News in Brief

Eliminating reports, monitoring email, funding ID research and more

Senate takes aim at federal agency reports

To trim the number of reports produced by federal agencies, the Senate passed legislation that would slash or modify 53 required but duplicative or unnecessary reports every year.

"Federal agencies should be focused on delivering results for taxpayers instead of wasting time and resources producing reports that nobody uses or even reads," said Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), sponsor of the Senate version of the legislation, in an emailed statement.

The House version of the bill by Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) won easy passage in April.

The push to do away with required reports grew out of a 2010 law that directed federal agencies to suggest reports for elimination. Agencies seem to have warmed to the task: In December 2012, they listed 376 reports that could be axed or modified. The Office of Management and Budget added another 74 to the list in June.

House passes bill targeting feds who mess with records

Reacting to the outcry over lost and missing email messages from current and former officials at the Internal Revenue Service and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, the House passed legislation by voice vote Sept. 16 that puts feds on the hook for concealing or destroying federal records or using undisclosed private accounts.

The measure, sponsored by Rep. Mark Meadows (R-N.C.), would permit private accounts and aliases as long as the messages initiated by those covered under the bill are saved and filed in accordance with existing federal records procedures.

The legislation includes provisions addressing maps, proceedings, books, documents and papers, but the main target is email and electronic communications, defined as "all other means by which individuals and groups may communicate electronically."

That presumably includes texting services, Facebook, Twitter, Snapchat, LinkedIn and any other social networks and communications systems that federal officials currently use. Agency inspectors general would be charged with monitoring violations, and federal employees found to be in violation of the law would be suspended and subject to dismissal.

The bill puts "intensified pressure on federal agencies and employees to comply with recordkeeping law," Meadows said.

Trio gets $3 million in NSTIC grants

GSMA, Confyrm and MorphoTrust USA were named grant recipients for the White House's National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace.

The grantees will receive $3 million to develop pilot solutions that would make it easier for people to use mobile devices instead of passwords to perform "online authentication, minimize loss from fraud and improve access to state services," according to a Sept. 17 press release from the National Institute of Standards and Technology, which manages NSTIC.

This is NSTIC's third round of grants in support of projects aimed at improving privacy, security and convenience while protecting the identities of online users. NSTIC was launched in 2011.

"The pilots take the vision and principles embodied in NSTIC and translate them into real solutions," said Jeremy Grant, senior executive adviser for identity management and head of the NSTIC National Program Office at NIST, in the release. "At a time when concerns about data breaches and identity theft are growing, these new NSTIC pilots can play an important role in fostering a marketplace of online identity solutions."

TSA credits prescreening for less waiting

Transportation Security Administration officials have attributed shorter wait times at airport security lines during the busy summer travel season to the agency's electronic prescreening program.

In a Sept. 15 entry on the agency's blog, TSA's "Blogger Bob" Burns said wait times at checkpoints were "way down compared to last summer."

He noted that some of the agency's statistics from June through August showed that TSA officers screened about 173 million people. Furthermore, 99.6 percent of passengers waited in line less than 20 minutes -- TSA's target time -- and 99.98 percent of passengers in TSA's PreCheck program moved through security checkpoints in less than 10 minutes.

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