Briefs

NASA renews tech program

After nearly a decade of scaling back its partnerships with higher education institutions because of budget pressures, NASA's fiscal 2002 budget requests up to $15 million to establish five university-based Research, Education and Training Institutes.

The RETIs, which would be run by NASA's Office of Aerospace Technology, are intended to research "cutting-edge emerging opportunities in technology" and "expand the nation's talent base for research and development," according to NASA documents.

"We want to establish a long-term, significant presence at these universities," said Murray Hirschbein, assistant chief technologist at NASA. The $15 million would be evenly distributed among five schools selected through a competitive process slated to begin in about a month.

Hirschbein said NASA ran a similar, successful program about 10 years ago, but it eventually lost steam due to budget concerns and a slowing space exploration program.

SSA mulls online improvements

The Social Security Administration is considering beefing up the online services that it offers to its employees.

In a request for information issued earlier this month, the agency announced that it is interested in buying a commercial off-the-shelf product that would enable it to post employee benefits statements online. The contractor would also be responsible for hosting the program. SSA has about 63,000 employees nationwide.

The system would give SSA employees improved online access to their personal information, such as retirement benefits and Thrift Savings Plan account balances. The software would also allow SSA employees to input data to calculate such things as alternative retirement estimates.

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