Federal Drive interviews – Oct. 16, 2012

Tom VilsackUSDA Secretary

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Part 2:

For decades, allegations of discrimination have plagued the Agriculture Department. They’ve come from farmers and the department’s own employees. Now USDA is spending more than $1.3 billion in a new program to settle discrimination claims by Latino and female farmers. Inside the agency, employee complaints are at record lows. Vilsack explains how the agency has made progress.


Read the story.

Debra RothPartner, Shaw, Bransford and Roth

The Broadcasting Board of Governors laid off employees, saying it didn’t have the money to keep them. But the workers fought back. They said they had angered management by speaking out. The Federal Labor Relations Authority recently ruled against the agency and in favor of the employees. It says the Broadcasting Board of Governors should have bargained with its employees’ union over the reductions-in-force.

Tom FoxVice President, Leadership and Innovation, Partnership for Public Service

In this world of big data, a lot is riding on agencies’ abilities to analyze all the information. But do you know how to do that? The Partnership for Public Service is releasing a guide for all of us who need a little help.

The story will be posted at 6 p.m. today.

Tom DevineLegal Director, Government Accountability Project

Our next guest says President Barack Obama just gave intelligence-community employees the right to free speech when it comes to reporting fraud…waste and abuse. The president recently signed a directive extending whistleblower protections to those workers.

Intelligence community employees to gain whistleblower protections

Maj. Matthew BisswurmArmy Acquisition Corps, on assignment at Google

One Army acquisition officer is getting his lessons in contingency contracting from the private sector. As part of the Training with Industry Program… he’s spending a year interning at Google. The objective is to bridge the communication gap between commercial industry and the Army.


DoD Report

Two Congressman want to know why a military instructor was punished the way he was for his controversial course about Islam. Congressmen Thomas Rooney and Duncan Hunter have sent a letter to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey asking him to explain why the professor was given a negative Officer Evaluation Report. As national security blog Danger Room reports, the negative report effectively ends the instructor’s military career. The Congressmen think Dempsey should have stopped the course, but not punished the instructor any further than that. Lieutenant Colonel Matthew Dooley taught students that quote “there is no such thing as moderate Islam” and that the U.S. should consider nuclear action in the Middle East. A Dempsey spokesman told Danger Room that Dempsey would personally respond to the letter. (Wired’s Danger Room)

The White House is preparing for a strike over Libya in response to the attack last month on the U.S. compound there. Senior officials tell the Associated Press they are readying strike forces and drones. But they still don’t have a clear target. They suspect members of the militia group Ansar al-Shariah, which has connections to al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Meanwhile, the Pentagon and State Department are developing plans to train and equip a special-operations team. They can reprogram some money to pay for it with Congress’ approval. But they have to work out the details with Libya. The country’s nascent government is wary of a large U.S. presence. It has refused requests to arm drones now flying over Libya. (Associated Press)

These stories are part of Federal News Radio’s daily DoD Report. For more defense news, click here.

Cybersecurity Update

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid says cybersecurity will be on the agenda after November’s election. Inaction, he says, is not an option. He cites remarks by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. Panetta warned last week that a cyber attack could “virtually paralyze” the nation. Reid says that’s consistent with what national security officials have been trying to tell lawmakers. In a statement, he accuses Senate Republicans of blocking the legislation. Several GOP members and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce oppose a bipartisan bill to mandate cybersecurity protections for operators of critical infrastructure like power companies. They say industry can police itself. But several Republicans say they would prefer a law over an executive order. The White House is said to be putting the final touches on a directive. (Senate Majority Office)

Cybersecurity folks have to decide whether it’s Maryland or Virginia today. Both states are hosting events for cybersecurity month. In Maryland, Senator Barbara Mikulski kicks off the two-day CyberMaryland Conference and Expo at the Baltimore Convention Center. She’ll be joined by Special Assistant to the President and Cybersecurity Coordinator Michael Daniel…as well as retired Air Force Lieutenant General Kenneth Minihan. They’ll talk about cyber threats to the nation’s security and economy. Later there will be a discussion on cyber contracting. Across the Potomac, Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for Cybersecurity Mike Locatis will kick off an event on public-private cooperation. Then Virginia Congressman Jim Moran moderates a panel of experts with the FBI and the National Institute of Standards and Technology. That’s at the Virginia Tech Research Center in Arlington. (Federal News Radio Daybook)

These stories are part of Federal News Radio’s daily Cybersecurity Update. For more cybersecurity news, click here.