Federal Drive interviews – Oct. 31

Edward MorcheSenior Vice President, Level 3 Government Markets Group

Hurricane Sandy didn’t manage to bring down federal websites or data centers. But not everyone was so lucky. Several big commercial sites were knocked out, even though they thought they had backup. Morche says a big mistake for IT people, whether government or private, is not making sure their communications carriers have physically redundant links from a primary data center to the backup, and vice-versa.

(Photo:Carnegie Mellon)
David DzombakCarnegie Mellon engineering professor, chaired the National Research Council committee

As the East Coast slowly begins to dry up, some academics are warning that floods and other disasters will be in our future unless the federal government makes major changes. The National Research Council has published a report. calling on the Army Corps of Engineers to change to the way it manages 14,000 miles of levees, 700 dams and many more water structures. It calls on Congress and the White House to act too. Dzombak chaired the committee that wrote the report.

Water resource infrastructure not adequately funded, report says

Fred SmithTechnology Team Leader, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Federal agencies have spent nearly 20 years building up their stores of online information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has launched a program to make better use of all that information. It’s called content syndication, and it’s more than just letting a search engine find it.

Steve BauerDirector, FEEA

If you’re a federal employee hurt by Sandy, there’s help for you. The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund is providing emergency loans and grants. But the organization says it needs help too. Other natural disasters have nearly drained its coffers.

Read more:

Feds can apply for disaster relief through FEEA

Russell BermanReporter, The Hill

Congressional staffers believe they are overworked. In a new survey of more than 1,400 staffers conducted by the Congressional Management Foundation, 56 percent said they work harder than people with similar positions in the private sector.

Read more:

Study: Congressional staffers believe they work longer than average hours


Agency of the Month

This week’s guest on Agency of the Month is Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe, who gives an update on the latest on Congressional legislation affecting USPS and the status of buyouts and the size of the postal workforce.

DoD Report

National Guard members are out in force around the Washington region. In Virginia, they are bolstering local police forces by helping to control traffic at accident sites. They’ve helped firefighters take residents to hospitals and shelters. They are also helping clear debris like fallen trees. The District has asked the Guard to provide similar support through November fourth. And in Maryland, Guard members have been providing round-the-clock help to coastal residents. (Defense Department)

Spending by the Intelligence community fell in 2012 for the second year in a row. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence says total funding was $53.9 billion. Reuters reports that includes civilian activities such as the CIA and the National Reconnaissance Office. Military intelligence accounted for another $21.5 billion. The total, more than 75 billion, is down from the 20-11 figure of nearly $79 billion. Officials gave no other details about how the money is spent. Although intelligence spending has declined, it is still about twice the level as before the 9/11 attacks. (Reuters)

Cybersecurity Report

A massive data breach in South Carolina underscores the gaps between feds and states when it comes to cybersecurity. USA Today reports federal agencies have made their networks more secure over the past decade. Not all states have followed suit. In South Carolina, officials estimate the cyber thieves took more than 3.6 million Social Security numbers. None of those numbers were encrypted. They say the hackers used state-approved computer credentials to access state databases. This year there have been 76 reported security breaches of government and military networks in which nearly 10 million records were accessed. But cybersecurity experts suspect that’s just a fraction of the actual number of successful cyber attacks. (USA Today)

Video feeds from U.S. military drones are still downloading un-encrypted. That’s four years since the discovery that anyone can intercept the feeds and see what U.S. forces see. Sources tell Wired Magazine’s Danger Room, about half the feeds are encrypted. But it will take until 2014 until they all are. Early drones were too small and underpowered to take heavy encryption gear aloft. Later models can carry 10 times the weight of the first generation of drones. Armed, video-equipped drones have become the Pentagon’s weapon of choice for finding and killing terrorists. They’re flown in Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. (Wired)

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