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DoD awards $750 million intelligence training contract

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Nine companies have been awarded spots on an intelligence training contract worth $750 million over five years, the Defense Department announced today.

Out of 24 proposals submitted, nine awards were made on Oct. 26 to:
BAE of McLean,Va.
Battelle Memorial Institute of Columbus,Ohio
Booz Allen Hamilton of McLean,Va.
Cyberspace Solutions LLC of Reston,Va.
Intrepid Solutions Services Inc. of Falls Church,Va.
Prescient Edge Corp. of Falls Church,Va.
SAIC of McLean,Va.
Six 3 Intelligence Solutions of McLean,Va.
SRA of Fairfax,Va.

The indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract will expire Nov. 30, 2017, according to the announcement. Work will be performed in Washington DC; Quantico, Va.; Norfolk, Va.; Ft. Huachuca, Ariz.; Ft. Jackson, SC; Willow Grove, Pa.; Oak Ridge, Tenn.; West Davis Monthan AFB, Ariz.; and elsewhere as required.  The Defense Intelligence Agency’s Virginia Contracting Activity is managing the contract.

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DHS to hire 600 cyber professionals

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The Department of Homeland Security is following through on recommendations to hire at least 600 cybersecurity experts, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano said Wednesday.

Speaking at a Washington Post cybersecurity forum, Napolitano said the department is looking to hire cyber experts, analysts, IT specialists and people who are familiar with coding.

In June, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano directed a newly formed CyberSkills task force to develop recommendations for growing DHS’s cyber workforce and expanding the pipeline of cyber talent nationwide, which includes hiring at least 600 cyber professionals.

Napolitano said DHS has increased its workforce by 600 percent over the last few years, and she praised President Obama’s budgetary backing of the department’s cybersecurity efforts.

However, similiar efforts have been underway for the past few years to hire cyber professionals, James Lewis, senior fellow and program director at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said on a separate panel. “So, what’s going on?”

One issue, the report identified, is that DHS has not properly identified the skills needed to defend against threats, making it difficult to hire people with those skills. To keep pace with the growing threat, DHS has relied heavily on contractors, “leaving fewer of these sought-after positions open to federal employees,” the report said.

“We’ve probably gone from about five miles an hour to 85 miles an hour at DHS in the last three or so years,” Napolitano said.  ”We need to be at 120 miles an hour, and I would say that across the federal government.”

Napolitano wouldn’t discuss the starting salaries of DHS cyber experts but joked that there are not signing bonuses.

Overall, she said the government needs to improve real-time information sharing with the private sector and there needs to be better widespread adoption of cybersecurity best practices for critical infrastructure. She said most sectors have adopted adequate cyber practices, but in an interconnected world if there is one weak link everyone is affected.

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How were you affected by the storm?

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Hurricane/storm Sandy caused billions of dollars of damage and has been responsible for 50 deaths across the United States. How were all of you affected by the storm? We want to hear your stories about power outages, whether you teleworked and how prepared you or your workplace was in advance of the storm.

Feel free to comment on this post of email me at amedici@federaltimes.com.

Federal government open Wednesday in DC

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The Office of Personnel Management just announced that federal offices in the Washington area will be open Wednesday, after two days of closures due to Hurricane Sandy. However, non-emergency employees will have the option to telework, or use unscheduled leave if they need to. That means they can use leave options such as earned annual leave, compensatory time off, or leave without pay, or they can rearrange their work week under a flexible work schedule, if possible.

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The federal government–relevant, after all?

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Hurricane Sandy is nowhere near done pummeling the D.C. area tonight, but FedLine can’t help noticing how the storm has already showered attention on the federal government’s role in anticipating and responding to disasters.

Last Friday, for example, The New York Times ran a front-page article on how delays in development of the next generation of weather satellites could jeopardize future forecasting. That risk would not have come as news to Federal Times readers, but the mainstream media had previously paid little attention to the issue.

Since then, Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney has had to fend off questions over whether he wants to cut funding for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. And at least one network newscast this evening carried a feature story on the Coast Guard’s rescue earlier in the day of 14 crew members from a replica of the H.M.S. Bounty that foundered off the coast of North Carolina.

This is not to say that Washington does everything well (as the Times story points out, mismanagement has been one factor in throwing the weather satellite program off track), or that it’s unreasonable to ask whether some missions can be carried out differently or more efficiently. But whether you think the federal government’s size is too big, too small or just right, there is no denying that we currently expect it to play a very large role in situations like this. And if it doesn’t take that responsibility, it is reasonable to ask: Who will?

