White House review delays automation of appointee forms

New political appointees will have to wait a little longer for software that streamlines the maze of forms they must fill out. A Bush administration review of the forms involved in the political appointment process will likely force some redesign of the software that will put nomination forms online, according to a top official with the software project. "The White House [is reviewing] its personal [data] statement, so we are in a holding pattern waiting for that form to be revised," said Terry Sullivan, associate director of White House 2001, a project funded by the Pew Charitable Trusts to simplify the presidential transition process. The online forms initiative is part of the White House 2001 project. The online forms software contains electronic copies of all the documents appointees are required to complete, including the SF-86 FBI Form and the SF-278 financial disclosure statement required by the Office of Government Ethics. The software links together similar forms, enabling appointees to simultaneously fill out related forms required by the White House, Senate, Office of Government Ethics, and FBI. But the Bush administration has not made a final decision on the design of the White House data statement, leaving the software on the shelf for now. Currently, the administration is asking nominees to complete a data statement that is substantially different from the form used by the Clinton and earlier Bush administrations. Formally changing the White House statement would require updating the forms software, Sullivan said. "We programmed [the software] so that the nominee would complete the [White House] personal data statement first," said Sullivan. "If [the form] is completely different, then that means we have to sit down and restructure how we are conceiving the program." Depending on the extent of the changes, the software could be delayed for a month, Sullivan said. Once a final White House data statement is added to the software program, it will be distributed to nominees via the White House 2001 Web site, by the Brookings Institution's Presidential Appointee Initiative and by the Transition to Governing Project of the American Enterprise Institute. The software will also be added to the package of information nominees receive from the White House. The Bush team is using technology to accelerate the appointment process in other ways. Earlier this month, the administration added an online application for potential appointees to the White House Web site. An earlier version of the application appeared on the Bush-Cheney transition Web site. "The idea is to help people who are interested in being part of the administration apply in a direct and easy way," said White House spokesman Jimmy Orr.
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