Tuesday Roundup: Budget talks, energy data, new FOIA site and a White House cyberattack

Talks underway to stop short of “fiscal cliff.” The New York Times reports that “a bipartisan group of senators is coalescing around an ambitious three-step process to avert a series of automatic tax increases and deep spending cuts.” The plan, which still lacks detail, would first establish an overall deficit reduction target, and then establish “expedited instructions” for congressional committees to hash out details in 2013. Only then would the House and Senate “vote to put off the automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, and tax increases scheduled to hit all at once in January — but with some deficit reduction down payment to signal how serious Congress is.” Serious negotiations on where the dollars would come -- taxes vs. federal program cuts vs. changes to Social Security and Medicare -- are not expected until after the election.

White House confirms cyberattack, downplays significance. The White House has acknowledged that its computer systems were the target of a cyberattack in September, but said that no damage was done.Politico, citing unnamed administration officials, reports that the attack “affected an unclassified network, was ‘isolated’ and that there was no evidence that any data had been stolen.” The intrusion was first reported by the conservative Washington Free Beacon, which said Chinese hackers were to blame.

Obama administration again says layoff notices not needed. A Sept. 28 White House memo reiterated earlier Labor Department guidance that the potential for sequestration does not trigger the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act, which requires companies to give 60 days of notice before a layoff. Washington Technology reports that the White House also “set the parameters under which it will let contractors bill the government for the cost of layoffs and contract changes caused by sequestration, if it occurs.

New FOIA site debuts. Oct. 1 marked the launch of FOIAonline – a multi-agency Freedom of Information Act tracking and processing tool that allows users to make FOIA requests, search for previously released records, and monitor the progress of requests already submitted. TechPresident reports that the new portal “is a pilot project jointly developed by the Environmental Protection Agency, the Commerce Department, and the National Archives and Records Administration,” and that the Merit Systems Protection Board and the Federal Labor Relations Authority have already signed up to use the system to process FOIA requests.

Energy datapalooza showcases APIs, Project Green Button. The White House on Oct. 1 convened another in its series of “datapaloozas,” this one focusing on energy. AOL Government reports that there are now more than 900 datasets available on energy.data.gov, and that federal CIO Steven VanRoekel announced the release of four new APIs “that make it easier to inject government energy data into commercial applications.”  Energy Secretary Steven Chu said these additions are helping to raise visibility for Project Green Button, which aims to give “utility customers access to their electrical usage data, similar to how veterans can now download their medical records using VA's increasingly popular Blue Button application.”

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