This week’s panelists on the Federal News Countdown are: –Jonathan Breul, Executive Director of the IBM Center for the Business of Government –Wyatt Kash, Director of Content Strategy & Government Relations for the 1105 Events Group, and Editor-at-Large of the 1105 Government Information Group
“The Senate on Friday unanimously passed a bill to ensure smooth presidential transitions by encouraging party nominees and the incumbent administration to engage in earlier planning.
“The 2010 Pre-Election Presidential Transition Act (S. 3196), sponsored by Sens. Ted Kaufman D-Del.; George Voinovich, R-Ohio; Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii; and Joe Lieberman, I-Conn., would formalize many of the most successful elements of the recent changeover between the George W. Bush and Obama administrations.
“The bill would require the General Services Administration to offer eligible candidates funding and other assistance to help get their transitions up and running quickly, including fully equipped office space, communication services, briefings, training and initiation of security clearances for prospective personnel.
“Candidates also would be encouraged to establish a separate fund of campaign money to cover transition-related expenses, or to supplement the GSA services.”
“Congress on Thursday passed a measure to fund the federal government another two months, their last major legislative action before shutting down and returning to the campaign trail for the Nov. 2 elections.
“The House voted 228-194 early Thursday morning and the Senate voted 69-30 on Wednesday to pass a stop-gap effort that effectively keeps the lights on at agencies and major federal programs until Dec. 3. The tab for the 64 days tops $219 billion, meaning the overall budget for the new fiscal year will be $219 billion lighter, a congressional aide explained.
“The move marks Congress’ second major accomplishment since returning from summer break in September. Congress also passed a bill giving tax breaks to small businesses. The Senate also confirmed two of three nominees to the Federal Reserve board of governors, a seven-member board which has been operating short by three members.”
“A bipartisan group of senators followed in House lawmakers’ footsteps Tuesday, introducing legislation to dramatically reform the federal government’s efforts to track and improve agency performance.
“The 2010 Government Performance and Results Modernization Act would require agencies to designate senior officials to serve as chief operating and performance improvement officers. The COO likely would be an agency deputy secretary while the performance improvement officer would be a senior executive, the bill states.
“These two officials would be responsible for finding significant cost savings through the elimination of redundant programs, and for better coordinating common administrative functions such as purchasing.
“As the first major revision to the landmark 1993 Government Performance and Results Act, the new legislation also mandates that agencies post quarterly performance updates on a single government website instead of submitting them to Congress annually.
“They wander the streets of this chilly city just steps from the arctic tundra, native people who have little money and nowhere else to go. Some come from villages without plumbing. Others drift among the city’s bars or hold down low-wage jobs. Wearing flannel shirts and tennis shoes, they are among America’s poorest corporate shareholders.
“They came by their holdings in the Sitnasuak Native Corp. as a birthright, when Congress established more than 200 Alaska native corporations, or ANCs, 40 years ago to provide land and money for indigenous people who had long been mired in deprivation and dislocation.
“Each of the 75,000 original Alaska native shareholders received a stake in one of the new corporations, which held out the promise of economic development and a better life. The corporations have received extraordinary exemptions that have enabled them to receive $29 billion in federal contracts in the past decade.
“But the original promise remains largely unfulfilled.
“Native shareholders have gotten relatively little of the contracting largess. In many cases, the bulk of the money and jobs has gone to nonnative executives, managers, employees and traditional federal contractors in the lower 48 states, a Washington Post examination has found.
“Because the Defense Department has had trouble keeping up with advances in information technology, it decided to eliminate layers of bureaucracy that manage computer networks essential to operations in the Information Age, two of the department’s top officials told a Senate panel on Tuesday.
“Marine Gen. James Cartwright, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Armed Services Committee that ‘multiple organizations on multiple staffs at multiple layers of our hierarchy exist to oversee IT,’ leading to a difficult to understand bureaucracy with unclear responsibilities. The result is combat commanders ‘simply do not understand what organization they need to visit to get their work executed,’ he said.
“Cartwright, who testified with Defense Deputy Secretary William Lynn III, said the department must change the way it manages IT to fight enemies who are increasingly enabled with IT.”
“Federal law enforcement and national security officials are preparing to seek sweeping new regulations for the Internet, arguing that their ability to wiretap criminal and terrorism suspects is ‘going dark’ as people increasingly communicate online instead of by telephone.
“Essentially, officials want Congress to require all services that enable communications – including encrypted e-mail transmitters like BlackBerry, social networking Web sites like Facebook and software that allows direct ‘peer to peer’ messaging like Skype – to be technically capable of complying if served with a wiretap order. The mandate would include being able to intercept and unscramble encrypted messages.
“The bill, which the Obama administration plans to submit to lawmakers next year, raises fresh questions about how to balance security needs with protecting privacy and fostering innovation. And because security services around the world face the same problem, it could set an example that is copied globally.”