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How many people get arrested at Burning Man? The answer will surprise you.

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A woman dances with fire during the final day of the Burning Man Festival in Nevada early 03 September 2000. The festival is a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during the week long event.  AFP PHOTO (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) Hector MATA

A woman dances with fire during the final day of the Burning Man Festival in Nevada early 03 September 2000. The festival is a spontaneous encounter of artists, performers and spectators, where the audience is expected to interact and collaborate during the week long event. AFP PHOTO (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) Hector MATA

Every year at the end of August nearly 70,000 people descend on Black Rock Desert in Pershing County, Nevada to take part in the celebration of radical self expression known as Burning Man.

And for many people it’s synonymous with drug use and burning a giant wooden man in the middle of the desert. But according to the Bureau of Land Management — which has jurisdiction over government land and the Burning Man festival grounds in particular — the number of people cited or arrested is quite low for its size and duration.

In 2013 only 6 people out of 69,613 were arrested and 433 more were cited by law enforcement, according to statistics from BLM provided to the Government Attic. (Note: Government attic is a great resource for FOIAs and government info alike.) That covers the five days leading up to Burning Man, the event itself and five days afterward.

The size of the gathering would make it the 5th largest city in Nevada and in comparison crime at Burning is pretty low, according to Gene Seidlitz, manager for the Winnemucca district of the BLM.

Year Burning Man Pop. BLM officers Drug citations Total citations Arrests
2010 51,515 51 158 293 9
2011 53,735 51 218 376 8
2012 52,385 70 253 365 14
2013 69,613 70 309 433 6

He said while in its early days there were deaths and more arrests the event has evolved into a well-organized festival complete with proper permits and safety guidelines — especially for the fire events.

“Although there are arrests and injuries and in the past deaths I think this is a very safe event and managed well with good oversight by the BLM,” Seidlitz said.

The key to keeping the event organized and safe is the extensive communication between event organizers and the BLM, according to Eric Boik, state chief ranger for the BLM for Utah, which oversees the law enforcement activities of the event.

“It’s because we all get to the table and communicate frequently and the planning for this starts for 2014 in December so we are already working hot and heavy,” Boik said.

He added the event encourages self-reliance and all the festival participants clean up everything they bring with them as part of a “leave no trace” culture.

“Everything is cleaned up as if the event never occurred,” he said.

Burning Man continues to grow — from a few hundred people 30 years ago to 51,515 in 2010 and up to 69,613 in 2013. The 2014 festival has a permit for 70,000 people and that is probably the maximum the event can host, according to the BLM.

A man dances near a fire at Black Rock City's Burning Man festival in Nevada 05 September 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of fine artists, filmmakers and photographers, the annual event encourages a collaborative response from its audience and a collaboration between artists. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA

A man dances near a fire at Black Rock City’s Burning Man festival in Nevada 05 September 1999. Founded in 1986 by a group of fine artists, filmmakers and photographers, the annual event encourages a collaborative response from its audience and a collaboration between artists. (ELECTRONIC IMAGE) AFP PHOTO/Hector MATA

The agency worked on an environmental impact statement that put the maximum number of festival-goers — no including law enforcement or festival organizers — at 70,000, according to Seidlitz.

As for the wooden man that is burned every year?

“It’s quite a site,” Seidlitz said.

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Man at heart of $500 million contracting scandal arrested, charged with murder

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Braulio Castillo first became famous when he was the subject of a House investigation into how he parlayed a 30-year-old prep school ankle injury into getting $500 million in contracts in the form of a special service-disabled veteran status for his company Signet Computers.

He suffered the injury while attending the U.S. Military Academy Preparatory School in 1984 but played football the next year at the University of San Diego. In 2012 he filed a claim with the Veterans Affairs office to get the special status as a service-disable veteran.

His special status helped get his company Signet Computers (renamed Strong Castle in 2013) contracts worth up to $500 million but also drew the scrutiny of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.

But on April 1 the 43-year-old Castillo was arrested by the Loudon County Sheriff’s office and is being charged with the murder of his estranged wife. The charge is first-degree murder.

The victim, Michelle G. Castillo, was found dead in her home on March 20th by police checking on her wellbeing.

