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If you’re anything like me, “Orange is the New Black” has taken over your life. The show illustrates the difficult and fascinating life within the walls of a federal prison. The show is fiction, but the cruel world OITNB depicts is sadly often representative of what really happens in federal penitentiaries. But there are those who are trying to make it better. One of those people is FBI agent Susan Hanson.
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But up front: Ongoing federal budget challenges
Two unrelated stories offer a view about the ongoing budget challenges facing federal agencies. These stories happen to focus on the Defense Department, but… they probably apply across most agencies:
The Pentagon Overpays for Almost Everything—Even Prescription Drugs [BusinessWeek] “If the Pentagon is so bad at providing good weapons to soldiers at a reasonable price, you might not expect it to be any better at buying anything else—and the evidence suggests it isn’t. Take the comparatively straightforward purchasing of off-the-shelf drugs, which the Pentagon does for active-duty and retired personnel and their dependents. Another recent GAOffice report compared net prices across a sample of 78 common and expensive brand-name and generic drugs. Compared to Medicaid, the DOD paid on average 60 percent more. One of the most reviled government agencies gets the best deal; the most loved, the worst. STORY: Counting Drugs and Prostitution in GDP Makes a Mockery of Budget Rules And yet Congress keeps expanding Pentagon’s portfolio. The department has spent more than $3.6 billion on breast cancer research. It funds science on alcohol and substance abuse, Alzheimer’s disease, and lung, ovarian, and prostate cancer. Overseas, we’ve asked it to play a lead role in the reconstruction of Haiti (spending half a billion dollars in the six months after the earthquake), to support anti-Malaria programs in Ethiopia, to vaccinate goats in Uganda, to rehabilitate dams in Afghanistan, and to build mobile phone networks in Iraq.”
Meanwhile, more focused on pay and benefits...
Hagel Says Cuts to Pay and Benefits are Needed [Military.com]: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Tuesday that troops and their families will be asked to sacrifice on pay and benefits to preserve readiness in an era of tighter budgets. Hagel listed politically-charged changes to compensation and personnel policy as one of his top six priorities in reforming the military following the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as the department gears up to meet new challenges. "This may be the most difficult" to achieve among his six priorities, Hagel said of proposals to trim pay increases, overhaul TRICARE and review retirement benefits while adapting to cuts in personnel.
The budget challenges continue.
The SEVEN stories that impact your life
Federal News Radio: Deal to improve veterans' health care costs $17B- “A bipartisan deal announced Monday would authorize about $17 billion to help veterans avoid long waits for health care, hire more doctors and nurses to treat veterans and make it easier to fire executives at the Department of Veterans Affairs. An agreement announced by the chairmen of the House and Senate Veterans Affairs committees is intended to fix a veterans' health program scandalized by long patient wait times and falsified records covering up delays.”
CNN: Hamas rejects Palestinian call for Gaza cease-fire- “Hamas on Tuesday rejected a call for a 24-hour truce from Palestinian leadership in the West Bank. Earlier, a report by official Palestinian news agency WAFA said Palestinian leadership was offering the truce to halt fighting in Gaza, and that it had support of Hamas and Islamic Jihad factions. Israel had no immediate comment.”
NPR: U.S. Accuses Russia Of Violating Nuclear Treaty- “The Obama administration says Russia has violated a 1987 nuclear pact by testing a ground-launched cruise missile. An administration official called the matter "very serious" and says the U.S. is "prepared to discuss this in a senior-level bilateral dialogue immediately."
Nextgov: A Drawback of the House-Senate VA Bill? Congress Can’t Create Doctors- “Legislation announced today by the Senate and House Veterans’ Affairs Committees aims to solve the wait-time crisis that has bedeviled veterans for years by providing $10 billion for vets, who live 40 miles from a Department of Veterans Affairs facility, to get treatment from private clinicians. There’s one problem with this approach. The entire country, not just VA, faces a shortage of primary care physicians. About 20 percent of Americans live in rural areas with too few doctors, and the shortage will grow to 45,000 nationally by 2020,according to Kaiser Health News.”
Government Executive: Congress Tries to Cram in Border Response, VA Reforms Before Summer Recess- “With the start of their summer recess later this week tantalizing lawmakers, Congress has a crammed getaway agenda—from dealing with the border crisis, to finalizing a patch for the Highway Trust Fund, to suing President Obama. There also is optimism—but not necessarily confidence—that a House and Senate conference agreement can finally be reached on reforming the embattled Veterans Affairs Department.”
Federal News Radio: DoD gave security clearances to thousands of 'federal tax cheats'- “About 83,000 Defense Department employees and contractors, who held or were determined eligible for a security clearance, owed more than $730 million in unpaid taxes as of June 2012, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office. Per GAO's recommendations, the Office of Personnel Management, Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) and DoD are now working to include tax-compliance checks to enhance security clearance processes, according to the report released Monday.”
Defense One: Senate Thinks It May Have the NSA Reform Bill Everyone Can Agree On- “More than a year after Edward Snowden’s leaks ignited a furious debate over the proper scope of government surveillance, Washington may finally be ready to fundamentally redefine the National Security Agency’s broad spying powers. Key senators have been working with the White House, tech companies, and privacy groups to rally behind a new bill that is expected to be introduced Tuesday.”
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CIOs Still Lack Respect from Executive Peers, Forrester Says [The Wall Street Journal] Business executives still see CIOs as IT turnkeys, not stewards of strategic technologies that can help acquire customers or grow revenue, according to a new Forrester Research Inc. survey. “We’ve built up this history for how CIOs do their job over the past 20 years, where their agenda was largely set by the CFO,” Forrester analyst Kyle McNabb tells CIO Journal. Executives in customer services, product development and sales were the harshest critics of CIOs, with 79%, 78%, and 74%, respectively, saying that IT does not accelerate their success. Sixty-nine percent of R&D managers and 51% of marketing managers said IT wasn’t a major factor in their tech projects. CIOs can transcend low expectations. Business managers need to understand that it is hard for vendors to tailor their products and services to particular customers. CIOs must provide competitive differentiation by implementing technology and processes that supports brands, products and services, said Mr. McNabb. That could include using social media and other digital technologies to capture data on customers’ consumption of the businesses’ products, as well predictive analytics to glean insights that are specific to the business.
U.S. Army investigates 3-D printing [GigaOm] The U.S. Army is looking into 3-D printing, but not to produce bobble-heads and other tsotchkes. GigaOm says that the latest issue of Army Technololgy is looking at printing everything from weapons and armor, to medical equipment, organs, skin and even food. Weapon printing technology already exists, and even printing skin “is already a surprisingly mature technology,” GigaOm reports. Count on whatever 3-D printing process the Army focuses on to help drive development and adoption in other industries, she says.