Briefing

The Golden Ticket

The IRS is turning to ordinary Americans to blow the whistle on big-time tax cheats. And, if the government gets paid, so do you.

The Tax Whistleblower Reward Program will pay big bucks rewards to any individual whose tip leads to the identification of more than $2 million in unreported taxes, including interest and penalties. Tipsters can earn between 15 percent and 30 percent of what the government actually collects.

The program, which was enacted as part of the 2006 Tax Relief and Health Care Act, recently cut its first reward payment-a whopping $5.5 million check to a whistleblower who disclosed tax fraud at several companies. The IRS says it is shortchanged roughly $400 billion in taxes every year.

But the road to riches won't come easy. The IRS requires "specific and credible" information on tax crooks, including documents such as bank statements and e-mails.

-Robert Brodsky

The Little Engine That Could

What a difference a year makes. As agencies move more services to the Web, seek to bolster cybersecurity, and reach out online to collaborate and involve the public in policymaking, the little engine that fuels these e-government efforts is struggling to keep up.

In fact, Sen. Joseph Lieberman, I-Conn., has asked congressional appropriators for $3 million to boost staffing at the Office of Management and Budget's e-government division in light of its increased workload. The e-gov office:

  • Employs the equivalent of 13 full- time workers
  • Manages a federal IT budget that is slated in the president's 2011 request to reach $79 billion-$4 billion more than the previous year
  • Employed five people when it was established in 2002
  • Grew from six employees to 11 during the last term of the Bush administration

-Aliya Sternstein

Fight Club

American women have contributed significantly to war efforts ever since Molly Pitcher carried water to soldiers during the Revolutionary War. Of course, credit is not always given when it's due. Recently, however, there's been some buzz about women's roles in the military-past and present.

The Navy in February ended its ban on women serving aboard submarines, while Army Chief of Staff Gen. George Casey has said he supports a review of the military's policy on women in combat.

But perhaps the most overdue recognition for service came during a Congressional Gold Medal ceremony on Capitol Hill this spring for the first women who flew and tested military aircraft in World War II. At the event honoring the Women Airforce Service Pilots, Lt. Col. Nicole Malachowski, the first female Thunderbird pilot, described her initial encounter with the group at a "small display in a dusty little corner" of the Smithsonian in the summer of 1986. "Their story helped write my story," she said.

Until the government granted them veteran status in 1977, WASPs weren't entitled to the same benefits as male pilots. Thirty-eight female aviators died in service.

-Dawn Lim

Summer Stock

With summer just around the corner, students across the country once again are playing the internship game, applying to government agencies in the hope of nabbing a résumé-building gig.

According to the nonprofit Partnership for Public Service, agencies with a bent toward intelligence and international service-such as the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development-continue to draw students. The Justice Department, especially the FBI, also attracts many interns. The Partnership, along with the Office of Personnel Management, manages Call to Serve, a program that connects students and government agencies.

But as students become more focused on the environment, the popularity of internships at the Energy Department and the Environmental Protection Agency are on the rise, says Tim McManus, vice president of education and outreach for the Partnership.

For business students, one agency with a low public profile remains a top destination for a career-building experience. The Government Accountability Office, the federal agency watchdog and performance evaluator, has forged strong connections with universities, especially business schools, and attracts students who are interested not only in civil service but in administration of any kind.

"A smaller type of agency is often seen as being more innovative in their approach to things," McManus says.

-Alex M. Parker

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