“During the investigation the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office executed multiple search warrants at two locations and conducted door-to-door canvasses throughout the area,” according to the Loudon County Sheriff’s office.

Once approved, the disability enabled Castillo’s company access to government set-asides through VA’s Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business program.

Castillo told a VA examiner weighing the company’s application for entry into the special set-aside program about the “crosses I bear due to my service to our great country,” according to the House report.

He later told congressional investigators that his injury was debilitating over the years and that he’d had three foot fusions. Had Castillo completed his year at the preparatory school without injury, he wouldn’t have been considered a veteran, but a VA official told House investigators that cadets injured at school become veterans due to service-connected disability, the report said.

The House report also found Castillo’s newly purchased company had no experience with the IRS, but it still won lucrative information technology contracts worth up to $500 million in part because of its status as a HUBZone contractor and Castillo’s relationship with a top IRS contracting official.

Under Small Business Administration rules, a HUBZone, or Historically Underutilized Business Zone, designation gives contractors an edge in competing for federal work if they’re based in certain economically distressed areas.

10 ways to tell you have been a federal employee too long

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So lets have a little bit of fun today. It seems that every group, school and town is getting a list, so lets add federal employees to those groups! Feel free to add your own at the bottom of the blog.

1. When people shout “high five!” and your first thought is “over my dead body.

2. Jan. 1 doesn’t even hold a candle to Oct. 1. Its the cleanest slate you can imagine.

3. You give your children 180 days to respond to a new rule you are proposing. Corollary: You refer to your family as “stakeholders.”

4. You groan audibly when anyone starts an argument with the phrase “The government is like a household…”

5. Your position was eliminated months ago but you are still working at the office.

6. They don’t make service pins in denominations high enough to represent your years of service.

7. You remember the first push for more telework, and the second, and the third and the fourth …

8. Every year you write a Sammie speech you never get a chance to read.

9. You actually used to know a GS-3.

10. You brag about how many agencies you are older than. Although every fed gets one…

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Guy Facebooks himself ‘cannonballing’ onto manatee, faces one year in jail

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On March 7 22-year-old Taylor Blake Martin and Seth Andrew Stephenson pleaded guilty in court to harassing an endangered species by luring an adult manatee and its calf to a dock and then “cannonballing” on top of them.

Martin and Stephenson then posted a video of the incident on Facebook, which brought it to the attention of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. Martin and Stephenson face a year in prison and a maximum $50,000 fine.

After the video was posted on Facebook, several people commented on it.  In response to a post that expressed displeasure with Martin’s actions, Martin responded, “hahaha…in my debue [sic] as tayla the manatee slaya…im f—- ready to cannonball on every manatee living yewwww.”

The video shows Stephenson luring the manatees to the dock with a hose before Martin jumped on the adult manatee and tried to ride it.

“This case demonstrates our resolve to address the illegal harassment of Manatees, as well as the enforcement of speed zones, and other more serious forms of take which result in the death or injury of Florida’s Endangered Manatees,” said Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago, Southeast Region, Office of Law Enforcement, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

ACT-IAC announces finalists for excellence in government awards

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The American Council for Technology and Industry Advisory Council (ACT-IAC), a public-private IT partnership, announced the 31 finalists for its annual Excellence.gov Awards. The program, which recognizes the best practices in the government’s management and use of information technology, will announce the winners on March 24, 2014 at the Arena Stage in Washington DC.

“The Excellence.Gov Awards recognizes government programs that use IT to fuel efficiency, collaboration and cost savings,” said Kimberly Hancher, Government Chair for Excellence.Gov 2014. “This year’s finalists demonstrate creativity in the public sector and serve as a model for innovation across government.”

