholarships include:

  • The Smith Federal Government EMBA Scholarship, for managers and directors who work at federal agencies.
  • The Smith State/Local Government EMBA Scholarship, for managers and directors who work at state or local government agencies.
  • The Smith IT EMBA Scholarship, for management professionals at IT companies.

The school will accept scholarship applications until Nov. 15 for a class that begins in January 2006. School officials will accept applicants based on merit and an essay. For more information, visit

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