Two Republican congresswomen introduced a cybersecurity bill this week that promotes information sharing and aligns closely with legislation sponsored by Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.
Reps. Mary Bono Mack, R-Calif., and Marsha Blackburn, R-Tenn., introduced the 2012 Strengthening and Enhancing Cybersecurity by Using Research, Education, Information, and Technology Act (SECURE IT), H.R. 4263, on Tuesday.
The bill would provide “explicit authorization for the private sector to defend its own networks and voluntarily share cyber threat information within the private sector and with the government – without the legal barriers that currently exists,” acorrding to a news release.
Other measures include:
- Stiffer penalities for cyber criminals who hack into servers and steal personal information like credit card numbers and government documents.
- Better security of federal networks through reforms to the 2002 Federal Information Security Management Act.
- Advancement of cybersecurity research.
Spring Break fever was in the air today on Capitol Hill. Legislators have officially fled Washington D.C. and there will be no hearings until April 16th.
But before the final votes ensued, the Senate subcommittee on contracting oversight held a hearing where Senators McCaskill, Portman and Tester grilled witnesses from the Army, The Office of Personnel and Management and The Department of Homeland Security over contractor spending.
Meanwhile, Chairwoman McCaskill’s grandsons were in attendance. My guess is they are on their own Spring Break. They sat graciously through the hearing; only occasionally trying sneak into my shot. I’m sure they were absolutely enthralled with the subject of Contractors: How Much Are They Costing the Government.
When Grandma adjourned the hearing she let the boys smack the gavel to officially call the hearing to a close – then they really spotted me. And as kids do, they hammed it up for the camera. So, cute.
The Office of Management and Budget wants Congress to reconsider a proposal to reduce how much contractors can charge the government for their executives’ compensation, an amount that is currently “unjustified and unnecessary,” the federal procurement chief said in a blog post this morning.
Under federal cost reimbursement contracts, agencies pay contractors for incurred costs, including salaries for executives and other employees. These costs usually show up in the overhead rates that contractors set. OMB caps how much contractors can charge the government for executive compensation based on what top private sector executives earn.
Contractors can currently ask the government to reimburse up to $693,951 for each of its top five executives. OMB will soon have to update that figure and the cap is expected to increase to $750,000.
The administration asked Congress last year to scrap the formula that sets the reimbursement cap and instead tie it to what the government pays its own top executives, about $200,000.
“Unfortunately, Congress failed to reform the current reimbursement formula for contractor executives and, until it does, taxpayers will continue to foot a bill that is both unjustified and unnecessary,” Lesley Field, acting administrator of OMB’s Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said in the post.
The administration has asked Congress to take another look at the formula and lower the compensation cap this year.
A cap on how much contractors can charge the government for their top execs would be extended to all defense contract employees as part of the agreement reached by House and Senate leaders for the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act.
Currently, contractors can seek reimbursement for the compensation — wages, salary, bonuses and deferred compensation — of each of the company’s top five executives. Legislation now proposed for the 2012 NDAA would extend that cap, which is now at $693,951, to all employees that work on a contract or are included in the overhead costs of a contract.
The Defense Department could also create an exemption for scientists and engineers if it determines that an exemption is necessary to attract skilled workers in those areas.
The Senate tried to lower the limit of the cap by tying it to the President’s salary, which is now $400,000. Sen. Barbara Boxer, who co-sponsored that language in the Senate bill, was disappointed by the change in the final version and said she will continue working on ways to “rein in exorbitant taxpayer-funded salaries for contractors.”
“It is outrageous that under this bill, defense contractors can continue to charge taxpayers $700,000 a year for their salaries,” she said in a statement.
Both the House and Senate now have to approve the agreements reached by the conference committee.
The proposed NDAA would also preempt any mandate by the President that would require contractors to disclose their political contributions before being awarded a federal contract. Both the House and Senate versions included identical language to prohibit agencies from requiring contractors to submit information about their political contributions at any time during the contract process.
A draft executive order that would have required was leaked in April but the White House has not said anything more than it was under consideration.
Happy Friday! FedLine couldn’t let the week end without noting that the Congressional Research Service has a new permanent director. After serving as CRS’ acting chief since April, Mary Mazanec got the nod Monday from James Billington, the Librarian of Congress. Mazanec replaces Daniel Mulhollan, who retired.
“Dr. Mazanec has advanced degrees in law and medicine and brings a breadth of experience that will be valuable in leading CRS and ensuring that CRS continues to provide comprehensive and objective research and analysis that meets the needs of [members of Congress] and staff,” Billington said in a news release.
Mazanec previously worked at the Health and Human Services Department from 2002 to 2010, where she wound up her tenure as deputy assistant secretary and director of the Office of Medicine, Science and Public Health. She also served as a Senate staffer and as a senior policy analyst at the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission.
