Buzz of the Week

Doan’s in-tense hearing

Lurita Doan’s second appearance before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee last week was in many ways more of a sideshow than anything else. Yes, it was incredible political theater, the likes of which the government information technology community rarely sees. And yes, the committee’s chairman, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), managed to steal the headlines by calling for the GSA administrator to resign.

But when all was said and done, the hearing felt like a sideshow. After four hours, little new information has been presented and, at one point, it devolved into an extended debate about grammar.

Doan, who has a bachelor’s degree in English with honors from Vassar College and a master’s degree in Renaissance literature from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville, told the committee, “I noticed as I went through the transcript that I have probably some problems sometimes with tense, as well as with personal pronouns.” She went on to say that during her testimony, she had meant to use the “hortatory subjunctive.”

Later in the hearing, Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Ky.), told Doan that there were only three tenses: past, present and future. Doan bristled and disagreed, arguing that there were other tenses. There is the always popular present perfect, present progressive and past progressive, and in her case, the hortatory subjunctive.

We imagine that Google saw more searches for “hortatory subjunctive” this week than at any time since…well, probably ever.
Whether the hortatory subjunctive is a tense or a mood, it sent members of the 1105 Government Information Group’s copy desk scurrying around for an answer.

Grammatical quibbling aside, Doan’s fate doesn’t depend on Congress. Her future at GSA will be determined at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue by White House officials. Last week, the Office of Special Counsel presented President Bush a final report on the allegations that Doan violated the Hatch Act. He will decide whether she stays or goes.

For now, that decision is in the future tense.

Buzz contenders
#2: Interior pays parking fine
Accounting violations have put the Interior Department’s assisted-acquisition services center in a bad spot. The Government Accountability Office and the Defense Department’s
inspector general found the center guilty of violating the Antideficiency Act, which prohibits agencies from holding onto appropriated funds beyond the year for which Congress appropriated them. The practice is known as parking. DOD will punish Interior’s GovWorks Federal Acquisition Center by prohibiting DOD agencies from placing orders of more than $100,000.

#3: Bo buzz 
It’s not often that Bo Derek visits the government information technology community, but it happened last week. Derek, most famous for being the 10 in the 1979 movie “10,” was the big draw for public relations firm O’Keefe and Company’s 10th anniversary bash.

Yes, she looked fabulous. One person there even referred to her as “splendiferous.”

PR firms should know how to create buzz…and look — it worked. They made the buzz.

#4: We’re not the farm team
Gen. Michael Hayden, the CIA’s director, said the agency could have 10 percent fewer contractors a year from now after it completes a comprehensive assessment of its workforce. Hayden acknowledged the value of contractors, but he said some practices have gotten out of hand and put the CIA in a position of being a farm team for contractors. Beginning this month, all agency contracts and requests for proposals will bar contractors from hiring CIA employees before they retire and including their services in contract proposals. 

#5: MyVistA
The Veterans Affairs Department is on a course to modernize its fabled VistA electronic health records system. VA says it needs a system that lets veterans access their health information and benefits through a single portal from anywhere at anytime.

The original model for VistA was facilities-centric, said Robert Howard, VA’s assistant secretary of information and technology. The new model for VistA, he said, is veterans-centric. Call it MyVista.


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