News in Brief

A SEWP explainer, an IG appeal and transportation info sharing

SEWP V logo, courtesy of NASA.

NASA plans SEWP V explainer

NASA's SEWP program office will host a "WebEx Wednesday" webinar next week to explain the ins and outs of its new SEWP V government-wide acquisition contract that takes effect two days later.

The 45-minute session will go over the series of enhancements that are to be implemented as SEWP V launches on May 1. The improvements include added features to the website and online tools, as well as updates to improve processes and program features, according to SEWP.

The webinar, set for 1 p.m. on April 29, will include a question and answer session. SEWP also said it will conduct similar monthly "WebEx Wednesday" sessions to discuss SEWP tools, enhancements and new developments with its customers.

State Department IG wants separate computer network

The State Department's inspector general told a Senate panel that his organization's independence was potentially compromised by being on the main State Department network. While it would cost money, require congressional approval and the backing of the department, IG Steve A. Linick wants a separate IT network and email system for the IG office.

"My infrastructure lacks independence, because it is largely controlled by the department," Linick said in an April 21 hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations State Department and USAID Management, International Operations and Bilateral International Development Subcommittee.

In his written testimony, Linick said that "thousands of administrators" have the ability to access emails and documents, including investigative information and personally identifiable information on whistleblowers and witnesses. Linick said he didn't have particular suspicions that this kind of access was taking place, but the very fact that such access was possible created "unnecessary risk [and] doesn't reflect best practices within the IG community."

Under questioning from Chairman David Perdue (R-Ga.), Linick said he had received assurances from top State Department officials that administrators would not take advantage of their access to the IG's nodes on the network to access materials. But for Linick, a handshake agreement isn't enough. "We rent our IT system and the IT folks at the department have the key," he said.

Rail safety program sparks information sharing plan

An initiative to help mitigate damage from and prevent accidents involving trains carrying crude oil and ethanol includes an effort to increase information sharing across the Department of Transportation, the Federal Railroad Administration and the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration.

The three agencies have announced a series of "targeted actions" aimed at addressing issues identified in recent train accidents involving crude oil and ethanol shipped by rail, as the volume of rail-transported fuel has increased exponentially in recent years.

One of the actions the groups will pursue in light of 23 accidents in the last two-and-a-half years is to increase the availability of cargo information to emergency responders and federal investigators on scene immediately after an incident.

The Federal Railroad Administration is sending a request to the Association of American Railroads asking the industry to develop a formal process to provide specific information such as basic descriptions and technical names of the hazardous materials, the immediate hazards to health, immediate precautions to be taken, fire suppression methods and other details.

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