Browsing: Commerce

NIST on track to release preliminary cybersecurity standards

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The National Institutes of Standards and Technology is on track to develop a preliminary set of voluntary cybersecurity standards by October, according to the head of the agency. Patrick Gallagher, NIST director, said at a Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation committee hearing Thursday that the agency is working closely with private industry as mandated by a Feb. 19 executive order. “We have made significant progress but we still have a lot to do,” Gallagher said. He said the agency has already held three workshops for industry feedback and will continue to work with the private sector to develop a flexible…

Commerce IG finds $280,000 in unsupported conference costs

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More than half of the conference spending reported by the Commerce Department in the first quarter of fiscal 2012 was based on estimated and unsupported costs, according to a new inspector general report. The IG found that 65 percent or $1.1 million of the total $1.7 million in conference spending reported by Commerce was not based on actual costs for things such as meals and incidental expenses, transportation and lodging costs. This also included budgeted expenses that the department could not provide sufficient documentation for. Some bureaus said they used estimates because the actual expenses were not available at the…

Report: NOAA officials see weather service business ops model as "unsustainable."

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It’s been a couple of months since a hullabaloo over allegedly illegal money moves at the National Weather Service briefly left several thousand employees at risk of unpaid furloughs. But various inquiries into the affair are still under way, and a recently obtained copy of the original investigative report offers some intriguing details not previously disclosed. For many years, for example, senior leaders at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have viewed the weather service’s business operations model as “unsustainable” because a high level of labor costs eats into management flexibility, according to a heavily redacted copy of the 61-page…

Agencies launch public FOIA website

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Several agencies have partnered to launch an online system for streamlining Freedom of Information Act requests. The website, Foiaonline.regulations.gov, allows the public to submit FOIA requests, file appeals, search through requests from others and access previously released documents, the National Archives and Records Administration announced Monday. NARA is partnering with the Commerce Department and Environmental Protection Agency to develop the website, which was built on the same infrastructure as EPA’s Regulations.gov website. “FOIAonline avoided many start-up costs, resulting in a total of $1.3 million to launch and an estimated cost avoidance of $200 million over the next five years if…

Commerce IG to review recent cyber attack, security practices

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A Commerce Department agency’s security program is under review, following a January cyber attack that crippled its networks. As part of an annual audit, the inspector general is reviewing the Economic Development Agency’s security program, according to a June memo. The review will determine the program’s effectiveness, significant factors that led to the cyber attack and how EDA has responded. The computer virus was discovered Jan. 20, and the agency shut down employees’ Internet access the following week. Workers were eventually given new computer workstations with access to Internet and email, and the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team…

Furlough threat in the offing, key senators approve weather service funding request

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National Weather Service employees got some heartening news today as two key senators signaled approval of the agency’s request to redirect money in this year’s budget to cover a funding shortfall for local forecasting offices. A similar signoff is still needed from House members to head off the threat of furloughs. Richard Hirn, a lobbyist for the National Weather Service Employees Organization, reiterated that he expects a happy ending, but not before a hearing tomorrow morning by the House appropriations subcommittee that oversees the agency. Subcommittee members “have very serious questions and they are going to get some explanation first…

White House launches BusinessUSA.gov

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The administration on Friday launched a new beta website called BusinessUSA.gov to simplify online interaction between businesses and the government. BusinessUSA.gov matches “businesses with the services relevant to them, regardless of where the information is located or which agency’s website, call center, or office they go to for help,” federal Chief Information Officer Steven VanRoekel said in a blog post Friday. The website is currently in a beta version but will evolve to incorporate user feedback. Business owners can browse the site and customize their search results to receive information about topics of interest, such as federal contracting, grants, or opportunities that meet…

More opposition to adding U.S. Trade Representative to new department

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The U.S. Trade Representative’s office is a relatively small operation, with just 220 or so employees, according to the most recent statistics. But it’s looming very large in the debate over President Obama’s proposed consolidation of agencies dealing with business and trade policy. Key lawmakers objected almost as soon as Obama announced Jan. 13 that he wanted the Trade Representative’s office in that new department. Now, dozens of business groups are also voicing “immediate concerns” about eliminating USTR as a stand-alone agency in the Executive Office of the President.  In a joint letter this week to Obama, they said the…

Three massive government projects that could be killed by budget cuts

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2011 was not the best year for federal construction projects (i.e. the worst?) across the country. Accounts were slashed, budgets cut and accounts slashed – I count that one twice – in an effort to cut government spending. So what may be left by the wayside as we move into 2012? 3: Justice Department: The Los Angeles Courthouse This $399 million, 650,000-square-foot project is supposed to house the overflow of federal justices in the Los Angeles Area. While the money for this project has already been appropriated, members of the House Transportation and Infrastructure subcommittee on public buildings have asked…

Newsflash: the Senate accomplishes something

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Contrary to what recent experience might suggest, the Senate can occasionally get something done. Witness yesterday’s approval of two Obama administration picks whose nominations had been dangling for months. Around noon, the Senate confirmed Heather Higginbottom on a 64-36 vote to become deputy director at the Office of Management and Budget. Later that evening, lawmakers also signed off 74-26 on the  nomination of John Bryson to be the next Commerce Secretary. Both nominations had been stalled by Republican objections. Higginbottom, who had been policy director for the 2008 Obama presidential campaign, more recently served as the number two person at…

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