Twenty agencies big and small were recently noted for top-notch financial and performance reporting by the Association of Government Accountants.
The “Certificate of Excellence in Accountability Reporting” (CEAR) singles out “high-quality Performance and Accountability Reports (PARs) and Annual Financial Reports (AFRs) that effectively illustrate and assess financial and program performance, accomplishments and challenges, cost and accountability,” the accountants association said in a news release. The association also spotlights the teams of dedicated federal professionals who (often unsung) put the reports together.
“Given the fiscal status of the United States government and the public’s perceptions about government fiscal accountability and transparency, the achievement of this year’s CEAR recipients is even more significant,” AGA Executive Director Relmond Van Daniker said in the release. The agencies being honored “truly represent a select group within the government financial management community.”
Here’s a rundown of the winners:
Architect of the Capitol
Federal Aviation Administration
Federal Housing Finance Agency
Federal Trade Commission
Office of Financial Stability (Treasury Department)
Commodity Futures Trading Commission
Housing and Urban Development Department
Government Accountability Office
Nuclear Regulatory Commission
Patent and Trademark Office
Securities and Exchange Commission
Small Business Administration
Social Security Administration
Also honored at the May 22 National Press Club ceremony were 10 agencies that showed “specific points of excellence” within their fiscal year 2012 PARs. Known as ‘Best in Class’ awards, the recipients included:
Health and Human Services Department: Best Summary of Management and Performance Challenges by the Inspector General
Labor Department: Most Complete Schedule of Spending
Peace Corps: Most Comprehensive and Candid Presentation of Forward-Looking Information
FTC: Best Agency Head Message
HUD: Best Presentation of a Financial Management Systems Framework
Interior: Best High-Level Discussion of Performance
Capitol Architect: Best Analysis of an Agency’s Financial Statements
FAA: Most Representative of Editorial Excellence
Department of Homeland Security: Best Improper Payment and Recovery Act Reporting
Central Intelligence Agency: Best Introduction
The Department of Homeland Security is keeping tight-lipped about the details surrounding the resignation of its former chief information officer, which it says was not prompted by disagreements over authority issues.
In April, Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, sent a letter to DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano asking why the department CIO Richard Spires was placed on voluntary or non voluntary leave, who made the final decision regarding his leave and additional information about the current acting CIO.
In a May 13 response, the department’s assistant secretary for legislative affairs, Nelson Peacock, said personnel and privacy rules prohibit DHS from discussing why Spires took elective leave from the agency and later resigned May 17.
Peacock said Spires was not placed in an administrative leave status because of disagreements concerning his authority as CIO but provided no further details. Concerning acting CIO Margie Graves, Peacock said she is fully qualified to serve in her current role and confirmed that she was hired as a Transportation Security Administration employee in 2003 and was not converted from a consultant position.
In a follow-up letter to DHS this week, Thompson pressed for more details, following the department’s refusal to provide adequate responses. This time, Thompson has asked for a copy of Spires resignation letter; an explanation of why he was placed on leave and who played a role in making that decision; an explanation of who is empowered to make information technology decisions at DHS and Graves’ employment history prior to being named acting CIO.
Richard Spires has resigned from his post as chief information officer at the Department of Homeland Security, an agency official confirmed Tuesday.
Spires has been on elected leave since March 15, according to the DHS official. But the nature of his resignation is unclear. Margie Graves, the departnment’s deputy CIO, will continue serving as acting CIO.
DHS has yet to respond to earlier requests from Rep. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., ranking member of the House Homeland Security Committee, concerning Spires’ extended leave from the agency. Specifically, Thompson asked why Spires was placed on voluntary or non voluntary leave, and who made the final decision regarding his leave. Responses were due May 6.
A 32-year-old Immigration and Customs Enforcement officer, who was one of more than 170 people wounded in Monday’s bombing at the Boston Marathon, was discharged from a local hospital Wednesday. In an e-mail to Federal Times today, ICE said the unnamed, off-duty officer sustained non-life threatening injuries and had surgery Tuesday.
ICE did not say whether the officer was a runner or spectator, but said he lives in the Brighton neighborhood of Boston.
Federal Times reported yesterday that an ICE officer had been wounded. The Office of Personnel Management said it was unaware of any other wounded federal employees.
In other news, OPM said Wednesday it has received the Boston Federal Executive Board’s request for a special solicitation to benefit victims of the bombing, and that it expects to make a decision soon.
Federal, state and local agencies are working together in the aftermath of 3 explosions near the finish line of the Boston Marathon that has left at least 2 dead and more than 20 people injured.
Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick said in a press conference with reporters Monday that he has talked personally with President Obama and the FBI – who have pledged to help in any way required.
He said the Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, the FBI, Massachusetts State Police and the National Guard were all working together along with local law enforcement and first responders.
“There is a lot of coordination in a very fluid situation,” Patrick said.
