Federal Drive interviews – Oct. 5, 2012

Witold SkwierczynskiPresident of the American Federation of Government Employee’s National Council of Social Security Administration Field Operations Locals

The Social Security Administration plans to reduce the number of hours its field offices are open to the public. Our next guest says, “This decision is a deliberate attempt by Commissioner (Michael) Astrue to deny Social Security beneficiaries and the public access to critical information they need to successfully navigate the System.”

Kevin BrancatoDefense Analyst, Bloomberg Government

The Pentagon and its biggest contractor, Lockheed Martin, are trying to make amends after a public spat. A top DoD official called the relationship between the two the worst he’d ever seen. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta quickly said he disagreed. The dispute centers on a fifth order of F-35 fighter jets.


Clint FuhrmanNational Director of Government Health Care Programs, LexisNexis Risk Solutions

Federal officials have arrested 91 doctors, nurses and other medical professionals for trying to bilk the government out of Medicare funds. Prosecutors say the health care providers billed the government for more than $429 million in false charges. Attorney General Eric Holder and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius made the announcement yesterday, with a warning to would-be criminals that the government is “cracking down hard on people who want to steal from Medicare.”


DoD Report

The Army is enlisting video-game makers to help solve a nagging problem: diagnosing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. Soldiers with mental health issues like PTSD often don’t seek help. Now Wired reports the Army has awarded contracts to three gaming companies. They’ll build games that soldiers can download on their smart phones. The games would record their scores and beam the data to Army officials. The theory goes: a low score following some sort of traumatic incident may indicate that the soldier is suffering. (Wired)

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff opposes the demotion of a four-star general accused of misconduct. But the final decision will be made by Defense Secretary Leon Panetta. At issue is General William Ward, former commander of the Africa Command. The Defense inspector general found Ward spent tens of thousands of dollars on luxury travel he wasn’t entitled to. Ward has been demoted to two stars while he awaits retirement. But the chairman, Army General Martin Dempsey, thinks Ward should be allowed to retire at the four-star level. The demotion would cost Ward about $30,000 a year off his pension.

Cybersecurity Update

Some members of Congress are urging President Barack Obama to sign an executive order on cybersecurity. But not Michigan Congressman Mike Rogers. The Republican, who chairs the House Intelligence Committee, says it would be irresponsible. Rogers suggests, however, that there’s still time for lawmakers to pass legislation in a lame-duck session. Speaking at a UC Chamber of Commerce event yesterday on cybersecurity. Rogers said new, dangerous cyber threats are forcing the issue. He said the United States is not prepared to handle this national security threat. Rogers has sponsored cybersecurity legislation known as CISPA. It passed the House, but got stuck in the Senate because of privacy concerns. (Federal News Radio)

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano has endorsed the recommendations of her cybersecurity task force. Member Steve Meyers says the department plans to start implementing its recommendations immediately. The Task Force on Cyberskills delivered its report earlier this week. Its chief recommendation is to hire 600 cybersecurity “ninjas.” They’ll set the requirements and training needs for future cyber workers. To help attract the those with cyber skills, DHS has named 10 specific job titles. Among them are network penetration tester, threat and counter intelligence analyst, and security engineer. (Federal News Radio)