Federal Drive Interviews — Oct. 2, 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:

Casey Coleman — chief information officer, General Services Administration

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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:

Casey Colemanchief information officer, General Services Administration

The concept of a mobile workforce with people out and about interacting with customers and carrying their trusty smart phones may sound nice. Under the best circumstances, it would be liberating, efficient and responsive to today’s needs. But it certainly isn’t simple or easy to orchestrate. The organizers of a conference happening later this month insist that help is coming. Casey Coleman, the chief information officer at the General Services Administration, is the government chair of the 2012 Executive Leadership Conference. She offers a preview of the event.

Lynn Bernabeipartner, Bernabei and Watchel

The House has passed a sweeping update to the law protecting federal whistleblowers. But some government watchdog groups say it doesn’t go far enough, and it leaves out protections for too many agencies. Lynn Bernabei, a partner at the law firm Bernabei and Watchel, has a lot of experience in whistleblower matters, and she offers her analysis of this bill.

Tom Foxvice-president for leadership and innovation, Partnership for Public Service

These are uncertain times for federal managers. There’s the presidential election, the retirement tsunami, the continuing resolution and sequestration looming. So how do you keep your workforce motivated?

Miriam Nisbetdirector, Office of Government Information Services, National Archives

A coalition of agencies has launched a website to help the public get federal records. The site is FOIAonline It lets you submit and track Freedom of Information Act requests and access previously released records. If it streamlines the process, it could help agencies tackle a nagging backlog of FOIA requests too.


DoD Report

  • The Pentagon says the continuing budget resolution that took effect Monday fails to authorize the training of Iraqi security forces. Congress left the Iraqi Security Forces Fund out of the CR it passed last month. But Defense officials say military trainers will stay in Iraq while the Pentagon works through the issue. Fewer than 200 American troops are still in Iraq, and fewer than 100 contractor support personnel. A Defense spokesman said the department was exploring possible ways to make sure the training is not interrupted.

  • The Education Department is awarding more than $14 million to projects that promise to prepare military veterans for college. The Upward Bound program targets low-income, first-generation vets. It offers more than academic instruction. Vets can receive financial and personal counseling and help with SATs and financial aid applications. It said 51 projects, including one run by Prince George’s Community College in Maryland, are receiving grants. They will serve about 6,800 veterans over the next five years.

  • The Army is planning to offer early retirement to officers with more than 15 years of service but less than 20. Secretary John McHugh sent a memo to commanders worldwide. In it, he directed them to implement the “temporary early retirement authority,” which he calls discretionary. He said soldiers may request early retirement if they cannot move up in their careers because there weren’t enough positions. The directive is effective immediately. Congress last year authorized the Pentagon to offer early retirements. Soldiers have been anticipating this move with the drawdown of troops overseas.

  • Vice President Joe Biden and Defense Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter helped say goodbye yesterday to one of the icons of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They marked the end of production of the mine-resistant, ambush protected vehicles known as MRAPs that are credited with saving thousands of lives. Nearly 28,000 of them were built in the past five years. But Biden recalled that Congress almost did not fund the $47 billion program. Lawmakers questioned the expense but were swayed by military leaders who called it a “moral imperative.” Now as the Pentagon draws down troops in Afghanistan and shifts its focus to Asia, it said it needed lighter, more agile vehicles.

These stories are part of Federal News Radio’s daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.

Cybersecurity Update

  • One of the White House’s biggest Republican allies on cybersecurity said an executive order would be a “big mistake.” Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) has pushed for a comprehensive, bipartisan bill in Congress. It appears to be going nowhere, but Collins said a White House directive isn’t the answer. She said it could lull people into falsely believing leaders had “taken care of” cybersecurity when, in fact, an executive order has limited powers. She said the president can’t grant liability protection or offer other incentives to encourage businesses to share information about cyber attacks. She noted the order could be reversed by a subsequent administration. Collins spoke at a cybersecurity event in Washington yesterday. A draft order directs the government to set voluntary cybersecurity standards for companies and create a special council to review current regulations.

  • The White House said it successfully beat back a cyber attack, according to the Associated Press. Officials said hackers tried to infiltrate an unclassified network. But White House security measures spotted the attack, isolated it and prevented its spread. The hackers had tried a spear-phishing attack. They sent an email that looked genuine in an attempt to get the recipients to reveal information. Officials said there was no indication the hackers got any data. The White House refused to say whether the attack was linked to China, as a conservative news outlet, the Washington Free Beacon, reported Sunday.

These stories are part of Federal News Radio’s daily Cybersecurity Update. For more cybersecurity news, click here.