From Radiation Research to Tax Forms: A Federal Web Sampler

nformation on federal Web sites ranges from broad and general-such as the National Technical Information Service's FedWorld (http://www.fedworld.gov)-to very specific, such as the Energy Department site devoted to information on Cold War radiation research on humans (http://www.ohre.doe.gov). Following is a sampling of some federal Internet sites.

Scientific Research

On-line databases from federal research labs provide information on everything from acid rain and global warming to bone-marrow transplants and DNA-without the hassle and expense of combing libraries or traveling to conferences.

Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (http://www.lbl.gov/LBL.html) offers a treasure trove of scientific data, as does the National Institutes of Health (http://www.nih.gov) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (http://www.cdc.gov). The National Library of Medicine site (http://www.nlm.nih.gov) includes the Visible Human Project, which provides more than 1,800 cross-section views of the human body.

NASA's Welcome to the Planets on-line exhibit (http://stardust.jpl.nasa.gov/planets) features images from various space-exploration programs while the Johnson Space Center (http://images.jsc.nasa.gov/html/home.htm) offers digital images on everything from virtual reality to mobile robotics.

Procurement

An executive order from President Clinton three years ago mandated that agencies conduct on-line procurements. The Federal Acquisition Streamlining Act of 1994 reinforced the Administration's directive by calling for creation of a governmentwide Federal Acquisition Network by 1997. The White House predicts that on-line buying will cut federal procurement costs by at least 10 percent and speed product delivery times by a third.

The Environmental Protection Agency recently used its Web site (http://www.epa.gov/airms) to conduct a complex information-technology procurement in just nine months-instead of two years under the paper-based system. Every phase of the process except bid submission was handled electronically. On that contract alone, the agency estimates it saved more than $114,000 in paper costs and postage.

The Federal Supply Service's new GSA Advantage (http://www.gsa.gov) is an on-line shopping mall, featuring a Scientific Equipment Mart, Hardware Store, Industrial Park, Vehicles Store, Specialty Store, Computers and Communications, and Furniture and Furnishings. Shoppers eventually will be able to order more than 13,000 products via the Web site.

Several federal resellers also offer electronic procurement systems: BTG Technology Systems (http://www.btg.com), Government Technology Services Inc. (http://www.gtsi.com) and International Data Products Corp. (http://www.idp.com). Federal customers with secure Web browsers can order GSA Schedule products from these sites and pay for them with government credit cards.

The Acquisition Reform Network (http://www-far.npr.gov), developed by the National Performance Review in cooperation with the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, the General Services Administration and the Council for Excellence in Government, features a reference library of acquisition policy documents and Federal Acquisition Regulations, plus a database of promising procurement practices. The site includes procurement-related discussion groups and joint problem-solving exercises.

Gathering and Processing Information

The Internal Revenue Service, which already lets computer users download tax forms, soon will allow people to file tax returns from their home computers to an IRS Web site (http://www.ustreas.gov/treasury/bureaus/irs/irs.html).

The pilot test, which starts next month in Dayton, Ohio, and San Jose, Calif., also will enable taxpayers to dial in to the Social Security Administration site (http://www.ssa.gov) to check on the status of their benefits.

Later this year, the pilot will be expanded so students can apply for loan applications via the Education Department Web site (http://www.ed.gov).

National Security

Defense agencies are using the World Wide Web for disseminating information and products. Each branch of the armed services has a home page that contains directives and various service documents.

The Advanced Research Projects Agency site (http://ftp.arpa.mil) provides specialized Defense research data, while the Army Corp of Engineers uses its Web site (http://www.usace.army.mil) to display a directory of projects.

One of the Defense Information Systems Agency Web sites (http://www.itsi.disa.mil) offers an electronic version of the Standards Documents Library and includes guidelines for information transfer and processing.

Financial Data

Federal Web sites are becoming popular repositories for economic data.

FinanceNet (http://www.financenet.gov), sponsored by the Chief Financial Officers Council and operated by the National Science Foundation, provides one-stop shopping for federal, state and local financial information.

The Commerce Department's Stat-USA site (http://www.stat-usa.gov) offers searchable databases on all types of economic information, while the Bureau of Labor Statistics (http://stats.bls.gov) provides labor statistics.

Public Access

Federal Web sites provide information on everything from the latest National Weather Service forecasts (http://cominfo.nws.noaa.gov) to FBI updates on the Unabomber investigation (http://www.fbi.gov). The biggest federal electronic repository for information is the Library of Congress computer system (http://www.loc.gov), which handles more than a million transactions each day. The system includes Thomas (http://thomas.loc.gov)-a congressional information service featuring keyword-searchable text of legislation and the Congressional Record-and the American Memory Project, which provides more than 30,000 digital images, video clips and sound recordings. A "gopher"-an electronic tool for navigating between Internet sites-helps users gain access to the library's entire card catalog.

The Government Printing Office also provides electronic access to the Congressional Record, as well as the Federal Register and a host of other publications and links to federal depository libraries around the country (http://www.access.gpo.gov).

The Justice Department provides crime statistics on its Web site (http://www.usdoj.gov) while keyword-searchable texts of decisions of the Supreme Court are available through a site at Cornell University (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct.table.html). The Census Bureau (http://www.census.gov) offers U.S. population facts and genealogy data, and the Federal Aviation Administration (http://www.faa.gov) supplies airline and airport information, plus access to the General Aviation Archives.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency Web site (http://www.fema.gov) features more than 600 pages on preparing for and dealing with disasters-including training courses for local emergency teams. The Department of Housing and Urban Development Community Connections site (http://www.hud.gov) features mapping capabilities and makes planning documents available on-line. The site also includes Information about neighborhood income levels, unemployment rates, home sales and foreclosures.

The Environmental Protection Agency site (http://www.epa.gov), which receives about a million hits a month, includes information on everything from toxic waste to ozone depletion. In addition, the National Environmental Data Index (http://www.nedi.gov)-developed by eight agencies-provides access to numerous environmental databases.

Both the Department of Health and Human Services (http://www.os.dhhs.gov) and the National Endowment for the Humanities (http://ns1.neh.fed.us) use their Web sites to provide information on how to apply for research grants. And the Federal Communications Commission (http://www.fcc.gov) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (http://www.osha.gov) disseminate regulatory data via their home pages.

The White House Web Site (http://www.whitehouse.gov)-billed as "An Interactive Citizens' Handbook"-provides extensive details on the executive branch and the First Family. And the National Performance Review site (http://www.npr.gov) reports progress on the Clinton Administration's mission to make the federal government work better and cost less-something federal Web sites do every day.

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