Federal Drive Interviews — Oct. 30, 2012

This is the Federal Drive show blog. Here you can listen to the interviews, find more information about the guests on the show each day and links to additional resources.

Today’s guests:

Steven Cooperacting deputy director, National Weather Service


The National Weather Service has been keeping all of us informed about the weather. Now we’re going to take an inside look at the agency’s war room.

NWS ramps up to track Post-tropical Cyclone Sandy

Steven Musserdirector of the office of regulatory science, Food and Drug Administration

It’s hard enough to map the DNA of even one bacterium. But the Food and Drug Administration set out to create a database of 100,000 food borne pathogens. The thinking was, that would really help track and limit illness caused by food worldwide. Steven Musser, director of the office of regulatory science at the Food and Drug Administration, led the coalition that resulted in the Genome Project for Food Pathogens, and he won a Health and Human Services Innovation Award. He explained that FDA embarked on this work with some highly able partners.

Debra Katzfounding partner, Katz, Marshall and Banks

A new report to Congress says harassment and discrimination are on the rise … In Congressional offices themselves, that is. But that finding is just part of the story. The report comes from the Office of Compliance, a small bureau that helps 30,000 legislative-branch staff with workplace issues. Its director is pleading for more resources and support from lawmakers. Workplace discrimination lawyer Debra Katz is a founding partner of Katz, Marshall and Banks in Washington. She’s represented Congressional staff in discrimination cases, and gave us her reaction to the report.

John Palgutavice president of policy, Partnership for Public Service

There’s a silver lining in the Frankenstorm for federal employees. Whereas most of the time, feds hear plenty of calls for smaller government and cuts to their pay and benefits.

Lt. Cmdr. Jamie FrederickCoast Guard

It’s hard to imagine an agency busier during the Sandy episode than the Coast Guard. It even had to rescue people from a tall sailing ship which sank off North Carolina. Joining us for a review of Coast Guard operations in the last few days is Lt. Cmdr. Jamie Frederick.

Coast Guard kicks into high gear after Sandy

Col. Jeffrey PoundingNational Guard

As Sandy approached, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta appointed “dual status” commanders at the National Guard in six states. That allows them to integrate support operations from DoD at a governor’s request.


Cybersecurity Update

  • Sometimes the way to a child’s heart is through pirated music, or so some U.S. diplomats might think. The Associated Press reported the U.S. Embassy in Vietnam is using Zing.yn to reach a younger audience. The site lets users download illegal copies of songs and Hollywood movies. While that’s something the U.S. government staunchly opposes, the site provides it with a rare vehicle for public diplomacy in Communist Vietnam. Sometimes, U.S. diplomats use their social media account on the site to post news about copyright infringements, but their presence remains controversial. Coca-cola and Samsung pulled ads from the site earlier this month because of piracy concerns.

DoD Report

  • Pentagon officials are asking China if it wants to share resources. U.S. officials said it a groundbreaking development for logistics. They have invited Chinese officials to visit Washington early next year. They’ll discuss sharing fuel, food, supplies and even ship parts to support joint operations. Those include counter-piracy, humanitarian assistance and disaster-response missions. The Pentagon has considered the arrangement before but did not pursue it because of strained relations with China. Now may be different. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta recently visited China to promote closer cooperation.
  • A Navy cruiser and submarine have collided off the East Coast. Both vessels are back in port so they can be examined for damage. The Aegis Cruiser USS San Jacinto and the submarine USS Montpelier were on routine training operations. No one was injured, according to the Navy. A spokesman said the nuclear propulsion system of the submarine was not damaged. The surface ship headed to Naval Station Mayport in Jacksonville, Fla., under its own power. The sub went to Naval Submarine Base Kings Bay in southern Georgia. The Navy is investigating the collision, which it called rare, but did not release more specifics.
  • Federal installations and contractors outside of Washington spent yesterday monitoring headquarters. In Huntsville, Ala., the Redstone Arsenal and its contractors were told, Missile Defense Agency headquarters in Washington was shut down until further notice. Alabama.com reports, facilities in the Huntsville area operated without interruption. But it says the storm cut the vital lines between local agencies and contractors, and their headquarters in Washington or Northern Virginia. The Army Material Command, housed at Redstone, was working with U.S. Northern Command in case a help request came from Washington.
  • Northern Command is offering help to FEMA, states and local governments responding to Sandy. Service members are on 24-hour “prepare to deploy” status. They’ve got helicopters, para-rescue teams and other responders at the ready. Military medical planners are also helping states. Bases in Massachusetts, New Jersey and Delaware are serving as incident-support bases for federal equipment and supplies. The Pentagon has directed all installations to offer support to local communities that request help.