On today’s program
- Telework — many organizations talk about it. One has done it — and in a big way. It’s the Patent and Trademark Office. And an amazing statistic for you — more than 8,000 people at PTO are eligible to telework. Of those, more than 80 percent of them actually do it. We’re going to talk to the person who has made that happen, Danette Campbell. Those statistics — and others — have earned her a place as a finalist for the Service to America medals — the SAMMIES. We’ll talk to her about telework… and what may come AFTER telework. Click here for the full recap.
- Speaking of telework… and telecom… You may have heard of the Nextworx contract. This is GSA’s big telecommunications contract. In In fiscal year 2007 alone, federal agencies spent approximately $960 million on services acquired through the contracts under GSA’s telecommunications program. The transition has been arduous. Federal Computer Week has looked at the process — and we’ll find out what has worked… and what hasn’t. Click here to hear the full recap.
We’ve all been watching the landing of the Mars rover. And it reminded me of Spirit and Opportunity — the two Mars rovers that have been on the Red Planet collecting all sorts of rich data.
Over the years, Chris Dorobek has had a number of opportunities to talk to Prof. Steve Squyres, a professor of astronomy at Cornell University who served as the original program manager for NASA’s Mars rover program. He is also author of the book Roving Mars: Spirit, Opportunity, and the Exploration of the Red Planet.
Talk about a government program: These two amazing devices were supposed to go for about 90 days, and they have been going and going and going.
Here are some of Chris’ favorite conversations and writings that he’s done about Spirit and Opportunity. Amazing stuff
- Working on Mars time — Federal Computer Week
- FCW Insider: Twittering the Mars lander — Federal Computer Week
- Web extra: Steven Squyres talks about roving on Mars — Federal Computer Week
- FCW Insider: Hearing about the Mars rovers — Federal Computer Week
- Mars rover project continues successful mission — Federal News Radio
Transparency in the Obama administration. The Washington Post this weekend featured an analysis of the administration’s transparency promise. The Post found that while the Obama administration vowed an increase in transparency across government, including through the Freedom of Information Act; the proactive release of documents; and the establishment of a new agency to declassify more than 370 million pages of archived material. But three years later, new evidence suggests that administration officials have struggled to overturn the long-standing culture of secrecy in Washington. Some of these high-profile transparency measures have stalled, and by some measures the government is keeping more secrets than before.
Media organizations and individuals requesting information under FOIA last year were less likely to receive the material than in 2010 at 10 of the 15 Cabinet-level departments, according to an analysis of annual reports of government agenciesby The Washington Post. The federal government was more likely last year than in 2010 to use the act’s exemptions to refuse information. And the government overall had a bigger backlog of requests at the end of 2011 than at the start, due largely to 30,000 more pending requests to the Homeland Security Department.
The SEVEN stories that impact your life for Monday the 6th of August, 2012
- Senior executives and political appointees get a temporary reprieve from the STOCK Act. Federal News Radio says Congress has delayed by a month parts of the new law aimed at preventing high level federal officials from using official knowledge for stock trading. The House and Senate both agreed to the halt just as the American Civil Liberties Union prepared a lawsuit. Plaintiffs included the Senior Executives Association. The law requires posting of executives’ financial information to a public web site.
- After the Senate’s cybersecurity bill failed to pass in the House the president is considering issuing an executive order to strengthen cybersecurity. The Hill Newspaper says the White House has emphasized that better protecting vital computer systems is a top priority. And the president urged Congress to pass the Cybersecurity Act, which was offered by Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The bill would have encouraged private companies and the government to share information about cyber threats and would have required critical infrastructure operators to meet minimum cybersecurity standards.
- Cass Sunstein — the president’s adviser on regulations is leaving the White House. The Washington Post says Sunstein, the director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, is headed back to Harvard Law School. The New York Times reports Sunstein personally edited most of the rules proposed by agencies, since joining the Obama administration in 2009. He rewrote 80 percent of the EPA’s proposed rules. The Office of Management and Budget’s General Counsel Boris Bershteyn will become the acting OIRA director.
- Former members of the armed forces trying to register their businesses under a new certification system have met mountains of red tape, legislators and veterans activists said. The antifraud system was instituted by the Department of Veterans Affairs back in 2010. Bloomberg news reports one veteran had to deal with automated messages telling him to wait long periods—in one case 4,116 minutes—on the phone as he tried to clear up an issue regarding his construction company’s eligibility to bid on contracts for disabled vets. The law, which followed reports of fraud in the program, requires the agency to do more to ensure small businesses receiving the bidding preference are in control of their companies and manage the day to day operations.
- TSP funds had an OK July. All the TSP funds showed gains in July except for the S-Fund, which dropped by about six-tenths of one percent. For the first seven months of the year, all TSP funds are up… and for the past 12-months, only the International fund is struggling — you may have heard of all those issues in Europe. Well, the I-fund is off by more than 11 percent over the past 12-months
- The government’s employment website USAJobs.gov has passed its first independent cybersecurity test. Federal News Radio says this was the first test for USAJobs.gov since the Office of Personnel Management transferred the system to an internal data center. OPM assumed control of the federal jobs portal from Monster Government Solutions in October 2011, after two security breaches in 17 months compromised job-seeker information housed in the system.
- And on GovLoop, if you have Olympic fever like I do then you need to check out a post byGovLoop’s Pat Fiorenza. Pat asks what management lessons we can learn from the 8 disqualified badminton players. If you haven’t been glued to the TV, the 8 players tried to throw a match in order to get a more favorable pairing in the next round. So what can this tactic teach us?
A few closing items
— We have been following the questions and concerns about the STOCK Act — the the Stop Trading on Congressional Knowledge Act. The bill was supposed to stop what was essentially insider trading by members of Congress and their staff, but it ends up that it also would make public and searchable the disclosure forms of federal senior executives. This has sparked cries of concern… from the Senior Executive Association… from the association representing foreign service officers… and we told you earlier that a number of those groups, together with the ACLU, have filed suit against the STOCK Act. And the Washington Post opined over the weekend that they are right, calling on Congress to reconsider online disclosures for federal employees.
The Post said “it’s clear that a portion of the act would do far more than that, potentially jeopardizing national security along with the personal safety of more than 28,000 executive-branch employees.”
— Meanwhile, it’s August, so things get quiet in Washington. Lawmakers were rushing to get a whole lot of things done before they left for five weeks. The Washington Post notes, however, there is a lot of unfinished business in this election year. The Post says “lawmakers headed home for a five-week break with a lengthy list of uncompleted work and little to show for the past year and a half except an eye-popping amount of dissatisfaction: Nearly 80 percent of Americans are unhappy with them. The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate have set record lows for production and record highs for dysfunction.”
The Hill says that some congressional appropriators might be among those dissatisfied. After all, appropriators have been working on the 13 government spending bills only to find out that a CR was going to continue funding for six months into the new fiscal year. The Hill says appropriators are trying to salvage some of that work.
— Goldman Sachs is getting into jails, but not in the way some Americans might think. Utilizing a social-service bond—a new financial instrument— Goldman Sachs, the investment bank, will put $10 million into a program to cut the recidivism rate at New York City’s Rikers Island prison, Reuters reports. The bond will be backed by a guarantee from Bloomberg Philanthropies, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s philanthropic arm. For Goldman to get its money back on the deal, recidivism at the prison has to drop by at least 10 percent. If it falls lower than that, Goldman could make $2.1 million on its investment. And one mind wonders what other government tasks might be good investments, in the truest sense of the word? It’s GovLoop — we’d love your thoughts…