The following are the finalists for the 2014 Excellence.gov Awards:

Finalists for Excellence in Enhancing the Customer Experience:

  • U.S. Census Bureau – America’s Economy Mobile App
  • U.S. Department of Commerce and the Small Business Administration – BusinessUSA
  • Department of Education – MAX Authentication
  • Internal Revenue Service – Virtual Service Delivery
  • Department of Homeland Security, Office of The Chief Readiness Officer, Office of Chief Information Officer – Parking and Transit Subsidy Application Tool (PTSAT)
  • Internal Revenue Service, Information Technology, User & Network Services – Convergence Unified Communications

Finalists for Excellence in Intergovernmental Collaboration:

  • Collaboration Branch, PEO, ES, Defense Information Systems Agency – Defense Connect Online (DCO)
  • Department of Labor, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Administration and Management -Benefits.gov
  • Department of Commerce, Office of Project Management and Information Technology – Modernization of Performance Payout System (PPS)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of the Chief Engineer – NASA Engineering Network
  • Department of the Interior, Office of the Chief Information Officer – eMail Enterprise Records and Document Management System (eERDMS)

 Finalists in Excellence in Enterprise Efficiency:

  • United State Department of Agriculture, Risk Management Agency (RMA) – Crop Insurance Program Compliance and Integrity Data Warehouse
  • Department of Justice, Executive Office for U.S. Attorneys – Enterprise Voice over IP (EVoIP)
  • National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Office of the CIO – NASA IT Labs
  • U.S. Army – Network Enterprise Center Fort Bragg (NEC-FB)
  • U.S. Army – Product Director Enterprise Email (PD EE) / Department of Defense Enterprise Email (DEE) Service

Finalists in Excellence in Innovation: Digital Government:

  • Federal Emergency Management Agency, Office of the CIO – Web Integrated Financial Management Information System (IFMIS)
  • Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – Federal Sector Enterprise Portal (FedSEP)
  • U.S. Army – Global Combat Support System – Army (GCSS-Army)
  • US Army, Office of The Judge Advocate General – JAGConnect
  • NASA Office of the CIO – Web Enterprises Services and Technology (WESTPRIME)

Finalists in Excellence in Innovation: Pilots and Start-up Projects:

  • Defense Information Systems Agency, Directorate of Network Services – ADNET Advanced Analytics (A3) EPICLink Pilot (A3/E)
  • U.S. Army CECOM – CECOM Equipment Diagnostic Analysis Tool (CEDAT) Virtual Logistic Assistance Representative (VLAR)
  • National Institutes of Health – eVIP – Electronic Vendor Invoicing Program
  • Department of Defense, Defense Manpower Data Center – Identity Management Enterprise Services Architecture (IMESA) and Continuous Evaluation
  • Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Health Administration – Program Integrity Tools (PIT)

Finalists in Excellence in Health IT

  • Department of Defense/Veterans Affairs – Defense and Veterans Eye Injury and Vision Registry (DVEIVR)
  • Office of the Secretary of Health and Human Resources, Commonwealth of Virginia – Electronic Health and Human Services (eHHR): Innovating Human Services in Virginia
  • U.S. Army, PEO EIS – Medical Communications for Combat Casualty Care (MC4)
  • Department of Veterans Affairs – Mobile Applications for Mental and Behavioral Health
  • Department of Health and Human Services, National Institutes of Health – Parkinson’s Disease Biomarkers Program Data Management Resource (PDBP DMR)

Now for sale: Navy special operations boat

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How badly do you want to catch some fish? Or do you just want to cruise the waters in style?

Well either way you might want to consider bidding on a Navy special operations craft, currently on sale through the General Services Administration auction program. The initial bid is $100,000 but that won’t meet the reserve.

The 82-foot Mark V special operations craft weighs about 57 tons and can carry about 6,500 pounds with a range of 500 nautical miles. It can fit you and up to 15 of your closest friends/military Special Forces crew seated in relative comfort.

It also has enough room to fit four motor-propelled inflatable boats.

And it can all be yours! Just be careful, it does not come with a warranty and you will need to haul it from its current location in Norfolk, Va. The auction starts on Feb. 20 at 5 p.m.

 

GSA “Billionaire” parody creator files copyright, lawmaker wants it back

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On April 2, 2012 a General Services Administration Inspector General report detailed wasteful practices at an $823,000, 2010 regional conference in Las Vegas, leading to the ouster of GSA’s top leadership and reforming government conference spending.

A music-video parody of Travie McCoy’s music video for ‘Billionaire‘ featuring Bruno Mars by then GSA employee Hank Terlaje titled “The Commissioner Project” and shown at the conference quickly became one of the most famous – or infamous – parts of the ongoing scandal.

