Capital roundup

Hutchinson: Go for SCO

Asa Hutchinson, the Homeland Security Department's first undersecretary for border and transportation security, is a strong advocate of the proposed new $826 million Office of Screening Coordination and Operations at DHS.

SCO would oversee several large screening programs, including the U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology program. But it has been advanced with few details of how it would operate and "uncertainty" about its functions, said a recent Congressional Research Service report.

Hutchinson, who is now at Venable LLC law firm and is campaigning for the GOP gubernatorial nomination in Arkansas, said the office is urgently needed and needs to be accelerated.

"The time to coordinate the programs is now, not when they are firmly in place," Hutchinson said in a phone interview. Of critics who urge moving cautiously, "that's like saying let's let the cement dry before you make changes," he said.

Betty Crockerisms 'baked in' at DHS

The Homeland Security Department's latest jargon has more to do with the kitchen than the war room.

DHS insiders talk of "baked-in" features for programs, such as baked-in privacy protections for screening programs.

And Secretary Michael Chertoff was quoted in the Wall Street Journal using the phrase in recent testimony to Congress: "We now have 'baked into' the system a whole lot of stakeholders," Chertoff said of the department's color-coded alert system.

Hong Kong takes to biometric IDs

Hong Kong residents take pride in their national biometric identity cards, which have been issued since 2003, said Raymond Wong, assistant director of immigration, while visiting Washington for a recent event.

"People like it very much," Wong said. "See? it doesn't break," he said, demonstrating on a tabletop, bending nearly in half the ID card belonging to one of his managers. The card sprung back, undamaged.

Why not show his card? "I left it in my hotel safe. It's a very important document," Wong said.

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