Monthly Archives: August, 2011

Kundra calls for "global Cloud First policy"

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Before leaving office this month, federal chief information officer Vivek Kundra laid out the administration’s “Cloud First” policy, which requires agencies to give priority to cloud computing services as opposed to buying hardware and software. State and local government are also moving forward with cloud computing, but Kundra’s vision is the “creation of a global cloud first policy that forces nations to work together” on issues concerning cloud and whether cloud data should be shared between nations, Kundra said in a Tuesday New York Times op-ed piece. If cloud data can be shared, what restrictions should be in place? In Japan, the Ministry…

Postal Service woes could undermine federal workers' comp fund

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What happens at the U.S. Postal Service doesn’t necessarily stay at the Postal Service. The latest example: A federal workers’ compensation fund could run out of money within three months if the cash-strapped mail carrier skips a $1.2 billion payment due in mid-October, according to the Labor Department. The department runs the fund under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act. Should the Postal Service miss the October “chargeback” for past claims, officials estimate that the program would have no money to pay any benefits during the last four months of fiscal 2012, running from next June through September, according to a…

Senate panel sets postal hearing for next week

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Game on! The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee just officially announced what is certain to a highly charged hearing next Tuesday afternoon, titled “U.S. Postal Service in Crisis: Proposals to Prevent a Postal Shutdown.” The focus is expected to be the Postal Service’s recently unveiled bid for the freedom to lay off some 120,000 unionized employees, along with creating its own retirement and health insurance programs. No witnesses have been announced yet, but they will presumably include U.S. Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe or a stand-in, as well as labor and mailing industry representatives. Unsurprisingly, all three proposals have…

Martin Luther King Jr. memorial becomes 395th national park

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On Aug. 28, 2011, the Martin Luther King Jr. memorial officially took its place as America’s 395th national park – 48 years after King’s “I Have a Dream speech” delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. “Welcoming this memorial to the National Mall honors a heroic man and a critical chapter in our nation’s march toward a more perfect union,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “Martin Luther King, Jr., mobilized the power of faith and morality to break the chains of oppression that held our nation back. The dedication ceremony was also to take place on Sunday,…

Disclosure rule for federal researchers gets diluted

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Institutions can wait for written requests to disclose federally-funded researchers’ financial ties to pharmaceutical companies and other corporate interests, according to a final rule issued by the Health and Human Services Department Thursday. This is a change from the proposed rule brought by the agency in May 2010, which would have required institutions to post information about conflicts of interest on a publically available website. The final rule requires research institutions to determine if a researcher’s financial ties or interest in an outside company could bias or present a conflict of interest with federally funded research. It would apply to HHS’s National Institutes of Health, which received…

Government-wide web site on agency performance goes live

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It took a little longer than expected, but performance.gov is now open to the public. The site, created about a year ago by the Obama administration, had hitherto been password-protected and generally limited to federal employees. Check it out and let us know what you think. The site is intended to undergird the administration’s performance management strategy, in part by providing “in-depth information on agency priority goals and key performance indicators, measures and milestones,” federal Chief Performance Officer Jeffrey Zients wrote last September in a memorandum to Senior Executive Service members. At the time, Zients said the site would go…

Some federal buildings closed after 5.9-magnitude earthquake, OPM grants excused absence, telework

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UPDATED 9:55 a.m.: More than a dozen federal buildings in the Washington area, including the Interior Department’s headquarters on C Street, are closed today following the 5.9- magnitude earthquake that rocked the east coast Tuesday afternoon. “Emergency employees are expected to report for work on time,” regardless of their building being closed, according to an update posted on the Office of Personnel Management’s website, which includes a list of all building closures as of 1:50 a.m. (A list of building closures is also included below). Employees working at buildings that are open will have the option of unscheduled leave and…

Updates by the minute: Early dismissal after 5.9 magnitude earthquake hits Virginia and D.C.

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UPDATE 6:02: U.S. Postal Service reporting that no employees were injured, but that there is structural damage to some buildings closer to the quake’s epicenter. Headquarters building at L’Enfant Plaza in Washington will be open Wednesday. UPDATE 4:25: Here’s an official statement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency saying that there are no early reports of major damage or requests for assistance so far, but preliminary assessments are continuing. UPDATE 4:01 p.m.: OPM declares early dismissal for federal employees in the Washington area after earthquake. A decision on Wednesday’s operating status will be made by 4 a.m. tomorrow. UPDATE 4…

Public gets more time to comment on controversial DoD rule

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The Defense Department has extended the public comment period on a controversial package of proposed rules related to contractor safeguarding of unclassified information, according to a Federal Register notice. The comment period, which was supposed to end next Monday, will instead run through Nov. 30.  The Pentagon gave no reason for the extension (apart from allowing more time for public input, of course). But, as Federal Times reported back in July, the package has drawn objections both from contractors (on the grounds that it would be unnecessarily burdensome) and open-government advocates (who suspect an end run around the Obama administration’s…

New agreement intended to foster more cooperation on customs corruption probes

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This just in: The Homeland Security Department’s inspector general and U.S. Customs and Border Protection have worked out an agreement aimed at fostering more teamwork in corruption probes. Under a newly signed memorandum of understanding, CBP internal affairs investigators will be detailed to work with the inspector general’s office on investigations of customs employees. The arrangement will give the IG more resources, while Customs and Border Patrol managers will use the information gleaned by its investigators for “immediate oversight” of  the employees under scrutiny, according to a Monday news release from the inspector general’s office. Turf tensions between the two…

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