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News briefs: Week of Nov. 4

Nov. 3, 2013 - 01:51PM   |  
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Pentagon names director of audit readiness

Margo Sheridan will be the new head of the Defense Department’s bid to get its books in auditable shape, according to a top Pentagon official.

Sheridan, who previously led a similar program at the Coast Guard, starts this week as the director of DoD’s Financial Improvement and Audit Readiness (FIAR) effort, Mark Easton, the department’s deputy chief financial officer, said in an email.

The post has been vacant since March, when the previous director, Joe Quinn, left for a job with consultant firm Ernst and Young.

Sheridan is also a retired Army colonel who has served in senior financial management leadership posts in industry and four federal agencies, Easton said. Under a timetable that Congress has now written into law, DoD is supposed to have an auditable statement of budgetary resources by next September, with the rest of its financial statements in similar shape by 2017.

Pentagon's Early Bird gets the ax

The Early Bird, the Pentagon’s popular daily email news digest of all things — well, most things — military died last week. The Bird was strangled, after a brief illness, in its nest by Col. Steve Warren. Its passing was reported first by a close friend, Gordon Lubold, of Foreign Policy.

For decades, troops, Pentagon officials, defense contractors and reporters awoke to the Bird’s pretty exhaustive scan of military headlines from papers big and small, news magazines and in its later years, blog items.

The government shutdown signaled the Bird’s demise. It went on hiatus when its staffers were furloughed. The daily habit snapped by weeks of going without it cold turkey, troops, bureaucrats and reporters found work-arounds. They scanned web sites on their own. Set up Google alerts. Even read the paper.

It also had become victim of the need for immediate updates. The first-thing-in-the-morning scan of what happened yesterday seems almost quaint now. Some Pentagon officials have developed other, more responsive scans of the news media. If a story of interest to the military breaks on a web site this afternoon, chances are it will be noted by officials long before the Early Bird rises.

There was also the matter of copyright and fair use. The Bird didn’t link to a media outlet’s web site; it simply copied the stories and provided them in full to its subscribers. So more than 1 million people a month who saw the Bird were able to read stories without paying for them.

Longest-serving Air Force civilian to retire

Payday went like this when Dorothy Rowe first went to work in Air Force finance: She’d drive to the bank and pick up enough cash to cover the base payroll — hundreds of thousands of dollars stacked inside big bags. Back at the office, Rowe would count it to make sure all of the money was there. Then she’d divide it up by base section. Finally, she’d count out the pay for every person on base.

Rowe, 88, went to work as a clerk typist at the Columbus Army Depot in Ohio in 1943, two years before World War II ended and four years before the birth of the modern-day Air Force. She went to Luke Air Force Base, Ariz., as a military pay clerk 10 years later and never left — until now. After 70 years, Rowe said she figures it’s time to retire.

Rowe, who worked her way up to financial analysis chief of the 56th Comptroller squadron, is the Air Force’s longest-serving civil servant.

Only one other civilian in the Defense Department has worked longer, according to the Air Force. To celebrate Rowe’s lifetime of service, Acting Secretary Eric Fanning planned to preside over her retirement ceremony Nov. 5.

“I’ll miss the people. I’ll miss coming to work every day,” Rowe said in an interview.

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