Is the subway safe? What about the bus? Local officials once had to answer those questions. Now, the feds do too. A new law gives the Federal Transit Administration responsibility for ensuring safety of all sorts of public transportation, from subways to buses and ferries. It’s a sweeping law not only in its scope but in its impact on the agency itself. FTA Administrator Peter Rogoff talks about the Moving Ahead for Progress in the 21st Century Act.
For decades, the 8(a) program in federal contracting has given protection to small, women-owned and other businesses deemed disadvantaged. But now a U.S. District Court has ruled the 8(a) program unconstitutional. But hold on, not that much is likely to change, at least for now.
Erik Wasson — staff writer, The Hill newspaper
Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) has issued a new report on what he said was wasteful, frivolous federal spending. Coburn’s Wastebook 2012 details 100 projects he said wasted $18 billion. Coburn cited big items, such as a failure to use more strategic sourcing that could save tens of billions. Coburn doesn’t absolve Congress. He said it let down taxpayers this year by passing only 61 bills. That compares with what President Truman called the do-nothing 80th Congress of the late 1940s. Erik Wasson wrote about the report for The Hill newspaper.
Juliet Beyler — acting director, Officer and Enlisted Personnel Management
Oct. 21 is the final deadline for service members, veterans and their families to apply for retroactive pay for extended tours of duty following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But most who qualify for the special pay are no longer serving active duty. The Pentagon is trying to reach those who are eligible through multiple avenues.
The Defense Department is potentially leaving millions of dollars on the table, thanks to single bid contracts. The Defense inspector general looked at 107 contracts and modifications worth $1.4 billion. It found that in nearly a third of them, contracting shops didn’t follow guidance for single-bid deals. The IG blames the Defense Procurement and Acquisition Policy office for not exercising enough oversight. The IG said that in many cases, contracts in which requirements were changed should have been re-competed. The office mostly agreed with the IG’s findings.
The Air Force is emailing every recruit who attended a training center mired in a sexual assault scandal. An official told Reuters they’ve gone back a decade, contacting about 300,000 people in all. The message: report sexual assaults, misconduct or unprofessional relationships. It has set up a 24-hour hotline for anonymous tips. Victims’ advocates welcomed the email. They said the sex scandal at the Lackland Air Base resulted from “command climate and culture” not a “few bad apples.” So far, 19 instructors have been implicated in the scandal. Five have been convicted or have pleaded guilty.
The Pentagon wants to know if a dietary supplement can prevent suicide. The Military Operational Medicine Joint Program Committee has commissioned a study by the Medical University of South Carolina, the National Institutes of Health and a VA hospital. More than 300 veterans will drink Omega-3 smoothies daily in the three-year study. The researchers say they believe Omega-3 can counter depression and substance abuse. They will ask vets at risk of suicide and alcohol abuse to participate. The Army is grappling with record-high numbers of suicides. It said 38 soldiers took their own lives in July.
The United Kingdom has blocked the extradition of an alleged computer hacker to the United States. The Justice Department wants to prosecute Gary McKinnon, alleging he hacked U.S. military computers and deleted files. Home Secretary Theresa May stopped extradition on humanitarian grounds. She said McKinnon suffers from depression and Asberger’s Syndrome, and calls him a suicide risk. It’s the first time the UK has stopped an extradition since the current treaty was signed in 2003. A spokeswoman said the Justice Department is disappointed by the decision.
First there was Stuxnet then Flame and now mini-Flame. Cybersecurity firm Kaspersky Lab said this new malware is small and stealthy. It said if the Flame virus were a massive spy operation then mini-Flame was a high-precision, surgical-attack tool. Researchers said it was designed to steal data and gain direct access to infected systems. They estimated that mini-Flame has infected just 50 systems in Western Asia. Kaspersky said Flame and a related virus called Gauss have targeted 10,000 computers, mostly in Iran and Sudan. Cyber experts have linked Flame with the United States and Israel.