From the pages of Federal Employees News Digest

2008 omnibus bill blocks the outsourcing of Interior jobs
The recently signed fiscal 2008 Omnibus Appropriation Act contains language that effectively blocks administration efforts to outsource thousands of natural resource and environmental protection jobs, according to documents posted by the Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) on the organization's Web site. Bush administration officials had targeted as many as two out of three Forest Service jobs for potential outsourcing. The National Park Service and the Fish and Wildlife Service had similar outsourcing efforts under way, PEER said.

The budget law contains a complete ban on further activities directed toward outsourcing any Forest Service jobs. That law also severely limits funding of any outsourcing-related activities within the Interior Department to $3.5 million to complete ongoing studies, PEER said. In addition, the Interior Department — which contains the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service and Bureau of Land Management — must assess the effects outsourcing would have on its firefighting and fire-response abilities. Employees at those agencies all have collateral fire-response duties, PEER said.

CBO cites VA’s progress on veterans health care
A continuing organizational and management restructuring has helped the Veterans Affairs Department win high marks for progress toward improving its health care system, according to a new preliminary review by the Congressional Budget Office.

CBO looked at the quality of VA’s health care and examined the department's achievements and lessons learned from recent initiatives. The report said three major factors have contributed to improved health care: VA’s restructuring efforts to permit shared decision-making among VA’s central office, regional managers and facility directors; greater use of health information technology; and increased use of performance measurements and assessments.

IT security is still a problem at the IRS, GAO report says
Despite some progress, financial processing and information systems at the Internal Revenue Service are still plagued by security weaknesses that outsiders could exploit, according to a Government Accountability Office report released Jan. 8. GAO looked at how well the IRS had improved its information security controls, which are essential to ensuring that financial and taxpayer information is protected from inadvertent or deliberate misuse and fraud.

The IRS established objectives for improving information security, including protecting and encrypting data, securing information technology assets and building security into new applications, but problems remain. For example, the IRS continues to use passwords that are not complex, grant excessive access to individuals who do not need it and install patches in an untimely manner. In a written response to the report, IRS officials agreed to develop a detailed corrective plan that addresses each of the recommendations.

Federal Employees News Digest is an 1105 Government Information Group newsletter about federal government staffing, benefits and other management issues. For more, go to www.FederalDaily.com.

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