Her degrees include a bachelor of science from the University of Notre Dame, a doctor of medicine from Case Western Reserve University Medical School and a juris doctorate from Case Western Reserve University Law School.
Tags: Mary Mazanec
Government contractors who blow the whistle on improper use of federal dollars or unethical behavior would be protected against retaliation under a bill introduced by Sen. Claire McCaskill, D-Mo.
Recent laws that extend protections to some contractors have created a patchwork of inadequate protections, McCaskill, chairwoman of the Senate Contracting Oversight Subcommittee, said during a hearing Tuesday.
For example, whistleblower provisions added for defense contractor employees in 2008 do not protect contractors from retaliation by a government official nor does it cover subcontractors.
Senate Bill 241 would extend whistleblower protections to all government contractors and subcontractors, and consolidate some of the current whistleblower provisions for contractors.
McCaskill introduced the same bill in 2009.
Walter Tamosaitis, who worked for a subcontractor on an Energy Department nuclear waste treatment project in Hanford, Wash., testified that was kicked off the project and moved to a basement office after he raised technical design problems that could cause safety issues. Addressing the concerns would have kept the prime contractor, Bechtel, from finishing on time and collecting a $5 million award fee, he said.
“It’s a very visible example of what happens when you speak up,” he said.
Tamosaitis is now taking Bechtel and the Energy Department to court. Bechtel National spokesman Jason Bohne said the company is contesting all allegations of wrongdoing in Tamosaitis’ case.
It’s all over but the shoutin’ for the supercommittee. Negotiations broke down over the weekend with the parties hopelessly divided over taxes, dooming any chance at finding $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction. Members resorted to pointing fingers at one another on talk shows yesterday, and the only discussions still going on are how to break the bad news to the American people.
Reason magazine’s Peter Suderman put it perfectly in a tweet Saturday: “Super Committee is apparently one of those newfangled indie comic books where the heroes think they have powers but don’t.”
This will mean — theoretically, at least — that $1.2 trillion must be cut from the federal budget under a process known as “sequestration.” Federal Times would like to hear from you about what this will mean for you and your agency. Are you already making plans for sequestration? What discussions have been going on in your budget offices? Are you being told to scale back your hiring in anticipation of the steep budget cuts? E-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com. If you’d like to stay anonymous, that’s fine.
Even for a committee that nobody really expected would work, it’s an ignominious end. Perhaps when they finally throw in the towel, the supercommittee should play this sound:
FedLine: Treating Congress with the respect it deserves since 2008.
The supercommittee is shaping up to be Washington’s biggest flop since the 1961 Redskins. There’s five days left until Nov. 23, when its 12 members are supposed to come up with about $1.5 trillion in deficit reduction, but still no signs of life. The supercommittee is going to work through the weekend, but each party’s leaders are now publicly doubting it will succeed — and are jockeying to blame the other side.
Federal Times would like to hear from our readers on what they’re doing to prepare for sequestration — the $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts that would (theoretically) be mandated if the supercommittee fails. Budget specialists: How steep are the cuts you’re looking at, and where are you finding them? Human resources: Are you preparing for furloughs, more early outs and buyouts, or even RIFs? Are your contracting offices preparing to scale back contracts?
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., expects the Senate to vote on cybersecurity legislation during its first work period of 2012.
In a Nov. 16 letter to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., Reid said that bipartisan committees have been negotiating potential language in a cyber bill for the past six months, but those efforts haven’t produced results.
Reid said if the working groups cannot agree on bipartisan legislation by early next year, he will welcome legislation produced “elsewhere” to be debated on the Senate floor. For now, the 2012 legislative session is scheduled to begin Jan. 23.
Could that bill include recommendations from the House Republican Cybersecurity Task Force? In his letter, Reid highlighted efforts by the task force as being consistent with efforts in the Senate.
Tags: Harry Reid
The Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association is done sending sternly-worded letters with bullet-pointed statistics to the supercommittee. It’s now turning to cartoons to push lawmakers to avoid vast, across-the-board budget cuts, whether through sequestration or other reductions to discretionary spending.
FLEOA today sent this cartoon to all members of Congress, and said it will follow up with the supercommittee and lawmakers who deal with law enforcement issues. The cartoon shows three obviously dismayed federal agents heading toward the unemployment office, while a terrorist, a corrupt CEO, a drug smuggler and a pedophile gleefully drive by in a stretch limo. Note the word “perv” written on the pedophile’s trucker hat.
“Words … can easily be ignored,” FLEOA spokeswoman Jenny Mattingley said in an e-mail. “FLEOA is just trying a different tactic since the Hill, especially the supercommittee, is getting inundated with letters from every group. We thought this might stand out a bit more.”
Mattingley said FLEOA has no plans to launch an ad campaign with the cartoon.
What do you think? Will a cartoon like this cut through the white noise and get lawmakers’ attention, or will it be ignored? And what do you think about the stereotypical villains used in the cartoon?