Federal Times Blogs

Defense contractor not fazed by proposed defense cuts

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Who’s worried about the impact of Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ proposed Pentagon belt-tightening?

Not, apparently, CACI International, Inc., the Arlington Va.,-based defense contractor that has a stake in some of the programs and offices to be axed.

In a recent statement on CACI’s 4th quarter and full fiscal year 2010 results, President and CEO Paul Cofoni said the company expects only “negligible impact” from Gates’ decision to eliminate Joint Forces Command, the Office for Network and Information Integration and the J-6.  CACI has also been informed, he added, “that the work we do for the Business Transformation Agency will continue following its transition to other organizations.”

Gates announced the cuts Aug 9 as part of an economy drive to steer more money to force structure and modernization. CACI’s work is oriented toward professional services and information technology; in 2008, it was one of six companies to share in a BTA contract for support “in the area of thought leadership and change management” worth up to $260 million over five years.

CACI’s relatively optimistic outlook raises the question, however, of exactly how much the Defense Department stands to save from Gates’ proposals. As far as we at Fedline know, the Pentagon has yet to supply a dollar figure. A Defense Department spokeswoman did not reply to e-mail and voicemail messages Friday.

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Don’t forget to power down

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If all 16,000+ participants follow through with their pledge tonight, Power IT Down Day 2010 should be a huge success.

The initiative has nearly 500 supporters on Facebook, more than 100 Twitter followers and thousands who have signed up directly on the site.

The nationwide event encourages government and the private sector to shut down their computers, printers, monitors and other devices at the end of the work day to save energy. I was told that about two-thirds of those who have registered are from government agencies.

Citrix, HP, Intel and GTSI are sponsoring the initiative and will make a donation to the Wounded Warrior Project, representative of the money saved from Power IT Down Day. Last year’s donation totaled $45,000.

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Germany seeks to ban employers from checking applicants’ Facebook pages

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The Associated Press reports that Germany is considering a law that aims to prohibit potential employers from looking at job seekers’ Facebook pages or other private postings.

The proposed law would make it illegal for someone to “friend” an applicant to check out their photos and other private details. The AP says that “a rejected job applicant who proves he or she was turned down based on violation of the new law could take the company to court and claim damages.”

But even German Interior Minister Thomas de Maiziere, who presented the draft law, acknowledged that enforcement might be tough. After all, is it possible to conclusively prove you lost the job because of those unfortunate Mardi Gras photos, and not because another candidate was more qualified?

The creation of Facebook and other social media sites has changed the rules for all employers and job seekers — including those trying to get a job with the federal government. (The government also has struggled to figure out social media rules for its already-existing employees, though there hasn’t been any talk about limiting hiring managers’ abilities to look at applicants’ pages.) But instead of passing new, unenforceable laws like Germany is trying to do, why can’t people simply exercise a little common sense when they’re looking for a job?

Some job seekers have begun de-tagging incriminating photos or otherwise scrubbing their Facebook pages in recent years. If you absolutely, positively must post your bachelor party photos, it’s not that hard to beef up your security settings or create a list restricting who can view them.

And de Maiziere said that some people “seem to be indiscriminate” about who they accept as a friend, which he says is another reason the new law is needed. But once again, common sense. Do you really need so many Facebook friends that you accept anyone who comes along without thinking? After all, forgetting who you’re friends with exponentially increases the chances of posting something stupid and job-jeopardizing that your boss can see.

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Flash drive cause of 2008 military breach

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The Washington Post is reporting that a flash drive containing malicious code was the source behind a major breach of U.S. military computers in 2008. The drive was “inserted into a U.S. military laptop on a post in the Middle East,” according to the article.

Revelations of the breach’s root cause further underscore the challenges facing federal government to identify vulnerabilities and defend against cyberattacks.

On November 3-5, experts from government, industry and academia are set to discuss these issues, and more, during the 2010 Cyber Security Readiness Summit.

Attendees will learn best practices for:

  • Cultivating a complete approach to government cyber security readiness: people, culture, language, governance, policy
  • Using the most economical, efficient and reliable means for developing an information security infrastructure and protecting critical networks and systems
  • Developing cyber talent including best practices for identifying, attracting and retaining the cyber workforce
  • Enhancing information sharing and developing the foundation for cooperation
  • Ensuring proper training of all personnel to improve compliance
  • overcoming siloed systems
  • discovering the costs and benefits of available tools and technologies


Gates’ cost-cutting moves to face Senate hearing

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The Defense Department’s plans to close Joint Forces Command as well as other cost-cutting moves will get a look-see from the Senate Armed Services Committee, according to a Monday letter from the panel’s chairman, Sen. Carl Levin, D-Mich., to Sen. Jim Webb, D-Va.

In the letter, which Webb’s office released Tuesday, Levin said he would seek to schedule a hearing after Congress reconvenes in September.  While Levin said he shares Defense Secretary Robert Gates’ goals of reducing ‘”duplication, overhead and excess in the defense enterprise,’” his “far-reaching initiatives . . . deserve close scrutiny by our committee.”

Gates announced the JFCOM decision Aug. 9 as part of an efficiency drive aimed at freeing up more than $100 billion over the next five years that could instead be spent on weapons buys and other purposes. Besides shuttering JFCOM, based in Norfolk, Va., Gates  wants to close the Business Transformation Agency and reduce spending on service support contractors by 10 percent annually for the next three years.

