No matter who's elected president in tomorrow's voting, there are certain to be thousands of newcomers looking for top jobs in the next administration. And they, like their predecessors, will run into the nightmare appointments process of endless paperwork, time-consuming and often expensive financial disclosure and background investigations under a mindless one-size-fits-all formula. (One form for the covert ops chief at CIA, same one for the assistant secretary of commerce for widget production.)

But there is hope on the horizon. There's a bill in the House that aims to streamline and simplify the financial disclosure process. Problem is that it is limited to the intelligence community and some Democrats say it goes too far in reducing disclosure.

On the Senate side, there's a bill that doesn't look to change the financial disclosure process but asks the Office of Government Ethics to study the situation. The Senate bill also asks the next president to find ways to reduce the layers of appointees and cut the number of political appointees subject to confirmation.

Probably the best thing to do, says New York University professor Paul Light, an expert in these matters who has worked for years to try to make the system at least somewhat rational, would be to apply elements of the House bill government-wide and keep the Senate provisions for reducing total numbers and layers of top officials.

That "would move the process from being miserable to being simply onerous," Light said. "It would be a step forward" in terms of making life easier for nominees. Save everyone else a lot of time and effort, too.

But overall changes are unlikely any time soon, so the first round of officials in the next administration probably will have to deal with the current process.

It's a Mouthful

Speaking of long titles, there was a spectacular one announced Friday by the State Department. Retired Army Lt. Gen. Claude "Mick" Kicklighter was named the new "special adviser for stabilization and security operations in Iraq and Afghanistan to the deputy secretary and undersecretary for political affairs," also known as the SASSOIADSUPA.

Playing a Part for Battlegrounds

Top Bush administration officials finished a grueling week of appearances all around the battleground states, bestowing cash, spreading cheer and otherwise not campaigning. Deputy Interior Secretary J. Steven Griles, regularly criticized by enviros, showed on Friday how maligned he has been.

Griles was off to "sign an agreement with the Boat Owners Association of America to promote the conservation of coral reefs and seabed grasses," the news release said. And where would this event be? Florida, of course.

The conservation would happen "through a campaign to educate boaters of the importance of avoiding collisions and groundings and reporting them quickly when they do occur to expedite restoration efforts."

This also has the advantage of promoting the conservation of your boat's paint job.

And Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton headed out West to hand out $120 million for parks, trails and natural areas for projects to "provide citizens . . . with open spaces and opportunities for recreation."

And this would be where? Not just Nevada, but in Las Vegas, where it's important to be able to walk off a bad night at the slots.

Poopgate's Lesson

Meanwhile, seems National Association of Manufacturers spokesman Darren McKinney was upset by a Loop item last week mentioning, among other things, a fruitless NAM investigation into who placed a pile of feces in front of the door to Fred Nichols's office a few months back.

The item, McKinney said in an e-mail to the 100 or so headquarters employees, "manages to make us all look rather silly and juvenile. Worst of all, the column manages to stain the wonderful send-off luncheon we had for [former chief Jerry Jasinowski] a few weeks back and does nothing to ease [new chief and former Michigan] Gov. [John] Engler's load as he works to take the reins.

"If it were up to me," McKinney wrote, " -- and, of course, it isn't -- I'd conduct a vigorous inquisition that would result in a firing by day's end. Nevertheless, the bottom line lesson that everyone should take away from this unfortunate little story is this: Leave media relations to the professionals because you're not nearly as savvy as you think.

"Have a nice day."

Please Give Body Armor

FedBizOpps (FBO), which has replaced the Commerce Business Daily (CBD) as the official listing of all federal government contracting opportunities and awards of more than $25,000, has this unusual announcement on its Web site.

"Sources are being sought for body armor, SAPI plates" (stands for Small Arms Protective Inserts, which are put in flak jackets to protect troops from bullets) "and kevlar helmets for delivery to Mosul, Iraq. Photos and specifications for the items must be able to be provided. Only Iraqi firms are eligible," it says, sounding like a small-business set-aside provision.

"Please contact Capt. Paul Winka and MAJ Louis Palazzo BY EMAIL ONLY if interested in providing these items. . . . Do not contact James Addas, despite the fact his name is listed below. This is not a solicitation, and funds are not currently available for an award. It is anticipated there will be funds soon." The $70 billion supplemental is on the way!