Author Archive

Merry Mayer

Scanning shortens time and lines at embassy in Mexico

The U.S. embassy in Mexico City is saving three to five hours a day by processing visas with a system that captures and stores handwritten applications and color photos.

OCC's data warehouse will be the sum of its marts

The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency has created an information architecture to help it build a data warehouse, one data mart at a time, over the next several years. The warehouse has to be built as a multimart environment, the office's senior data analyst Vance Kane said. "We have different lines of business—financial institutions, human resources. To have one database warehouse is fantasyland from my perspective," he said.

HUD systems upgrade to improve services

The Housing and Urban Development Department wants to improve its image, and senior staff members figure one way to do that is by upgrading HUD systems to improve access for department users and the public. Fairly or unfairly, HUD has become the poster child for what's wrong with the federal bureaucracy, department officials said. It's an image HUD Secretary Andrew M. Cuomo wants to erase.

DefenseLink to get new face

The Defense Department is redesigning its central Web site, DefenseLink, to help better control the information DOD users place on the Internet. DOD officials expect to have the new site in place by April or May. The redesign will make it easier for Web surfers to find the department's 2,000 or so Web pages, department officials said.

Justice makes a motion to put court papers online

Consider this scenario: It's 4 p.m. and a lawyer with the Justice Department has to make sure a filing gets hand-delivered before the federal district court closes its doors for the day. Or, another lawyer wants to review all the documents concerning a case. He has got to get to the courthouse during open hours and request to see the court docket. And because there's only one copy, he has to hope no one else is

White House wants WebGov to be gateway to all agencies

The Clinton administration is moving ahead with development of a general government Web site. WebGov will not provide content but be a starting point for the public to search all the federal information contained on the Internet, said Rich Kellett, emerging IT policies director in the General Services Administration's Office of Information Technology.

Customs asks: Can ports work if computers fail?

The Customs Service will soon switch exclusively to pen and paper at one of its ports—at least for a day. The test is to see how a port will function if it does not have computers for a day, headquarters spokesman Dennis Murphy said. Interestingly, year 2000 preparation is not the driving force behind the test, although the result could help with the agency's year 2000 contingency planning.

USPS inks preferred vendor agreement for open-ended payroll systems support

The Postal Service has selected Computer Sciences Corp. as a preferred vendor to provide open-ended payroll systems support for the next year. USPS signed an order agreement with CSC in December, but that agreement has no specified value, not even an estimate, contracting officer Beverley Goodale said. The agreement is for one year, with an option to extend that for another eight years.

EPA's almost set to reorganize IT shop

The Environmental Protection Agency will centralize its information technology decision-making under a national program manager who will oversee three IT offices. But a key question is still unanswered: Will this program manager be an appointee or a career civil servant? The agency's top managers have not yet decided, chief information officer Alvin Pesachowitz said.

Code glitch leads BLS to post data early again

For the second time in three months, the Bureau of Labor Statistics accidentally posted financial data on its Web site before it was set for official release. Last time, an economist posted the data early; this time the information technology staff erred. "A person who has been in our group for five years, has a sterling work record and has apologized profusely made a mistake," said Carl J. Lowe, associate commissioner for technology and survey processing.

Thrift Supervision boosts field support

With most of its year 2000 work and an overhaul of its information technology organization done, the Office of Thrift Supervision plans to start some new projects this year. Frank DiGialleonardo came on board last April to help consolidate IT functions at OTS. The agency combined the Office of IRM, Test Projects Office and Information and Management Services Department into the Office of Information Systems. In the fall, OTS made

Treasury service wants agencies to switch to improved payroll tax app

The Treasury Department's Financial Management Service has upgraded the system that lets agencies pay their payroll taxes electronically, and it has streamlined the process by making the application available via the Internet. Now FMS must persuade agencies to use the new app, said Paul Gist, director of FMS' Financial Services Division.

Interim systems will tide IRS over as it modernizes

The systems switch will change how the IRS processes checks. Side bars & related Snapshot stories The IRS' new Integrated Submissions and Remittance Processing system can capture scanned images of tax payment checks and vouchers but not tax returns.

USPS tries data mart technology to help maintain sales, inventory info

The Postal Service is testing a retail data mart that will help post offices track their sales and decide what items to stock. The data mart will use information gathered by the service's Point of Sale One program. The POS ONE systems record sales at individual post offices. USPS officials said the data mart will let the service mine data in new ways.

New criminal background check system for gun dealers draws on three databases

When the National Instant Criminal Background Check System went on line at 9 a.m., Nov. 30, the response was overwhelming. One gun dealer called asking for 99 background checks on prospective gun buyers. That call took up the whole four-hour shift of one part-time employee, said Jim Kessler, NICS program manager at the FBI.

EPA gives paper heave-ho for hazardous waste reports

The Environmental Protection Agency has begun testing the use of digital signatures to authenticate information received electronically from handlers of hazardous waste. The agency recently began Phase 2 of a three-phase pilot aimed at making most of its communications with hazardous waste handlers—those generating, transporting and storing such waste—paperless. The Hazardous Waste Manifest System is a set of forms, reports and procedures that EPA uses to track hazardous waste from its generation to its final destination. The

STARS work continues after GAO denies Keane's protest of INS contract award

After four months of delay, the Immigration and Naturalization Service can move forward with a contract aimed at improving 73 of its information technology systems now that the General Accounting Office has denied a protest of the project's contract award. At issue was the second phase of the Service Technology Alliance Resource program. STARS has three components: systems management and integration, performance, and independent verification and validation.

New information system promises lots of change for the Mint

The Mint brought employees from all its offices to Washington to participate on the COINS team. The Mint this fall fulfilled a promise to its employees when it went live with an enterprise resource planning system. The Mint unveiled its new Consolidated Information System, or COINS, at a ribbon-cutting ceremony in Washington. Mint officials tout COINS as the first enterprisewide system in the federal government that integrates financial, manufacturing and marketing management [GCN, June

IRS issues strategy to stimulate electronic tax filing

The IRS this month announced 45 initiatives to encourage taxpayers to file electronically. Congress this year mandated that by 2007 the IRS receive at least 80 percent of income tax returns electronically. A major barrier is cultural, said Robert Barr, assistant commissioner for electronic tax administration. The IRS has to make the public feel comfortable with electronic filing, he said. To do that, it will begin running television commercials promoting electronic filing.

IRS will test the use of PINs as electronic signatures in two pilots for 1998returns

The IRS will run two pilots this tax season in which it will accept personal identification numbers as electronic signatures. In the first pilot, more than 8,000 approved tax preparers can let taxpayers choose PINs and use them to sign their 1998 tax returns, said Robert Barr, the IRS' assistant commissioner for electronic tax administration.