News in Brief

DHS on Instagram, an app for the border and more

Picture this: DHS on Instagram

The Department of Homeland Security is now officially on Instagram.

DHS officials said Dec. 17 that they are now sharing images on the site from across their component agencies. DHS launched a Flickr account last month, but it is something of a latecomer to the social media networking party. The Transportation Security Administration, Coast Guard and Federal Emergency Management Agency -- all DHS components -- have already established a presence on Instagram.

In addition to sharing images from component agencies, the account features behind-the-scenes photographs from Secretary Jeh Johnson's domestic and international travels and the department's day-to-day operations, including border security efforts, engagement with local communities to prepare for and respond to disasters and threats, and citizenship ceremonies.

Crossing the border? There's an app for that.

People who plan to cross U.S. borders now have an app that tells them how long the wait is and which border crossing has the shortest lines.

Customs and Border Protection launched its free Border Wait Times app on Dec. 17. It is available through Apple's App Store and Google Play.

The app provides estimated wait times and open-lane status for pedestrians and passenger and commercial vehicles. It lists times for standard, Ready, SENTRI, NEXUS and FAST lanes at U.S. land crossings on the country's northern and southern borders.

Travelers can also locate the three ports of entry closest to their location and then map the best route to them.

The CBP-developed app does not require users to register or provide any personal information, and officials said they do not store or have access to any information regarding travelers who use the app.

VA IG: Contract officer steered business to personal contact

Investigators have "substantiated allegations" that Iris Cooper, a former top executive at the Office of Acquisition Operations at the Department of Veterans Affairs, improperly steered a sole-source contract to a company owned by a former colleague, according to a report from the VA Office of Inspector General.

VA released the report in response to a records request from the Washington Times, which broke the story.

The IG's review of the award to Ohio-based Tridec Technologies to develop IT for a procurement program called the Virtual Office of Acquisition indicates that Cooper divided work on the project and wrote requirements in such a way that Tridec was able to obtain the work via three sole-source contracts that were at or below the $5 million legal threshold for such awards.

The VA IG reviewed the contract after receiving complaints that the project duplicated the Electronic Contract Management System already in use at VA, costs were too high and the project wasn't developed in accordance with the Project Management Accountability System supervised by the agency's CIO.

According to the IG report, Cooper had a previous relationship with Tridec co-owner David London and Robert S. Fritschie, the son of another Tridec owner, Robert A. Fritschie.

IG interviews with contracting personnel indicate that Cooper's deputy, Wendy McCutcheon, was involved in selecting Tridec for the work before a solicitation was made public. Additionally, the IG concluded that Cooper and McCutcheon were less than candid with investigators about their role in the awards to Tridec.

Cooper's attorney told the Washington Post that the IG report "is biased, misleading and completely disregards a number of critical facts."

Both Cooper and McCutcheon left the Office of Acquisition Operations, and Cooper now works at the Treasury Department.

Hackers hit OPM background investigations contractor

Hackers have targeted KeyPoint Government Solutions, and its main customer, the Office of Personnel Management, is warning that nearly 50,000 people might have had their information compromised, Washington Technology reported.

Although OPM's investigation into the incident could not find conclusive evidence that sensitive information had been removed from KeyPoint's system, the agency decided to take the action "out of an abundance of caution," an OPM spokeswoman said.

KeyPoint provides background investigations for OPM as part of the security clearance process for government and contractor employees. The company's business has grown exponentially this year after OPM canceled contracts held by U.S. Investigative Services because of a series of controversies, including a hacking incident.

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