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White House doubles down on Cybersecurity – Plus the DorobekINSIDER 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • 2012 was a banner year for the Thrift Savings Plan. Funds across the board saw marked improvements. But do you know what each fund actually does? Insights from the TSP’s Kim Weaver.

But up front: Cybersecurity

The New York Times reports today that the Obama administration is seeking broad powers to deal with cyber-attacks.

A secret legal review on the use of America’s growing arsenal of cyberweapons has concluded that President Obama has the broad power to order a pre-emptive strike if the United States detects credible evidence of a major digital attack looming from abroad, according to officials involved in the review, report David E. Sanger and Thom Shanker in Monday’s New York Times.
That decision is among several reached in recent months as the administration moves, in the next few weeks, to approve the nation’s first rules for how the military can defend, or retaliate, against a major cyberattack. New policies will also govern how the intelligence agencies can carry out searches of faraway computer networks for signs of potential attacks on the United States and, if the president approves, attack adversaries by injecting them with destructive code – even if there is no declared war.
The rules will be highly classified, just as those governing drone strikes have been closely held. John O. Brennan, Mr. Obama’s chief counterterrorism adviser and his nominee to run the Central Intelligence Agency, played a central role in developing the administration’s policies regarding both drones and cyberwarfare, the two newest and most politically sensitive weapons in the American arsenal.


Defense News: The Pentagon is expected to send a request to Congress on Feb. 15 to furlough civilian workers under sequestration, according to Defense News. DoD also has to submit plans to the White House this week for dealing with the across-the-board cuts, which are set to begin taking effect March 1 unless Congress intervenes.

The continuing resolution is set to expire next month; the sequester also is slated to kick in, reported Politico.

On “Meet the Press,” Panetta called on Congress to act, saying it would “really be a shameful and irresponsible act” for Congress to allow sequestration to take effect on March 1. “We are going to weaken the United States and make it much more difficult for us to respond to the crises in the world.’

Worth reading:

  • Tech titans take battle to the cloud. Microsoft and Google are trying to unseat Amazon.com Inc. in cloud computing. The Wall Street Journal reports that Amazon dominates the market through its Amazon Web Services business and it’s trying to sell AWS to some of the big companies that are Microsoft’s bread-and-butter. The three companies are poaching each other’s employees, slashing prices, talking trash and upending long-held strategies to control cloud services. Software can predict epidemics. Researchers at Microsoft and the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology have developed software that can accurately predict outbreaks of disease by using New York Times articles and other online sources, reports MIT Technology Review’s Tom Simonite. The system provides striking results when tested on historical data. For example, reports of droughts in Angola in 2006 triggered a warning about possible cholera outbreaks in the country, because previous events had taught the system that cholera outbreaks were more likely in years following droughts. Microsoft’s lead researcher, Eric Horvitz, says the performance is good enough to suggest that a more refined version could be used in real settings, to assist experts at, for example, government aid agencies involved in planning humanitarian response and readiness. “We’ve done some reaching out and plan to do some follow-up work with such people,” Mr. Horvitz said.
  • TechReview: Software Predicts Tomorrow’s News by Analyzing Today’s and Yesterday’s

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The Merit Systems Protection Board found in a workforce survey that only 41 percent of federal workers say their organization retains the best employees, Government Executive reports. Less than a quarter of federal workers believe their organization “addresses poor performers effectively,” according to the survey from the independent agency. The board also recommended that that the government better prepare its workforce because only 60 percent of employees felt they received the necessary training.
  2. In a letter to his employees Energy Secretary Steven Chu gave a list of reasons why he will be leaving the cabinet. In his letter, Chu talked of making decision not based on a state or politics but on the content of that decision. I came with dreams, and am leaving with a set of accomplishments that we should all be proud of. Those accomplishments are because of all your dedication and hard work. Click here to find out why NPR called Chu an intriguing choice for the Cabinet.
  3. Director Mark Sullivan is leaving the Secret Service. Politico reports, Sullivan is stepping down after 7 years as the director. Sullivan and his agency came under intense public scrutiny last year when agents were ensnared in a prostitution scandal in Colombia ahead of Obama’s visit there. At the time, Obama said he had complete confidence in Sullivan’s leadership of the agency.
  4. The head of National Transportation Safety Board is the President’s top pick to the be the new Director of the Transportation Board. The Wall Street Journal reports, Deborah Hersman, a Democrat who is a former congressional staffer for both parties, has won bipartisan praise from lawmakers for increasing the profile of the independent safety board, partly by promoting highway safety and speeding up completion of probes into commercial-aviation accidents and incidents. Hersman would replace Ray Lahood.
  5. The National Weather Service is firing a top official who criticized budget cuts in a Washington Post interview. The Post reports, William Proenza and his supporters called his firing a retaliation for going public with a plan to shut down radars on sunny days in the South to save power costs. But the Weather Service’s acting director said there was no such connection and, in his termination letter, cited Proenza for the transfer under his watch of $528,000 between accounts last year without authorization.
  6. NextGov reports, the Veterans Affairs Department has kicked off a massive study in cooperation with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Defense Department to determine the cause of veterans’ deaths since 1979, an effort that requires matching records of 34 million service personnel with death certificates. The VA is also offering cash prizes to any vendor that can prove its product successfully integrates with the department’s electronic health records system.
  7. And on GovLoop, have you registered for the next DorobekINSIDER live: BYOD? Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) continues to shape the government workforce. Like any new technology initiative, one of the core concerns about implementation surrounds security. Today, technology exists to allow government agencies to fully leverage BYOD strategies and protect information and data. You can register here.

The DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • TheDuffelBlog: U.S. Intelligence Community Successfully Predicts Super Bowl. Even more amazing, the analyst has never watched a football game and knew absolutely nothing about football prior to his being assigned to the American-Rules Football Desk at the Central Intelligence Agency. “Well, when we first hired Analyst “Jay” [not his real name] in 2007 he told us that he really wanted to work the Baseball Desk, since he’d been playing baseball ever since he was a kid and totally loved the sport,” said an anonymous highly-placed CIA official.
  • Intl Business Times: Why TSA’s Canine Unit Is In The Doghouse
  • See The 8 Best Ads Of Super Bowl XLVII

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