The Veterans Affairs Department and U.S. Postal Service are testing a program to allow veterans to mail back expired and unused prescription drugs for safe disposal.
Veterans will receive special postage-paid envelopes and instructions with their prescriptions. Veterans with leftover medication can use the envelopes to mail back the drugs at any mailbox or post office.
The drugs will be delivered to disposal sites approved by the Environmental Protection Agency and Drug Enforcement Agency and disposed of through incineration, chemical or thermal processes. The agencies announced the program in an April 8 news release.
The pilot program will start with about 780,000 veterans in Baltimore, Md., Washington, D.C.; and West Virginia. The initiative began in Maine in 2008.
Agency budgets will stay flat for the next few years as the government faces an $11 trillion deficit, presenting fewer opportunities for vendors to do business with agencies.
Vendors can separate themselves from the competition by identifying how they can save agencies money, said budget expert Stan Collender at INPUT’s Federal Market View 2010 conference today in Falls Church, Va. Vendors and contractors who know how to sell themselves to agencies can carve out a piece of the narrowing contracting pie, he sad.
You should expect extreme scrutiny on the programs you care about. There’s almost no way around it – there will be cuts and where there are increases, they will not be as big as in the past.”
Collender, managing director for Qorvis Communications, also said vendors should expect yet another continuing resolution for fiscal 2011. With politicians facing press to cut spending while avoiding impacting popular programs, it’s safer for members of Congress to vote on omnibus spending bills and continuing resolutions instead of individual appropriations bills.
We may be very much in the era when individual appropriations are not enacted. I don’t mean not enacted in time, I mean not enacted. Period.”
The Health and Human Services Department will rely on the expertise of current federal employees to implement hundreds of changes mandated in the recently-signed health care law, HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said April 6.
“We’re not starting with the assumption that we have to build a new bureaucracy … One of the ways we’ll save money is by depending heavily on people and systems that are already in place. Our department already has great talent, resources, and knowledge of the health care system,” she said at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C
Sebelius’ speech was billed as a look at how HHS will implement the new health care law, but Sebelius avoided discussing how the agency will mount the largest health care changes since the creation of Medicare in 1965. She spoke mainly platitudes about how the law will help millions of Americans, though she said the agency will be transparent in how it makes changes and administers the law.
Once such example of transparency, she said, is a new Medicare dashboard. The dashboard will allow users to aggregate, search and sort a collection of data on Medicare costs and services, all while protecting patient privacy, she said.
“Today, we’re making available Medicare’s inpatient hospital spending data, which you’ll be able to sort by state, condition, and hospital. But this is just the first step of many we’ll be taking to give consumers, purchasers and providers the health information they need to make smarter choices,” she said.
The White House held a modernizing government forum earlier this year, inviting more than 50 private-sector chief executive officers to share best business practices with government officials. The White House recently released a report of its findings from the forum — to view the full report, click here.
The results reported aren’t too surprising. The best practices shared by the CEOs were pretty clear — be more transparent, plan your IT projects better, and don’t let IT projects drag on for five years. Do things quickly and implement IT projects in stages to test whether they’ll work, the CEOs said.
Here are a few key points OMB says it will adopt:
- Manage IT projects in a transparent form using tools such as the IT Dashboard.
- Re-evaluate comprehensive IT review processes to make sure leaders know the status of major IT projects.
- Create customer satisfaction surveys to gauge customers’ experiences with the government
The Social Security Administration is turning to pop culture icons to educate Americans about its offerings.
First they used Chubby Checker to promote a “twist” in its Medicare prescription plan costs. Now it’s using Patty Duke and the cast of her 1960s television show, “The Patty Duke Show,” to get the word out about its new online application for Medicare benefits.
To view one of the ads, click here.
Of course, this could risk making some beneficiaries feel really old — not only are you old enough for Social Security, but the icons of your youth are being used to promote it!
So, younger feds, what cultural icons will SSA use years from now to pitch new offerings? Will we see the cast of “Lost” reunite to help us find our missing Social Security entitlements?
The House passed a bill Wednesday banning the installation and use of peer-to-peer (P2P) file sharing software on all federal computers, systems and networks.
Peer-to-peer programs such as BitTorrent, Lime Wire and KazaA pose security risks for the federal government. Rep. Edophus Towns, D-N.Y., introduced HR 4098 after several publicized information breaches involving peer-to-peer programs last year. In one case, confidential House Ethics Committee investigation documents were posted online after a staffer loaded the documents onto her personal computer which had peer-to-peer sharing software installed.
