On today’s program for Thursday April 12, 2012:
- The challenge is to be innovative. What about an innovation fund? They’re actually trying this out in Michigan. We’ll talk to the person behind it about how it works… their goals… and what they’ve learned already.
- Open government isn’t easy, but NASA has been one of the real leaders. We’ll hear about the NASA open government 2.0 plan — and how they are working to connect open government to the agency’s mission.
- And speaking of open government… we’ll tell you about the Sunshine Awards that recognize leaders in openness and transparency. Who are the winners… where there any surprises… and any lessons to be learned?
The stories that impact your life – your government world in 120-seconds…
- GSA’s acting administrator Dan Tangherlini and the GSA inspector general Brian Miller issued a agency-wide e-mail yesterday asking employees to stand up and report cases of waste, fraud and abuse. This comes as the agency attempting to regrouping after all the attention given to the GSA Public Building Service’s 2010 Western Regions Conference, which has been blasted as over-the-top spending. The response — or lack of response about that event — has taken the agency’s senior leadership, as you know. In the letter, both the acting administrator and the GSA inspector general promise there won’t be any retaliation against those who come forward.
- Meanwhile critics of the General Services Administration’s spending have a new target: employee relocation expenses. GSA spent millions to transfer staff from one office to another, including $330,000 to move one worker from Denver to Hawaii. The Associated Press obtained a transcript of the inspector general’s interviews with employees. In them, the workers said GSA paid for house hunting, groceries and even buying the former house if the employee who was moving couldn’t sell it. House Oversight Committee Chairman Darrell Issa (R-CA) called this latest news one more example of GSA’s “abusive spending.” His committee holds a hearing on GSA on Monday.
- You may remember earlier this week, we told you about the STOCK Act and how it may impact federal senior executives — the bill essentially will require that the financial disclosure forms of the government’s senior executives be made available — publicly — online. The Washington Post reports that the Energy Department has warned its employees to be careful not to include any information that may make them vulnerable to identity theft. Yes — really. And, in fact, the Office of Government Ethics has just posted guidance on mortgage reporting requirements under the STOCK Act.
- Federal employees will soon have another way to contribute to their retirement fund. A new Roth option for the Thrift Savings Plan will launch on May 7. It was originally planned to launch in early 2012, but the start date was delayed, in part, to give agency payroll departments more time to prepare. Federal News Radio says the Roth will allow federal employees to contribute after-tax dollars toward their retirement-savings accounts. Under the new rules, employees will be able to invest in both the traditional TSP, the new Roth option or a combination of the two. There is even a video explaining the Roth TSP.
- The Obama administration is standing behind its protecting online privacy framework. Assistant Commerce Secretary Lawrence Strickling says the administration industry can work together to create a robust, fair and enforceable framework for protecting Americans’ privacy online. The framework has come under fire from House Republicans. The Hill Newspaper says the administration has a four part plan. First, Congress should take the initiative to codify the “Privacy Bill of Rights” included with the framework into an actual piece of legislation, preferably one with some form of penalties that gives enforcement authority to the Federal Trade Commission.
- Don’t look now, but the deficit is shrinking. “The federal budget deficit appears to be narrowing slowly but steadily, as corporate and individual income taxes rise thanks to the rebounding economy. The Treasury Department reported that it collected $171 billion in taxes and other revenue last month, the highest March tally since 2008, when Bear Stearns was acquired at a government-run fire sale by J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. Individual income-tax revenue from October through March, the first half of the government’s 2012 fiscal year, hit $484.1 billion, up from $475.6 billion in the year-earlier period. Corporate income taxes rose to $84.5 billion from $55.1 billion a year earlier. The higher tax revenue helped shrink the six-month deficit to $778.8 billion this year, $50 billion lower than the year before…The April data will prove a key indicator of the government’s fiscal health since many Americans wait until the last minute to file their tax returns.” Damian Paletta in The Wall Street Journal.
- The White House praised a program that gives prizes for creative ideas. The Office of Science and Technology Policy said cash incentives have produced private sector innovations that have benefited several agencies. OSTP’s report followed President Obama’s signing of the America Competes reauthorization act. The new law extends to all federal agencies the authority to conduct challenge prize competitions. The General Services Administration developed a contract vehicle to let agencies quickly develop new prize competitions.
- Government in-sourcing is hurting contractors. Grant Thornton found 60 percent of contractors lost employees to government insourcing in 2011. Federal Computer Week says agencies have more aggressively insourced work from companies in recent years as Congress and the Obama administration have said the government relies too much on the private sector to do its work.
- The Defense Department’s pilot program, known as the Defense Industrial Base, has served as the model for the latest cybersecurity bill introduced by the House. The Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act of 2011 is designed to make it easier for the government to share classified intelligence information about cyber dangers with the private sector. Federal News Radio says the DOD has transferred the program to the Homeland Security Department with an eye toward expanding the program to more than 200 companies over the next year.
- It’s official Patricia Renfro is now the director of GSA’s Governmentwide Acquisition Contract Center. Federal Computer Week says Renfro has been the acting director since September. The center awards and manages GSA’s major governmentwide IT contracts.
- The White House Cyber Czar -Howard Schmidt – is launching a war on the botnet. Federal Computer Week says Schmidt is rounding up federal agencies, private companies and other stakeholders to figure out the best way to deal with the threat. Botnets are one of the most common cyber attacks in the market today… and he’s working on a four part plan to stop them. Schmidt wants his team to develop principles for addressing the botnets; establish high-level strategies to increase public awareness on the botnets; leverage available consumer-focused information tools and resources to prevent the botnets from the beginning; and identify ways of measuring progress.