Tuesday Morning Federal Newscast – June 8th

Pilots launched to test expanded bargaining, IG: IRS data centers waste energy, Coast Guard calls for spill solutions, GSA IG dings e-travel system

The Morning Federal Newscast is a daily compilation of the stories you hear plans for pilot programs expanding union bargaining to issues such as the number and qualifications of employees assigned to a particular project, the technology involved and the methods of work. Once approved, the tests will have to be completed by November. Participating agencies include the Departments of Homeland Security, Veterans Affairs, Labor and Treasury.

  • A new face is coming to the Census Bureau, and it belongs to a statistician. Director Robert Groves has named Roderick Little, a biostatistician from the University of Michigan, to become associate director for statistical methodology at the Bureau. Little will begin the new job in September. Little’s main tasks will be improving the quality of census data and developing strategies to boost citizen participation in government surveys. Low survey buy-in has ballooned the costs of conducting the decennial census, which will reach $15 billion this year.
  • You’ve got to follow best practices if you really want to “go green.” The Treasury Department’s Inspector General says that as much as a third of the energy used in the IRS’ data centers is being wasted because they’re not following industry best practices. Federal Times reports that the energy savings could total more than $3 million dollars over four years – even more if they took similar measures at their nine other campuses. The IRS has agreed to convene a working group to study energy efficiency at all its data centers.
  • Let the oil drilling start over again — soon. That’s the word from the Obama administration, which says it will speed up issuance of new rules for offshore oil and drilling. After the Gulf of Mexico spill, the administration had placed a moratorium on shallow water exploration. But arising anger over jobs and income losses from the moratorium are forcing the administration to speed up the new rules, according to the Wall Street Journal.
  • The Coast Guard is looking for new ideas on how to clean up the Gulf of Mexico. Its Research and Development Center is asking companies, nonprofits, academics and federal laboratories to submit white papers on tracking oil, shutting the wellhead, new response technologies, damage assessments and restoration of areas damaged by oil. NextGov reports, proposals will be accepted for a year and should include cost estimates.
  • The Transportation Security Administration says full-body scans are about to become routine for passengers at BWI Airport. There are four machines at Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport that scan passengers using advanced imaging technology. TSA spokeswoman Lauren Gaches says starting today, the machines will become the primary method of screening passengers at the security checkpoints that have them.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is moving medical records from its old system to a brand-new one. Engineering Services Network, Inc. has won a contract from the VA worth nearly $11 million dollars to help them move the records and keep them private. The Washington Business Journal reports ESN will provide information technology solutions as part of the VA’s HIPPA compliance by upgrading its health information systems. ESN is a service-disabled, veteran-owned contractor.
  • Some good news from the Federal Housing Administration. The government agency says the rate of foreclosures are starting to slow down. The Wall Street Journal reports home mortgages insured by FHA are falling into delinquency at a slower rate than they have in the past. If this keeps up, it could help the government agency avoid a taxpayer bailout. In April, nearly 8.5% of loans backed by the agency were 90 days or more past due. While that was still higher than a year earlier, April marked the third consecutive month in which delinquencies declined.
  • More than a year after the CIA’s inspector general stepped down, frustrated members of Congress are urging the White House to fill the internal watchdog position that was central in uncovering abuses inside the spy agency. Several possible candidates have fallen by the wayside despite assurances from the Obama administration that a nominee will be chosen soon.
  • The General Services Administration’s client support centers have received good reviews from the agency’s inspector general. Federal Computer Week cites three IG audits of GSA’s client support centers (or CSCs) in Southeast Sunbelt, Mid-Atlantic and National Capital regions. The audits found them to be in compliance with Federal Acquisition Regulation and the Defense Department’s procurement requirements. The reports also say each of the regions had put controls in place to improve contracting practices.
  • The global risk consulting business Kroll Inc. is being sold for $1.1 billion to the Falls Church group Altegrity Inc. Owner Marsh & McLennan announced the planned sale today before Wall Street opened. They say the transaction should be wrapped up in September. Altegrity does a range of contract work, mostly for the federal government, including security clearance investigations for the government and training and consulting for police departments in such places as Afghanistan, Colombia, Iraq and Pakistan.
  • The Army is seeking proposals to build a virtual world encompassing 10,000 avatars, or online stand-ins for real people. They would be managed by artificial intelligence and operate in a virtual zone of 32 square miles. NextGov reports, officials at the Army Research, Development and Engineering Command’s Simulation and Technology Training Center are looking for a systems integrator to build the world, complete with vehicles and weapons to move around the digital terrain. The avatars would also have smart phones that operates like real ones.
  • Formal requests for federal data and information fell off by more than 47,000 in fiscal 2009, compared with the year before. The Washington Post cites Justice Department numbers that say federal agencies and departments received a combined 557,825 Freedom of Information Act requests in the fiscal year that ended in September. That’s down from 605,491 requests in the previous year. The Department of Homeland Security received 103,093 requests, the most of any agency, followed by the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments.

  • More news links

    GSA inspector general dings e-travel system for high costs and poor design (NextGov)

    Full-body scanner debuts at Omaha airport

    At Nevada lab, US prepares response to nuke terror

    Northrop Grumman gets Navy aircraft carrier work

    Former Blackwater seeks new owner

    Military Taps Social Networking Skills (NYTimes)

    Hackers Look to Help Disaster Relief Efforts (NewNewInternet)

    Prosecutors: Ex-FBI agent used job to aid pro golfer

    Assistant U.S. attorney wins car with hole-in-one (The Billings Gazette)


    Coming up today on The DorobekInsider:

    ** Is there a better way to create regulations? The Transportation Department is working with the Cornell Law School to create the Regulation Room. We’ll get details.

    ** And you remember the Conficker worm. It has been out there for a few years — and it still is. In fact, it’s morphing. The Atlantic magazine has a history of that computer worm — and we’ll find out what it means for you.

    Join Chris from 3 to 7 pm on 1500 AM or on your computer.

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