Federal Drive interviews – Nov. 20

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) describes the bipartisan support around the DATA Act. Michael Courts of the GAO recaps his testimony on diplomatic security related to ...

Michael CourtsActing Director for International Affairs and Trade Issues, Government Accountability Office

The attack on the U.S. compound in Benghazi, Libya, has shone a spotlight on diplomatic security. The Government Accountability Office says it’s one of the State Department’s long-standing weaknesses despite efforts to improve. Over the years, the bureau in charge has seen its budget rise 900 percent and it’s hired more staff. So why isn’t it working? Courts recently testified before a Congressional panel investigating the Benghazi situation.

Dr. Charles H. RomineDirector of the Information Technology Laboratory, NIST

The medical profession has been slow to adopt electronic health records. For the last four years, the federal government has offered grants to practitioners who can demonstrate what’s called meaningful use of EHRs. If they can, they get help paying for the records systems. Romine explains what meaningful use is and how it advances public policy.

Kathleen StrattonPublic Health Expert, Pew Charitable Trusts

Post-hurricane health concerns, a new food-safety law, they’re all part of the FDA’s mission. But so is the day-to-day responsibility of regulating. Can the agency do it all? The Pew Charitable Trusts and the Partnership for Public Service have a new report on the FDA workforce.

Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.)

Congress doesn’t fight over everything. For example, the Data Act. It’s designed to increase transparency and streamline management for the federal government. It was introduced by Virginia Democratic Senator Mark Warner along with Ohio Republican Rob Portman.

Read and listen to Part 1 of Warner’s interview on the fiscal cliff.

Vince MiconeVice Chair, Federal Coordinating Committee for the Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capitol Area

There is no shortage of worthy causes to support this holiday season. From agencies to nonprofit organizations and neighbors, it seems everyone is raising money or collecting donations to help victims of Hurricane Sandy. But the emergency fundraising is giving the biggest workplace charity drive a run for its money. The Combined Federal Campaign of the National Capitol Area has raised more than $20 million so far.

Joe PetrilloProcurement Attorney, Petrillo and Powell

Bid protests have been on a steady rise for a few years now. In fact they’re a their highest level in 20 years. Although most of them get settled between the parties, plenty still go to judgement by the Government Accountability Office. Petrillo explains why protests are steadily rising and what effect this is having on contractor relations.

Ed Meagher“Husky Elf”, Operation Covert Santa

Many injured soldiers and their families will renew their belief in Santa this year. It’s all thanks to a group of anonymous elves who donate, buy, and wrap gifts for these heroes and their loved ones. Our next guest goes by the handle Husky Elf. He is leading the team at Operation Covert Santa for the sixth year and he’s here to tell us all about the mission. The Husky Elf is really Ed Meagher, who runs the Veterans Affairs practice at SRA International.

Email “Husky Elf” at huskyelf@cox.net.


Cybersecurity Update

Reams of stories have been published about the Presidential Policy Directive 20. Now one group wants to see the secret document itself. Lawyers with the Electronic Privacy Information Center have filed a Freedom of Information Act request to see the directive. The president signed it last month. The policy details how federal agencies, including those in the Defense Department, should respond to cyber attacks. Many observers believe PPD-20 gives agencies the right to operate outside the firewall. That is, to go after hackers. EPIC lawyers want to see if the military can oversee cybersecurity at telecom companies. (InfoWars.com)

Israel’s finance minister says the nation is defending its networks against millions of hacking attempts. So far, most efforts to disrupt Israeli websites have failed. A denial of service attack took down one web site temporarily. But the government says it’s gone into “emergency mode” to ward off more than 60 million attempts. The hacking collective Anonymous is urging critics of the airstrikes on Gaza to attack the websites. Cyber security experts say hacking attempts are an aspect of modern-day warfare. Israel is widely considered to have launched cyber attacks on other nations, including Iran, with the help of the United States. (Reuters)

DoD Report

The Army plans to close its National Capital Region contracting center in Alexandria next year. That will affect six uniformed and 260 civilian jobs They’ll all be offered jobs at other Army contracting locations. The Army says the workload will be handled by contracting centers in Illinois, New Jersey, Michigan, Maryland and Alabama. Maj. Gen. Camille Nichols oversees the contracting command. She says the closure of the Alexandria office will save about $13 milliona year. It has high turnover and high rent. Employees have until Jan. 8 to make a decision on new job offers. (Army)

One military spouse is blaming a long cycle of war for destroying marriages. Rebecca Sinclair published an op-ed last week in the Washington Post and has been doing media interviews since. She says war is no excuse for her husband’s infidelity, but his five military deployments since 9/11 have taken their toll on the marriage. Her husband, Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair, is accused of far more than adultery. He is being tried for crimes including forcible sodomy. But Rebecca Sinclair says she’s sure he will be cleared of wrongdoing. She says she’s speaking out to raise awareness of the pressures on military families. (Washington Post)

The Pentagon is hoping a new website will improve communication with contractors. The Defense Innovation Marketplace lets both the military and small business owners explore the latest DoD desires or projects. And both industry and academia can market their latest technology or research. It’s part of the Pentagon’s larger Better Buying Power initiative to get more bang for its buck. If it’s successful, boosters say, it could make some conferences unnecessary or at least more focused because the parties already know what the other wants or can deliver. One Pentagon advisor says the website is a response to industry complaints over poor communication. (Defense Department)

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