Monthly Archives: February, 2011

Shutdown planning, then and now


With much of the government at risk of a forced vacation next month, there are some obvious parallels with the last such showdown, which resulted in back-to-back closures in late 1995 and early 1996. A bitter battle over spending; a Democratic president pitted against Republican lawmakers, many of them freshmen itching to shrink the federal footprint. The last time around, though, executive branch preparations appear to have started a lot sooner. Consider some evidence gleaned from congressional testimony: On August 22, 1995—almost three full months before the first shutdown occurred that November–then-Office of Management and Budget Director Alice Rivlin told all department…

Government responses to shutdown questions UPDATE


The Energy, Commerce and Defense departments seem to be on the same page, at least when it comes to handling media inquires about a possible government shutdown. As a matter of course, here is what the Defense Department sent over: As a matter of course, the Department of Defense plans for contingencies. In fact, since 1980, all agencies have had to have a plan in case of a government shutdown, and these plans are updated routinely. We will do everything we have to do to continue to support the deployed troops. The Department must also continue many other operations necessary for the…

Government responses to shutdown questions eerily similar


The staff over here at Federal Times are getting a sense of deja vu from agency responses to our questions about a possible government shutdown. Here is a response from the Energy Department (Emphasis added). As a matter of course, our agency plans for contingencies, but this is besides the point since, as the bipartisan congressional leadership has said on a number of occasions and as the President has made clear, no one anticipates or wants a government shutdown. The Department is working with both sides on Capitol Hill to fund the government and keep its vital services and functions…

USPS pension puzzle


Here’s an intriguing nugget from the U.S. Postal Service’s latest quarterly report: Even as the Obama administration agrees that the Postal Service is owed a huge refund on past payments to its pension program, the Office of Personnel Management—headed by Obama appointee John Berry—is requiring it to shell out more for current payments. For the first quarter of fiscal 2011, the Postal Service’s contributions to the Federal Employees Retirement System, or FERS, rose by $24 million—from $1,469 million to $1.493 million—versus the same period in fiscal 2010, even though the USPS workforce continued to shrink, the report says. The reason,…

The presidential line: Shutdown? What shutdown?


So if you ask federal agencies what they are doing in advance of a possible shutdown, you get vaguely similar answers. One of the main qualities they share is how unsatisfying they are. From the Department of Homeland Security. “The President has been clear that he does not want to see a shutdown, and we have heard similarly from Capitol Hill. We are committed to working together to make sure that we fund government so the American people get the services they need and rely on.” From the General Services Administration. “The Administration is working to keep the government up…

Cybersecurity bill prohibits Internet "kill switch"


Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, Joe Lieberman, ID-Conn., and Tom Carper, D-Del, introduced a cybersecurity bill Thursday that would prevent the president or any federal employee from shutting down the Internet. The 2011 Cybersecurity and Internet Freedom Act would amend the 2002 Federal Information Security Act and set limits on what the government can do to protect information infrastructure. “Our bill contains additional protections to explicitly prevent the president from shutting down the Internet,” Collins said in a released statement.  “While experts question whether anyone can technically ‘shut down’ the Internet in the United States, our bill has specific language making it crystal clear that…

Homeland Security error shuts down 84,000 websites


Major hat tip to the good folks over at BoingBoing who spread the word about the Department of Homeland Security accidentally shutting down 84,000 personal and business websites in what was a an attempt to block child pornography gone awry. DHS maintains it has the authority to shut down domains and subdomains it sees as having child pornography on it. However in this instance it might have been a case of too much too fast. The people over at have a good summation. The domain in question is, which belongs to the DNS provider FreeDNS. It is the…

Obama picks Intelligence Community CIO


Former CIA chief information officer Al Tarasiuk is President Barack Obama’s top choice for CIO of the Intelligence Community. Tarasiuk served as the CIO of CIA from 2005 to 2010. Before that, he was director of the CIA’s Information Service Center. “Al is well known for his leadership in information sharing and intelligence integration, and his experience, distinguished career and dedication to duty will greatly benefit the entire Intelligence Community,” National Intelligence Director James Clapper said in a news release.

Looking for a few honest cyber professionals


If you plan on landing a cybersecurity job with the federal government, above all, you’d better be honest, a good learner and resilient. Oh yeah, make sure you can read and write.  That’s according to most government cybersecurity workers and managers who participated in the Office of Personnel Management’s cybersecurity survey last fall. OPM reached out to 50,000 feds for their thoughts about the most critical tasks and competencies required to be an effective cyber worker. Their responses were used to create a so-called cybersecurity competency model for information technology management, electronics engineering, computer engineering and telecommunications job series. Participants ranked technical and general competencies in order of…

Hey! Stamps cost money: Federal Register subscriptions targeted


A while back President Obama launched the SAVE initiative, which asked federal employees to identify ways to save money and increase government efficiency. The award winning suggestion was that agencies cancel their Federal Register subscriptions and read them online. Well, now its in the budget. In 2010, there were more than 4,700 subscriptions across the entire Federal Government. Based on Government Printing Office estimates, this proposed reduction would save taxpayers up to $4 million in postage and printing costs. In order to get the $4 million in savings, each federal agency and the individual offices within the legislative branch (Think…

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