Towns praised the House’s 408-13 vote in a statement.
While I understand that peer-to-peer file sharing software offers great potential, the security risks of open network use on federal computers and systems far exceed that potential. Because of our actions today, important safeguards are now in place to protect sensitive government information.”
The bill would require the Office of Management and Budget’s director to draft guidance to agencies banning the use of the file-sharing software and address the use of peer-to-peer programs on employees and contractors’ home and personal computers that may be used for teleworking.
The bill now goes to the Senate for consideration.
Martha Johnson, administrator for the General Services Administration, spoke with reporters this afternoon at FOSE. She’s only been in the job for about two months and is learning where the agency should go. GSA is at a “crossroads,” she said, and can either stay the same or fight to grow. She thinks it should grow and improve communications and responsiveness with the needs of both agencies and companies who contract with GSA.
What’s in our hands and what I’ve got some real sense of is the whole notion of upping our performance, simply cleaning up and performing better for our clients, being more responsive, helping people find what they need more quickly and understanding of where they can get the best value for the right price. That’s where I’ll be spending my time.”
She also said she’d like to help expand telework across the federal government. During February’s East Coast Snowmageddon, 60 percent of GSA employees teleworked. She’d like to work more with the Office of Personnel Management to provide equipment and services for agencies looking to step up their telework offerings, she said.
The Senate Commerce, Science and Technology Committee voted today to send a key cybersecurity bill to the Senate floor.
The bill, S 773,would require the executive branch to work with the private sector to create cybersecurity standards and mandate audits to ensure compliance with those new standards.
An earlier version of the bill would have granted the president authority to shut down the Internet in the case of a major cyber attack, but this new bill doesn’t include that authority. Instead, the government and the private sector would work together to address handling a major cybersecurity attack.
Sens. Jay Rockefeller, D-W.Va., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, co-sponsored the bill. Rockefeller, the committee’s chairman, called the legislation essential to securing the nation’s electronic infrastructure.
Our approach is very different from traditional regulation because it gives the private sector unprecedented influence – and responsibility – in determining how our country defends itself. It is better to act now than to wait to act after a cyber-emergency. We need the private sector to meet this challenge with bold and visionary leadership.”
Members approved the bill, S 773, by voice vote.
Placing too many security restrictions on mobile devices can deter employees from teleworking and fully using laptops and Blackberries, said federal cybersecurity officials today.
David Stender, assistant chief information officer for cybersecurity at the Internal Revenue Service, told FOSE convention attendees that restrictions can help protect your data but keep you from getting your money’s worth from mobile devices.
IRS uses a series of protections, including HSPD-12 cards, to allow users to authenticate themselves and access the IRS’ network, but those protections come with a price, he said. They do decrease battery life, which is frustrating for officers and investigators in the field, and provide many obstacles for employees looking to quickly send an e-mail or access a report. Some employees may grow so frustrated with security hurdles and diminished battery life that they don’t use the mobile devices they’re provided.
We’re not getting the productivity we should.”
The IRS is working to make its security protections more user friendly, and Stender said other IT professionals should consider the balance between security and productivity instead of just loading down devices with every protection possible.
It’s no April Fool’s Joke — Homeland Security Department’s undersecretary for management, Elaine Duke, will celebrate her last day at the agency April 1.
Duke told the Federal Times that she has plenty of hobbies and interests to explore after devoting much of the past decade to DHS. She has served as undersecretary of management since August 2008 and has worked for the federal government for 28 years, much of it in contracting.
I started with TSA in 2002, and work has really driven my time and energy. I’m looking forward to doing some discretionary things now.”
Duke said she had no comment as to who may take over as acting undersecretary for management.
President Obama nominated Rafael Borras to be undersecretary for management in June, but his nomination stalled after Sen. George Voinovich, R-Ohio, placed a hold late last year on Borras’ nomination.
Borras’ confirmation hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee didn’t go well. Sens. Susan Collins, R-Maine, and George Voinovich, R-Ohio, both questioned Borras’ selection and experience.
Borras is vice president of construction services for URS Corp.’s Mid-Atlantic region, where he oversees about 100 employees. He is also a former director of the General Services Administration’s Mid-Atlantic regional office.
At an October committee vote on Borras’ nomination, Voinovich said Borras has no experience as a chief financial officer or with managing multibillion-dollar contracts.
We require the undersecretary have extensive executive-level management. I’ve looked at his background, and I don’t believe his experience in the private and public sector are comparable to the challenges he’ll face at the department.”