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Congress returns and the White House misses sequestration deadline — DorobekINSIDER stories you need to know

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Within hours after the nation’s deadliest tornado in nearly 60 years ripped through Joplin, Missouri, the first team of AmeriCorps members arrived on the scene to lend a helping hand. You’ll meet the women leading the charge. Click here for the full recap.
  • Securing your mobile device — it’s not just a top priority for agencies. Click here for the full recap.

Congress is back from the August recess and there is a long to-do list

Near the top of that list, sequestration and the fiscal cliff. But the Washington Post reports that few expect lawmakers to take any significant action, particularly before election day in November. But they are expected to take one step by passing a continuing resolution that would prevent a government shutdown when the budget year ends Sept. 30.

Slate notes that lawmakers are expected to be in Washington for only about two weeks between now and Election Day, making their return to the capital little more than a pit stop.

You may have watched the 60 Minutes interview last night with Mark Owen, a pseudonym of one of the Navy SEALs who participated in the raid that killed Osama bin Laden and author of the book No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden.

60 Minutes: SEAL’s first-hand account of bin Laden killing

One of the real sidebars to that story has been whether Owen could write his story. There has been discussion about a non-disclosure pledge that Navy SEALs have to sign. Reuters reports that the Pentagon has been stepping up its case that former Navy SEAL broke secrecy pledge.

The Pentagon has even released a copy of the kind of agreement that Owen would have to sign.

Slate says that Owen violated the agreement even before his book was published this week because he share the original manuscript with his publisher and a lawyer outside of the government. The way the Pentagon sees it, that decision suggests that Bissonnette must have believed his book contained classified materials.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The White House says it will deliver a report on sequestration this week despite missing Friday’s congressional deadline. Federal News Radio says the Office of Management and Budget is meeting with agencies and the White House says it needs time to address complex issues. But that doesn’t please lawmakers, who passed legislation, which the President signed into law. The report is supposed to outline how $1.2 trillion in spending cuts over the next decade would affect federal programs.
  2. Meanwhile, Mitt Romney told Meet the Press that GOP leaders made a big mistake when the agreed to the sequester. The Hill Newspaper says the GOP candidate blasted President Obama for proposing the cuts, which were floated as a way to force the failed debt supercommittee to strike a deal last fall. Republicans had used the debt ceiling to try to force Obama to rein in spending and later touted the $2.2 trillion in spending reductions including those in the sequester.
  3. Congress is considering delaying a decision on the dreaded fiscal cliff until after the election or even January. Politico reports, “if Mitt Romney wins the presidency, Republicans in Congress will block any action until he’s sworn into office. If Republicans win the Senate, they’ll stall any effort to solve the massive tax increase and spending cuts until they hold the gavels. And if it’s a status quo election — President Barack Obama wins and Congress remains divided — negotiations may begin in earnest right after Nov. 6, but it will be hard to make a landmark deal before Dec. 31 given the resistance from House Republicans to any tax increases and Democratic unwillingness to overhaul entitlements.”
  4. The White House is circulating a draft of an executive order on cybersecurity. The Hill Newspaper reports, the draft proposal, which has been sent to relevant federal agencies for feedback, is a clear sign that the administration is resolved to take action on cybersecurity even as Congress remains gridlocked on legislation that would address the threat. The draft executive order would establish a voluntary program where companies operating critical infrastructure would elect to meet cybersecurity best practices and standards crafted, in part, by the government. The timetable for the order is still unclear.
  5. While speaking at the Excellence in Government conference, federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel says now is the time for federal innovation. NextGov reports, He described the origins of companies such as General Electric and Microsoft that were launched during financial downturns but succeeded because they offered cheaper, innovative services to customers. The keys to spurring innovation under the current pressure, he said, is shifting to a customer-centric model for delivering government services, encouraging employees to take risks and partnering more with the private sector.
  6. The Wall Street Journal reports there is a legal battle brewing between technology companies and the government over whether law-enforcement agents have the right to obtain passwords to crack into smartphones of suspects. Google earlier this year refused to unlock an alleged pimp’s cellphone powered by its Android software—even after the Federal Bureau of Investigation obtained a search warrant. An FBI spokesman declined to comment about the agency’s policies on cellphone unlocking.
  7. Contractors are worried about new procurement guidelines. The Washington Post reports, the Defense Contract Audit Agency has issued new guidance meant to help its auditors access contractors’ internal documents, a move that industry advocates say could worsen an already tense relationship. The DCAA has beefed up its staff and increased its tests of companies’ systems in recent years. But industry advocates have complained that the agency has become too strict.

A few items from the DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • The Presidential Innovation Fellows are doing their work to come up with ways of helping government work better. One of the more interesting: RFP-EZ, which looks to streamline the federal procurement process. GovLoop’s Steve Ressler has posted 5 Ideas on Project RFP-EZ... and we’d love to hear your thoughts… We’re also going to be getting insights about the project. If there is somebody we should talk to, let us know… [email protected].
  • And we all use the @ symbol all the time — a key that was a mystery in the pre-Internet era.Smithsonian Magazine has published The Accidental History of the @ Symbol – The symbol’s modern obscurity ended in 1971, when a computer scientist named Ray Tomlinson was facing a vexing problem: how to connect people who programmed computers with one another.

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