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Government in DC area closed again on Tuesday

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Hurricane Sandy has claimed another workday in the Washington area. The Office of Personnel Management just announced that DC-area offices will be closed again Tuesday, Oct. 30.

The Supreme Court also rescheduled Tuesday’s arguments for Thursday, Nov. 1.

UPDATE: Tuesday’s closure will operate by the same rules as today: Emergency employees still must show up unless their bosses say otherwise, and employees who were already scheduled to or required to telework will still have to telework.

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Postal union political spending up this election

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Organized labor may be hurting, but it would be hard to tell from the amount of money that the four big postal unions are spending on this year’s presidential and congressional races.

According to their most recent disclosure reports filed earlier this month, the four–through their political action committees–had shoveled about $9.6 million into the 2012 election cycle, already ahead of the $8.9 million total for 2010, a non-presidential election year, according to data compiled by the non-partisan Center for Responsive Politics.

Accounting for more than half of the 2012 sum was the National Association of Letter Carriers, followed by the American Postal Workers Union, the National Rural Letter Carriers’ Association and the National Postal Mail Handlers Union.

The stepped-up giving comes as Congress is struggling to find a fix for the U.S. Postal Service’s myriad problems that could have far-reaching consequences for rank-and-file employees, particularly if lawmakers agree to the agency’s plan to end most Saturday mail delivery.

In regard to campaign contributions, the bulk of union giving has been directed to Democratic candidates and party organizations, although an occasional Republican does turn up as a recipient. Most notably, the rural letter carriers’ PAC gave $8,500 to Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee chairman who wants to eliminate layoff protections from future Postal Service labor contracts.

Here’s the spending breakdown for 2012 and 2010:

Union            2012                    2010

NALC:       $5,751,165       $5,407,918

APWU:     $2,136,855       $2,070,352

NRLCA:   $1,258,708       $1,255, 141

NPMHU:    $429,575           $198,359

TOTAL:   $9,576,303       $8,931,740

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FEEA update: Disaster budget ‘completely blown,’ donations needed

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The Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund just responded to some questions I had about the state of their disaster relief finances, and the outlook is not good.

“At this point, our natural disaster budget is completely blown,” said Robyn Kehoe, FEEA’s director of field operations said in an e-mail. Later this week, FEEA will have $35,000 on hand to start distributing, thanks to an end-of-year donation from Blue Cross Blue Shield it expects to receive this week. But $35,000 doesn’t go very far — it’s only enough to pay for $500 grants for 70 feds. FEEA will need additional donations to keep distributing funds after Blue Cross’ $35,000 runs out, Kehoe said.

“The $35,000 from BCBS is huge for us in making sure we can at least start handing out grants for Sandy,” Kehoe said.

After Hurricane Isaac struck in August, FEEA handed out more than $80,000 in grants and no-interest loans to nearly 600 feds. That chewed through all of the disaster funds FEEA had on hand.

But FEEA’s natural disaster funds haven’t had any reserves to draw on since 2007′s Hurricane Gustav, Kehoe said. That year, FEEA paid out roughy $800,000 more than it took in.

FEEA will also provide no-interest loans of up to $1,000 to Hurricane Sandy victims, Kehoe said.

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FEEA: Sandy-affected feds can get up to $500 in disaster grants

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Federal and postal employees who are hit hardest by Hurricane Sandy will be able to get disaster grants of up to $500, the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Fund announced this morning.

FEEA said employees who need help can download a disaster relief application here, since phone lines will likely be jammed or down. Feds who have suffered the most serious damage or hardships will get priority, FEEA said.

FEEA is a nonprofit organization funded in part by Combined Federal Campaign donations. But the group said its funds have been depleted significantly since it provided more than $80,000 in grants and no-interest loans to almost 600 feds after Hurricane Issac, and it is soliciting more donations.

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Frankenstorm closes DC-area offices Monday

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With Hurricane Sandy barreling towards the East Coast, the Office of Personnel Management just announced that federal offices in the Washington area will be closed to the public Monday. That means that most employees will be granted an excused absence, unless they’re required to telework, on official travel outside of the DC area, on leave without pay, or on an alternative work schedule day off.

There are a few other categories of employees who won’t get the day off, however. Emergency employees are expected to show up for work tomorrow, unless they’re told otherwise by their bosses. And if you were already scheduled to telework tomorrow, you will still have to telework the whole day, or request leave (or a combination of the two).

Keep watching FedLine for more news as this Frankenstorm develops.

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