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News Briefs: Sept. 3

Sep. 2, 2012 - 02:18PM   |  
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Grassley investigates HUD conferences

The Housing and Urban Development Department is the latest agency to find its conference spending under a microscope.

Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, sent a letter Aug. 23 to HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan asking for detailed information on how much the department has spent on conferences since October 2008.

Past investigations have shown HUD was irresponsible with taxpayer dollars, Grassley said.

“Housing officials use public money for large salaries, bonuses, cars and drivers and even housing stipends for themselves,” he wrote.

Grassley asked for conference itineraries and the amount spent on facilities, food and gifts to be provided by Sept. 12.

Interagency response to military suicides

President Obama signed an executive order Aug. 31 calling for an interagency effort to reduce the rates of suicide and mental health disorders among veterans and troops by improving their access to behavioral health care.

The order directs Cabinet agencies, including the Veterans Affairs, Defense, Health and Human Services, and Education departments, to expand suicide prevention efforts, fill vacancies for mental health jobs and widen outreach to service members and veterans.

VA must expand its veterans’ crisis line capability by 50 percent by Dec. 31 and ensure that veterans who identify as being a danger to themselves or others connect with a trained mental health professional within 24 hours.

VA is required to partner with DoD in developing and implementing a nationwide yearlong suicide prevention campaign aimed at veterans.

VA and HHS must collaborate to recruit mental health providers for rural areas.

Energy IG faults security at nuclear facility

The Energy Department inspector general in a report last week faults the department’s Y-12 National Security Complex at Oak Ridge, Tenn., for security lapses that allowed three intruders to break into the uranium processing facility in July.

The intruders tripped alarms, but a security guard did not immediately respond to the scene and when he did, he did not draw a weapon and permitted the intruders to roam the area and retrieve items from their backpacks.

The report doesn’t indicate why the intruders were present.

News reports identified the three, including a nun, as protesters.

One video camera covering the area had not been working for six months while contractor employees at the site said security patrols had been cut because of budget pressure, according to the report.

The report recommends Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, which oversees the contractor-run site, overhaul security.

GSA chooses 17 vendors for cloud email

The General Services Administration has awarded contracts to 17 vendors to provide cloud email services to federal agencies and state, local and tribal governments, the agency announced last week.

Through 20 blanket purchase agreements valued at $2.5 billion over five years, the vendors will offer cloud email, services to migrate data moving to the cloud, and cloud-based office automation and electronic records management services.

Rule could require contractor IT safeguards

Contractors could be required to provide safeguards on information systems they use to collect and process nonpublic government data, under a proposed rule published Aug. 24 in the Federal Register.

The rule is an attempt to provide common security standards for civilian and military agencies, which now use different standards, said David Bodenheimer, a partner in Crowell and Moring’s government contracts law group.

Among the requirements:

• Do not process government information on public computers, such as those in hotel business centers.

• Government information transmitted in emails, text messages or blogs should use technology and processes that provide the best level of security and privacy available.

• Transmit government information via voicemail or fax only when access to the messages is limited to authorized recipients.

Comments on the proposed rule can be submitted until Oct. 23.

Army moves 500,000 email accounts to cloud

The Army has moved 500,000 email accounts to the cloud, the Defense Information Systems Agency announced last month.

The Army’s goal is to move a total of 1.6 million email users from disparate local servers to centralized servers operated by DISA by March. It projects the move, which began in January 2011, will save $380 million through fiscal 2017.

The migration has faced delays and much scrutiny. The Army was forced to suspend the migration in December after concerned lawmakers temporarily withheld funding for the program, pending a detailed report.

The migration resumed in March after the Army verified that its acquisition approach was in the best technical and financial interests of the Army.

Union campaigns to save EPA budget

The union local representing Environmental Protection Agency employees last week launched a website and campaign to protest proposed budget cuts.

“What is the point of cutting EPA’s budget today to reduce the federal deficit if the end result is more illness and death due to a short-sighted focus on costs with no consideration of the benefits of spending?” said John O’Grady, president of American Federation of Government Employees Local 704.

EPA requested $8.3 billion for fiscal 2013, about $105 million below fiscal 2012 levels. House Republicans have proposed cutting the budget to about $7 billion next year, a roughly 17 percent decrease and below EPA’s fiscal 1998 budget.

More diversity oversight of Treasury contractors

Contractors that work with the Treasury Department will face more oversight regarding the number of women and minorities they employ, under a proposed rule published last month.

The rule would require a business with at least $150,000 in Treasury service contracts to “make good-faith efforts” to include minorities and women in its workforce, according to the notice published in the Aug. 21 Federal Register. The 2010 Dodd-Frank Act required Treasury, seven other financial regulatory agencies and Federal Reserve banks to establish the rules.

Contractors already are required to compile similar data to comply with federal equal opportunity regulations, the proposed rule said.

Thoma Bravo acquires Deltek Inc.

Federal market analyst Deltek Inc. has been bought by private equity firm Thoma Bravo for roughly $1.1 billion, company officials announced last week.

The transaction, anticipated to close by the end of 2012, was approved by Deltek’s board of directors and its largest shareholder, New Mountain Capital.

Deltek, which is now publicly traded, will be privately held under the deal. Its stockholders will receive $13 in cash for each share when the transaction closes, according to the company’s news release.

Deltek, which earned $341 million last year and has more than 1,600 employees, provides services to 98 of the top 100 federal contractors, according to information from the company.

It expanded its services in the past two years by acquiring INPUT, a business development company, in September 2010 and the Washington Management Group, with its FedSources market research and consulting components, in April 2011. The company’s revenues increased more than 20 percent between 2010 and 2011.

Deltek, under president and CEO Kevin Parker, will continue to be based in Herndon, Va., and led by its existing senior management team.

Administration orders shift to electronic records

Agencies are “to eliminate paper and use electronic record-keeping” as much as possible in handling both classified and unclassified records, the Obama administration said Aug. 24. And the Office of Personnel Management must create a career track for records management employees by the end of next year.

The new records management directive — a five-page memo from Acting Office of Management and Budget Director Jeff Zients and David Ferriero, head of the National Archives and Records Administration — also requires agencies to:

• Manage all permanent electronic records in an electronic format by December 2019 — rather than printing out records of emails and other online records. By the end of next year, the Archives is supposed to issue new instructions for managing, disposing of and transferring email records.

• Consider records management issues when using cloud computing services for data storage.

• Explore the use of automated technologies to make record-keeping easier.

Creation of a formal occupational series for records management employees will elevate the responsibilities and skill sets of agency records officers, Zients and Ferriero wrote.

Such employees are now classified under a potpourri of titles, such as information technology specialist, management analyst or program analyst.

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