Campus Notebook: Dark Days Ahead

Posted June 25, 2008 at 6:35pm

The Capitol Police will soon face questions about their operations from their Senate oversight committee.

[IMGCAP(1)]At the July 9 hearing, the Senate Rules and Administration Committee will focus on a host of issues that have come to light recently, including possible delays in replacing the department’s outdated radio system and questions concerning the bomb squad’s preparedness, said Howard Gantman, spokesman for committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.).

Feinstein will also question Police Chief Phillip Morse on why and how the department hired 15 recruits who didn’t pass the department’s standards, he said.

On Monday, police officials asked those recruits to resign, and at least five have hired a lawyer to appeal the decision.

The oversight could cost the department millions of dollars in lost training expenses and leave it shorthanded during a busy season. The 15, about a quarter of the new recruits, had already gone through some two months of training.

The blame has fallen on former Human Resources Director Jennifer McCarthy, who was removed from her position in late May. Police officials say that the department hired applicants who had failed their background, psychological and physical tests.

ECo Friendly. The Copyright Office will soon make one if its final steps toward a Web-based system that is designed to make submitting and processing applications easier.

On July 1, the office will launch eCO, or the Electronic Copyright Office. The system allows applicants to submit their forms online rather than through snail mail. Until now, applicants could only use the online method if they agreed to use it in its test version, and a small percentage did so.

Adopting the electronic system is one of the office’s biggest changes since it was created more than a century ago. Until recently, employees worked mainly with paper — a big task for an office that receives 10,000 pieces of mail a day.

The Library of Congress Professional Guild, a chapter of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has criticized the

office’s implementation of the system in recent Congressional hearings. The transition has caused a backlog of applications, and union officials say the paper process is more efficient.

But Copyright officials say that the backlog is due to a temporary learning curve, and in the end, the electronic system will dramatically cut down on processing times. The switch-over has cost about $50 million.

Outsourced Pages. A new Congressional Research Service report offers a creative option to the problem of overseeing teenage Congressional pages: Get an independent contractor to do it.

The report is mostly an overview of the House and Senate page programs, as well as a review of proposals for change. The most recent reform wave came after four House pages were expelled in the fall for stealing and public sexual acts.

But in the report, a CRS analyst also briefly examines the possibility of handing over their supervision to an established outside organization.

Groups such as the Close Up Foundation and Presidential Classroom have already brought thousands of teens to Washington, D.C., to participate in government, the report says. A program like that would not only provide supervision but housing and meals — for a fee of course.

Members have not expressed any interest in outsourcing the program, and the CRS report notes that many Representatives and Senators have emphasized the importance of keeping the current program running.

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