It’s also quite catchy. (Full disclosure: Terlaje says in the song that every time he closes his eyes he sees his name on Federal Times.)

YouTube Preview Image

But recently Terlaje received a copyright for the work and one key lawmaker is saying it is ineligible.

Rep. Darrell Issa, the chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, sent a letter to GSA administrator Dan Tangherlini Feb. 4 and said the video was created using government resources – including employees and facilities – for a government event and is there ineligible for a copyright.

“As the video appears to have been filmed at federal government facilities, with GSA personnel, and for the express purpose of use at an official event, the committee is concerned that securing a private copyright on such work is inappropriate. Any such copyright would appear to rightfully belong to the federal government,” Issa said in the letter.

Issa is requesting all agency documents and communications regarding the production and creation of the work and any and all communications regarding Terlaje and the video.

The video shows Terlaje in a cubicle and other office spaces as well as on the beach and in parks.

I have reached out to Terlaje for comment and will update if I receive any response. Or if he reads it here he can always email me at amedici@federaltimes.com.

GSA helps find former military dog new home

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When the military dog Rex II came home to Fort Myer after serving in Afghanistan he was unable to be placed into a home right away because of behavioral issues. But two federal employees believed the dog had earned a second chance for helping to protect service members and save lives while overseas.

So GSA’s Mid-Atlantic Area Property Officer Robert Kitsock worked with Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) Property Disposal Technician Angela Sakyrd to help find him a home at the Panama City Beach Police Department.

Read more about it on the GSA blog.

GSA wants vendor input on sustainability

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The General Services Administration wants input from contractors and businesses about how to build sustainability into procurements.

From GSA:

In the Federal Acquisition Service, we have been piloting the introduction of sustainability considerations into our procurements, particularly into the Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative solutions. In addition to green product requirements, we’ve been looking at distribution networks, product takeback, and packaging reduction. Keeping in mind that more than 75% of our vendors are small businesses and that we want to be consistent with commercial practices, what else do you think we should be specifying to make a purchase “sustainable”?  Should we look at vendor practices and if so, which ones?

Those interested in giving feedback can go here.

5 important federal items you may have missed last week

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It was a busy week. Congress finally passed a budget for fiscal 2014 that includes a slew of new provisions and changes in funding levels across the government. The NSA has been under fire for the collection of phone records, metadata and even text messages. The governor of New Jersey is under continuing investigation because of the closure of a bridge that snarled traffic for four days.

So if you missed a few things that is certainly understandable. Which is why we have compiled a list of stories that are interesting or important that may have flown under your radar.

1.Sequestration cuts contract spending $58 billion in 2013

Budgets cuts, contracting reforms and the military drawdown in Afghanistan have pushed government contract spending to its lowest level in more than seven years.

Government spending on contracts plunged almost $58 billion – 11 percent – to about $460 billion in fiscal 2013, according to the Office of Management and Budget and preliminary estimates from the Government Accountability Office.

Read more here.

2. OPM considering transgender care in future employee health plans

The Office of Personnel Management is evaluating expanding its federal employee health coverage to include transgender care. Other agencies such as Health and Human Services – which governs Medicare and Medicaid – are also taking steps to re-evaluate their positions excluding the coverage.

Read more here.

3. Close look awaits NIST cybersecurity framework due next month

Agencies and companies are in a state of high anticipation over cybersecurity guidelines NIST plans to release next month that create voluntary standards for how companies involved with critical infrastructure should protect themselves.

“I think it’s very highly anticipated,” said Scott Montgomery, vice president and chief technology officer for the public sector at McAfee, an information security firm.

Read more here.

4. Military services undergo massive health IT consolidation

Until recently, each of the military services had their own health information technology organizations, complete with separate data centers, contracting practices, infrastructure and applications.

But all that is going to change, according to David Bowen, the chief information officer at the Defense Health Agency.

Read more here.

5. Pentagon to launch mobile rollout Jan. 31

The Defense Information Systems Agency will begin deploying initial capabilities this month to support thousands of Apple and Android devices across the military.

The initial roll out, or version 1.0 of the mobile device management solution is set for Jan. 31 and will focus on managing unclassified devices, DISA announced Thursday.

Read more here.