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DHS gets federal cybersecurity portfolio

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The Office of Management and Budget has officially tabbed the Homeland Security Department to oversee cybersecurity in the executive branch, as OMB indicated would be the case in April.

A memo this week from OMB Director Peter Orszag and federal cybersecurity coordinator Howard Schmidt gives DHS responsibility for:

• overseeing the government-wide and agency-specific implementation of and reporting on cybersecurity policies and guidance;
• overseeing and assisting government-wide and agency-specific efforts to provide adequate, risk-based and cost-effective cybersecurity;
• overseeing the agencies’ compliance with FISMA and developing analyses for OMB to assist in the development of the FISMA annual report;
• overseeing the agencies’ cybersecurity operations and incident response and providing appropriate assistance; and
• annually reviewing the agencies’ cybersecurity programs.

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DHS’ Elaine Duke to retire April 1

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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.”

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Thanks, DHS!

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If you work at the Homeland Security Department, the House of Representatives has some kind words for you.

Members of Congress love to bash DHS and interrogate officials at frequent congressional hearings, but the House voted Thursday to approve a resolution, H.Res. 731, expressing appreciation for the work DHS employees do. Here’s the official description of the bill:

Expressing the sense of the House of Representatives that the employees of the Department of Homeland Security, their partners at all levels of government, and the millions of emergency response providers and law enforcement agents nationwide should be commended for their dedicated service on the Nation’s front lines in the war against acts of terrorism.

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FEMA will stay in DHS

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President Barack Obama’s administration put an end to years of debate Wednesday when Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano announced that the Federal Emergency Management Agency will stay within DHS.

FEMA had been an independent agency before the creation of DHS after Sept. 11, 2001, and many have argued that it could respond to disasters best by being removed from the bureaucracy of DHS.

For a full story, check back with Federal Times shortly.

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Hold lifted on FEMA nominee

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Sen. David Vitter, R-La., announced Tuesday he’s lifted his hold on the nomination of W. Craig Fugate as administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Vitter had put the hold on Fugate’s nomination as an effort to get answers from FEMA officials over rebuilding coastal areas, V-Zones, decimated during hurricanes Katrina and Rita. He lifted the hold after recieving a letter from FEMA Acting Administration Nancy Ward promising to resolve the rebuilding issue quickly.

He said he was pleased that FEMA responded to his concerns.

Louisianans have gotten way too many easy spoken assurances from FEMA over the last four years that didn’t mean anything. Now that I’ve secured a specific written commitment from them on the V-Zone issue, we can move forward.”

Fugate’s nomination had been thought to be non-controversial. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved his nomination by voice vote April 27. A floor vote on his nomination hasn’t been scheduled.

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Video of the planned DHS headquarters site

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The National Capital Planning Commission in January approved the master plan to transform the 176-acre abandoned St. Elizabeths psychiatric hospital compound into a headquarters complex for the Homeland Security Department.
Federal Times videographer Colin Kelly and Senior Staff Writer Tim Kauffman recently participated in a media tour of the southeast Washington site. Here’s Colin’s footage:

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House passes stimulus, adds whistleblower protection

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The House voted 244-188 Wednesday evening to pass the economic stimulus package, setting up a Senate vote in the coming days.

The $819 billion bill, HR 1, includes $523 billion in spending and $275 billion in tax cuts, which Democrats said will spur economic growth and create American jobs.

The House approved six amendments to the bill, several of which affect federal employees:

  • The bill now includes a provision strengthening whistleblower protections for federal employees, which had been missing from the original bill. The bill specified protections for state and local workers but did not mention federal employees. The whistleblower protections come from the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, which passed the House, but not the Senate, in the last Congress. The amendment was introduced by Reps. Todd Platts, R-Pa., and Chris Van Hollen, D-Md.
  • A requirement that the Department of Homeland Security purchase American-made uniforms for employees. Sponsor Rep. Larry Kissel, D-N.C., a former textile worker, said on the floor this provision would bolster local manufacturing.
  • A requirement that recovery.gov contain links and information on jobs created at or by entities receiving stimulus funding, including links to local employment agencies, state and local public agencies, and private contractors who have received stimulus-funded contracts. Offered by Rep. Harry Teague, D-N.M.
  • Transportation and Infrastructure Chairman James Oberstar, D-Minn., introduced a “use it or lose it” provision requiring that 50 percent of the funds for highway, aviation, transit and rail projects be obligated within 90 days.
  • Highway maintenance money in the stimulus bill can’t replace existing state funding, introduced by Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Pa. That’s to make sure the stimulus money creates new jobs and spending instead of merely replacing planned spending.
  • The bill now includes an additional $3 billion for transit spending, thanks to an amendment by Rep. Jarrold Nadler, D-N.Y. Total transit spending in the bill is now $12 billion.

Republicans were markedly less enthusiastic about the stimulus bill, proposing a substitute amendment focused on tax cuts equaling $487.7 billion over 10 years. The substitute amendment, which would have included a repeal of the 3 percent tax withholding requirement for federal contractors, would have been a more effective means of reviving the economy, Rep. Mike Pence said earlier Wednesday.

That measure failed 170-266 with even a few Republicans voting no.

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