Unsurprisingly, however, members of the Virginia congressional delegation have rushed to the defense of JFCOM, a major employer in the Norfolk area.  In an Aug. 13 letter to Gates, Webb and five other lawmakers  questioned his legal authority to dismantle the command and said the decision was apparently based on a Defense Business Board recommendation that “reflects superficial research and a lack of analytical rigor.”

A House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee also plans to hold a hearing, possibly in late September, according to Rep. Gerald Connolly, D-Va.

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Shirley Sherrod turns down USDA job offer

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Shirley Sherrod, the Agriculture Department employee who got caught in a ginned-up racial controversy last month, just said she will not accept another position at her old department.

Sherrod lost her job after conservative provocateur Andrew Breitbart posted a heavily edited video that appeared to show her bragging about turning down a white farmer because of his race. But once the full video surfaced — showing she was actually talking about the importance of moving beyond race when dealing with others — almost everyone from the White House to the NAACP realized they had gone off half-cocked. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack offered her a civil rights job at the agency, hoping to smooth things over and ease some of the administration’s embarrassment.

The AP reports Sherrod and Vilsack said she may work with USDA in the future as a consultant on improving minority outreach.

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At FPS, who watches the watchmen?

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Government Security News had an item Sunday about a curious solicitation from the Federal Protective Service — a surveillance system for government buildings that can also spy on the user:

A recent solicitation issued by the Federal Protective Service unit of DHS for what it calls a “Video Surveillance Rapid Deployment Kit” contained an intriguing requirement among its roster of technical specifications: “Hidden internal camera and microphone that will allow a remote user to see and hear the operator of the system.”

That sounds as if a boss back at FPS headquarters wants to be able to watch and listen to the person actually carrying the video camera, without that camera person even knowing that he or she is being watched.


More on GSN’s site, including the maddeningly vague response they got from FPS when they tried to ask just what the heck this thing is for, and who’s going to be observing the operators of the camera.

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Order spells out–and limits–governors’ access to classified info

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It appears that the Obama administration trusts the nation’s governors to keep a secret.

Sort of.

In a newly issued executive order on access to classified national security information, the administration said that governors can see such information without undergoing a background investigation, but first have to sign a non-disclosure agreement and can’t have any “disqualifying conduct” in the eyes of the clearance-granting official. Their clearances also can’t go beyond the “Secret” level, except on a case-by-case basis.

“To my knowledge, this is a new provision,” said Steven Aftergood, a government secrecy expert at the Federation of American Scientists who noted it on his blog Monday.

Prior to the the issuance of last Wednesday’s executive order, “there was no written policy specific to access by governors,” confirmed William Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, a part of the National Archives and Records Administration that oversees the classification system.  But the order incorporates long-standing practice under which governors were considered “inherently trustworthy” by virtue of their jobs and thus did not require a background investigation for access to classified information, Bosanko said.

A National Governors Association spokeswoman had no further information.

In case you were wondering, incidentally, members of Congress are also considered “inherently trustworthy,” but don’t have to sign non-disclosure agreements, according to a Congressional Research Service report. House members instead have to swear to avoid any unauthorized disclosures of classified information. The Senate apparently imposes no such obligation on its members, the report says.

[Updated Aug. 24 at 10:05 a.m. to reflect the National Governors Association response and at 1:41 p.m. with Bosanko comments.]

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Beth Daley, investigations director at POGO, passes away

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Beth Daley

Beth Daley, the director of investigations at the watchdog group Project on Government Oversight, died yesterday after a seven-year fight with breast cancer.

POGO said one of the highlights of Daley’s career was her work exposing the oil industry’s underpayment of royalties from drilling on federal and Indian lands. POGO’s lawsuit ended up netting $440 million for the federal government in a case that still reverberates today.

“Beth’s death is a crushing loss for the POGO family,” Executive Director Danielle Brian said in a statement released today. “Both as a colleague and as a friend, Beth’s fierce passion for POGO’s work inspired all of us to demand more from ourselves.”

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DEA looking for Ebonics speakers?

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"You got any idea what he's saying?" "Hell no, do you?"

Now here’s what I call strategic workforce planning. The Drug Enforcement Administration is trying to hire up to nine contract linguists who are fluent in Ebonics, according to a request for proposal posted on the Smoking Gun this morning.

The RFP, which was originally released in May, said it needs people in Atlanta to “listen to oral intercepts in English and foreign languages and provide a verbal summary, immediately followed by a typed summary” and then transcribe pertinent calls.

Ebonics is just one of more than 100 languages requested in the RFP. It’s not surprising that the DEA is looking for people who can translate Spanish, Farsi, Korean, and other standard languages — the entire government has struggled to beef up those capabilities in recent years. (They’re also looking for people who can understand the Jamaican patois.) But it seems kind of odd that the DEA feels it has to hire contractors to help it understand what is essentially very heavy black slang.

It sounds like the DEA’s got a bunch of frustrated agents sitting around listening to slang-filled wiretaps and struggling to figure out what the drug dealers are saying — pretty much like every episode of The Wire. Omar comin’.

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