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News briefs -- Oct. 28, 2013

Oct. 28, 2013 - 10:28AM   |  
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OMB deputy director for management sworn in

Beth Cobert was sworn in last week as the deputy director for management at the Office of Management and Budget.

Cobert, previously a senior partner at consultant McKinsey and Co., won Senate confirmation earlier this month.

She replaces Jeff Zients, who stepped down in April.

With her arrival, OMB has Senate-confirmed appointees in its three top posts — director, deputy director for budget and deputy director for management — for the first time since January 2012.

Warner calls for GAO study on shutdown impact

Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., wants the Government Accountability Office to examine the effects of this month’s partial government shutdown on the federal workforce, agency operations, contractors and other areas.

“The best way to prevent an unnecessary shutdown is to better understand how this irresponsible action fully impacted our economy,” Warner said in a letter last week asking the agency to take on the assignment.

The GAO will review the request, a spokesman said.

FEMA's Sandy response praised in DHS audit

The Federal Emergency Management Agency overcame staffing challenges and other obstacles to provide an “effective and efficient response” to Hurricane Sandy, the Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general concluded in a newly released audit.

The storm devastated much of the New York City area in October 2012.

FEMA “proactively” prepared beforehand and moved quickly to respond to initial requests for aid, the review found. The agency later registered more than 270,000 applicants for individual assistance and obligated $459 million to 39 agencies to help with debris removal, power restoration and other tasks, according to the IG.

Army sells $300 million blimp for $300,000

The Defense Department spent about $297 million on a seven-story blimp only to sell it back to a contractor last month for $300,000, according to the Los Angeles Times.

The Army’s Long Endurance Multi-Intelligence Vehicle was supposed to be able to hover over battlefields and conduct long-range reconnaissance for up to three weeks at a time, but the project was abandoned as the Army wound down its presence in Afghanistan.

The Army decided to cancel the project after one test flight and stripped the blimp of its parts — including selling the helium —before being sold back to the U.K.-based Hybrid Air Vehicles. The company was part of a Northrop Grumman-led team contracted to build the airships.

Hagel calls for better protection of DoD data

The Defense Department must tighten measures to protect “unclassified controlled technical information” from cyber thieves, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a memo.

The memo, dated Oct. 10 and released publicly last week, lays out tasks for the undersecretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics; the DoD chief information officer; the undersecretary of defense for policy; and the undersecretary of defense for intelligence. They include:

■ Assessing unclassified DoD-operated networks to determine their vulnerability to cyber attacks and creating a strategy to reduce those risks.

■ Creating a capability to assess the loss of technical information and the consequences of those losses.

■ Identifying critical acquisition and technology programs that require higher levels of protection and ensuring the military services are adequately protecting those systems, based on their classification levels.

White House official fired for insulting tweets

Tweeting caught up with a White House national security official found to have been posting insults and secret information about people in the Obama administration and other political figures for more than two years, according to published reports.

Jofi Joseph, 40, had been tweeting under the handle @natsecwonk since February 2011 until mid-October, when the handle was shut down after a search by White House and State Department officials for months. The former member of the National Security Council non-proliferation team was fired ago after insulting everyone via Twitter from White House advisers to political figures, according to the Daily Beast and Politico.

In his tweets, Joseph criticized White House policy as well as the intellect and appearance of his bosses. He even insulted officials by name, including Secretary of State John Kerry, The Daily Beast reported.

Bill targets high-interest 'pension advance' firms

Federal and military retirees would get new safeguards to protect their pensions from unscrupulous businesses under a House bill introduced last week by Rep. Matt Cartwight, D-Pa., and several dozen co-sponsors.

The bill, backed by numerous federal employee groups, takes aim at so-called “pension advance” firms that require retirees to sign over all or part of their future pension checks in return for loans that sometimes carry double-digit interest rates. Cartwright’s bill would cap rates at 6 percent, strengthen disclosure requirements and expand pensioners’ right to sue.

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