Federal Drive interviews – Oct. 25

Sarah MendelsonDeputy Assistant Administrator, Bureau for Democracy, Conflict and Humanitarian Assistance, USAID

A lot of federal agencies are using the Internet to get the public to pitch in with data collection or analysis. Now the U.S. Agency for International Development is hoping crowd-sourcing and online challenges can help it shed light on a problem for which facts and figures are hard to come by. Its new initiative focuses on human trafficking.

Related link: ChallengeSlavery.org

Rob LevinsonAnalyst, Bloomberg Government


No one knows exactly what the intelligence community spends each year. Many of the details are classified. But estimates put it at about the $70 billion mark. Now we have a better idea of how the money is spent. Bloomberg Government has just completed an analysis of intelligence spending, focusing on how much goes to contractors.

Read the Bgov story. (BGov is a paid site that requires a subscription to access articles.)

Janet StevensChief Information Officer, Food Safety and Inspection Service, USDA

Cybersecurity experts say the rank-and-file’s awareness of good cyber practices is key to keeping federal networks safe. Stevens puts a lot of energy into teaching her colleagues about cybersecurity issues. In fact, she won a Government Information Security Leadership Award. She works the social media and agency newsletter channels as CIO.


DoD Report

Army civilian employees will soon be able to look up their personnel records online. Officials have set a deadline of October 2013. Barbara Panther is director of the Army’s Civilian Human Resources Agency. She tells an audience at the Army conference, civilians in Europe and Asia already have digital records. Federal Times reports, Panther thinks there is widespread desire for self-service among Army employees. She says with paperless folders, people can take care of routine business 24 hours a day. Plus, digital records are less prone to fire damage than paper ones. Panther says the Army still had 300,000 paper personnel folders as of September. (Federal Times)

Defense Deputy Secretary Ashton Carter is reassuring the Army: it will remain central to the Pentagon’s military strategy. That strategy focuses on Asia and the Pacific, where air and sea strength are critical. Carter addressed soldiers at the AUSA Conference in Washington. As the military withdraws from Afghanistan He said troops would rotate into positions in Asia, as well as Europe and Africa. He said they would work more closely with regional partners. Seven of the ten largest armies are in Asia-Pacific countries. The U.S. Army will do more joint exercises with them. The first is Orient Shield. It began in Japan this week. (Defense Department)

Cybersecurity Update

The Homeland Security Department has given 29 colleges and research organizations grants to solve cybersecurity problems. The grants came out of the Science and Technology Directorate. It received more than one thousand applications and white papers. The grants cover research in 14 technical topics. They’re all aimed at improving protection of federal networks and critical infrastructure generally. Among the recipients are Carnegie Mellon University, George Mason University, Indiana University, and the Naval Post Graduate School in Monterey, Calif. (Homeland Security)

Federal cyber experts aren’t sitting around twiddling their thumbs. As part of Federal News Radio’s special report Cybersecurity Rising, we’ve asked experts for a to-do list. Most agencies are just beginning to train employees on cybersecurity. Just four agencies are implementing smart-card readers. Rather than depending on usernames and passwords for logging onto networks and computers. The government needs to pay more attention to fake and…possibly…dangerous parts in the products it buys. And on Capitol Hill, lawmakers should update cyber laws like FISMA, the Federal Information Security Management Act. (Federal News Radio)