Long before there was ping-pong diplomacy or perestroika, a short, balding, Armenian American was lugging an enormous reel-to-reel from village to village, sweet-talking people into singing and playing for him. Leo Sarkisian had the kind of career that today lives only in legend: Hired by famed broadcaster Edward R. Murrow, he was paid by the U.S. government to travel throughout Africa, visiting every country over half a century and returning with thousands of rare recordings of music that most of the world had never heard.
Senate leaders are closing in on a path for dealing with the “fiscal cliff” facing the country in January, opting to try to use a postelection session of Congress to reach agreement on a comprehensive deficit reduction deal rather than a short-term solution. Senate Democrats and Republicans remain far apart on the details, and House Republicans continue to resist any discussion of tax increases. But lawmakers and aides say that a bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around an ambitious three-step process to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts.
Cutting to the heart of their differences, President Barack Obama and Republican Mitt Romney laid out contrasting visions for the federal government in their first debate in Denver, sparring over tax-cut proposals, regulations and deficit-reduction plans. Both candidates sought Wednesday to present themselves as champions of the middle class and cast the Nov. 6 election as a choice between two paths toward a more-secure economic future. Rather than the bitter personal attacks that have consumed much of the campaign, the debate was relatively cordial and heavy on policy specifics.
The General Services Administration has estimated its cloud email system will save $15 million over five years, but a new inspector general report found that GSA could neither verify those savings nor clearly determine if the cloud migration is meeting agency expectations.
Three agencies are giving the rest of government a challenge and an opportunity to use data differently. NASA, the National Science Foundation and the Energy Department launched the first initiative under the Big Data Challenge Wednesday. The goal is to bring together information from several different agencies and figure out how it could help every participant’s mission. And failure, or at least the effort to try different ideas, is not only an option, but strongly encouraged.
Industry is pushing back against defense officials’ most recent initiative to get the biggest bang for their buck – and suggesting changes to stress value over price. The Better Buying Power Initiative was instituted in 2010 as a mandate for restoring affordability and productivity in defense spending. However, industry experts say the Defense Department has hindered private-sector attempts to create good competition and provide DOD with best value. Instead, critics say, officials left little room for flexibility to match the necessities of individual instances.