The Department of Homeland Security is in contact with state and local authorities and will provide whatever assistance is necessary in the investigation and response to the bombings, according to an agency spokeswoman.
My name is Andy and if you haven’t guessed it yet, I am one of the reporters here at the Federal Times. For the last few weeks we have had a new feature on our blog, “Silver Screen Feds,” where we look at famous federal employees in cinema and television. This week my partner-in-crime and colleague Steve Losey is spending time with his family, so instead of doing all the work myself, you guys get a clip-show version of everything we have done so far.
Below are each of our entries in the ongoing series, so feel free to read and enjoy them. Post your own suggestions in the comments and let us know what you think.
In our first entry I took a look at the postal workers who save the day in the 1947 classic “Miracle on 34th Street.” And Stephen examined the tragic flaws that brought down the Environmental Protection Agency’s Walter Peck in 1984′s “Ghostbusters.”
Next, we examined a far less-honorable mailman — Newman from “Seinfeld” — and the surprising heroism of Drug Enforcement Administration agent Hank Schrader in “Breaking Bad.”
In our third entry we picked two federal employees who couldn’t be any more different: Dr. Edwin Jenner, the doomed researcher at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the zombie apocalypse show “The Walking Dead,” and Ranger Smith, the hapless National Park Service ranger who can’t stop Yogi Bear from stealing them pic-a-nic baskets.
In our fourth entry we took a trip back to the Roaring Twenties and the lawless days of Prohibition, to look at the best and worst Treasury agents who ever busted up a still on-screen: Legendary lawman Eliot Ness from the 1987 film “The Untouchables,” and deeply disturbed Agent Nelson Van Alden from HBO’s series “Boardwalk Empire.”
And in our latest entry I took a look at the best team of federal employees ever to grace the big screen: Mission control from “Apollo 13.” And keep reading for Stephen Losey’s take on Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Russ Cargill, from “The Simpsons Movie” — the first character we’ve profiled who descends into outright super-villainy.
One of the great unknowns of sequestration is how many hours of federal agency staff time have been consumed by drafting, discussing and implementing the steps needed to handle the across-the-board spending cuts.
And it’s not over yet.
Under an April 1 deadline stemming from the continuing resolution approved last fall, more than three dozen agencies are supposed to give Congress updated operating plans that reflect the impact of the reductions for fiscal 2013. Inconveniently, however, lawmakers are still tinkering with a final version of the FY13 budget, meaning that some agencies—the Defense Department in particular—may have to rewrite those plans.
“We’re going to have a real problem because you’re about to change the whole framework for us,” DoD Comptroller Robert Hale said yesterday at a House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing. Because the baseline for the sequester cuts will change, Hale said, “we will need to go back and make sure we still have the right plans.”
Last fall’s CR expires March 27, meaning that lawmakers have to approve a replacement by next Wednesday or a trigger a partial government shutdown. The consensus that is that something will pass by then that will substantially rework the Pentagon’s budget to provide more flexibility.
Under a bill now grinding its way through the Senate, the Department of Homeland Security, NASA and a handful of other agencies could also see significant changes in the allocation of their FY13 budgets. Under questioning from Rep. Elijah Cummings of Maryland, the committee’s top Democrat, Hale conceded that DoD will probably not be able to make the April 1 deadline with “meaningful information.”
“We will respond to the law,” Rafael Borras, DHS undersecretary for management, said at the same hearing. “If there are any changes between now and April 1, we will adjust accordingly.”
The Hatch Act would get some tweaking under a bill that won unanimous Senate approval last week.
The bill would allow state and local government employees to run for partisan political office, for example, and the Merit Systems Protection Board would get more options for dealing with violations of the act, which generally bars federal civil servants from partisan politicking. Currently, the board’s only option is to fire offending feds unless its members unanimously agree to some lesser penalty.
The bill, sponsored by Sen. Daniel Akaka, D-Hawaii, now goes to the House, where Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., has introduced similar legislation.
The 1939 Hatch Act, (officially known, in case you were wondering, as “An Act to Prevent Pernicious Political Activities”), is seen both by Republicans and Democrats as needing a refresh, although the two sides differ on particulars. The status quo is “clear as mud,” Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., declared at a hearing last year of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that he chairs. (Cummings is the top Democrat.) So far, however, Issa has not introduced any legislation.
Also urging change is Carolyn Lerner, head of the Office of Special Counsel, the agency charged with Hatch Act enforcement. At the law’s best, it keeps people in political power from abusing their positions, Lerner wrote in a New York Times op-ed. At its worst, she said, it prevents would-be candidates in state and local races from running for office because their jobs are in some trivial way tied to federal funding.
How trivial? Well, in one instance, a Pennsylvania policeman wanted to run for school board, but was told by Lerner’s office that the law wouldn’t allow it. His bomb-sniffing dog, after all, was funded by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
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.
Tags: Janet Napolitano
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?