Another great guest panel choosing the stories on the Federal News Countdown today: –Ed O’Keefe, the Federal Eye of the Washington Post —Bob Otto, Executive Vice President of Advisory Services at Agilex; former CIO/CTO, US Postal Service
“Obama administration officials knew they did not have all the facts last summer when they rushed to dismiss Shirley Sherrod from the Agriculture Department after learning of a video that painted her as a racist, newly released e-mails show.
“The day after Sherrod’s ouster, even as USDA officials acknowledged in internal memos that they had not seen the full video, a White House senior aide e-mailed them to commend the department for moving quickly so the story would not gain ‘traction.’
“As it turned out, Sherrod had been falsely accused, and the actions taken by Agriculture Secretary Thomas J. Vilsack and his senior staff became a major embarrassment for the Obama administration, raising questions about its basic competence and its preoccupation with public perceptions.”
“The White House pushed back hard Thursday against stinging charges that the administration slowed scientists from letting the public know the full extent of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill.
“Responding to preliminary reports released Wednesday by the presidential commission on the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and offshore drilling, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said the White House worked diligently to provide ‘accurate and timely information’ on the oil spill…
“The report criticizes the federal government for creating the impression that it was ‘either not fully competent to handle the spill or not fully candid with the American people about the scope of the problem.’
“It also paints a picture of an administration that failed to be frank with the American people, and lays out perhaps a more serious charge that the administration was trying to prevent scientists from publishing worst-case scenarios about the oil spill.”
“Outgoing Sen. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) warned Wednesday that lawmakers need to act soon to address a delayed, but impending government brain drain as tens of thousands of experienced federal workers prepare to retire in the coming years as the economy improves.
“Kaufman has served as the temporary successor to Vice President Joe Biden since last year after previously serving as his chief of staff. Kaufman gave 100 Senate floor speeches touting the work of rank and file federal workers and Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) has promised to continue the tradition.
“Kaufman spent much of his Senate tenure focused on fiscal issues, financial regulatory reform and spoke Wednesday about his work on federal personnel issues…”
“The Veterans Affairs Department wants to go back to the future and test 20,000 thin clients — terminals without the internal smarts of PCs — in six hospitals and 29 clinics.
“The technology has existed since the dawn of the Computing Age, connecting an end user to a remote mainframe or server. But information technology departments gradually replaced the stripped-down computers with PCs, which host and run a range of applications.”
“The Obama administration has challenged federal agencies to improve efficiency in their data centers, but in many ways, the deck seems stacked against them.
“Federal CIO Vivek Kundra started the Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative in February. FDCCI seeks to reduce energy use, spur IT cost decreases and improve security.
“However, agencies face a number of obstacles to consolidation: a lack of upfront funding, technical obstacles, unrealistic timelines, and cultural and political problems. As a result, data center consolidation could take a decade to achieve, according to an Input report titled “Assessment of the 2010 Federal Data Center Consolidation Initiative.'”
“After a $5.8 billion investment, six out of nine Defense IT systems critical to the department’s ability to achieve a financial audit are two to 12 years behind schedule. In addition, the systems collectively have experienced cost overruns of at least $6.9 billion, according to a review by the Government Accountability Office.
“Asif Khan, director of financial management and assurance at GAO, told the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee on Wednesday only one of 10 enterprise resource planning systems essential to transforming business operations at Defense has been completed.
“The ERP systems are intended to replace more than 500 legacy systems that now cost hundreds of millions of dollars to operate annually, according to GAO. The successful implementation is essential to the department’s ability to meet statutory requirements for financial management and auditing.”