News in Brief

OPM notices go out, GAO dings GPRA progress, ag security gets crowdsourced and more

OMB DDM Beth Cobert, testifying before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on Jan. 14, 2014

Beth Cobert, Acting Director of the Office of Personnel Management

OPM begins notifying breach victims by mail

The Office of Personnel Management on Sept. 30 began mailing notification letters to the millions of victims of the massive breach of personal information suffered by the agency.

The letters describe the identify theft protection and credit monitoring services available to the breach victims and include a PIN number for enrolling in services, OPM Acting Director Beth Cobert wrote in a blog post about the outreach. Wary of fraud, Cobert warned: "If you are contacted by anyone asking for your personal information in relation to compromised data or credit monitoring services, do not provide it."

The letters also will indicate if the recipient is one of the 5.6 million people whose fingerprints were taken in the data heist, Cobert said.

Why the next Librarian of Congress needs to know tech

After 28 years on the job, Librarian of Congress James Billington stepped down on Sept. 30. Tech advocates, speaking for a story in Politico, say his successor will need to be significantly more tech-savvy than the outgoing 86-year-old was.

The Government Accountability Office skewered the Library's mishandling of IT issues in a March report, and the library lacked a permanent CIO from 2012 until just last month. Digitization of historic assets has been haphazard.

"A good Librarian of Congress would have gotten us to a national digitization strategy, and built consensus around it, years before Google came on the scene," University of Maryland law professor James Grimmelmann told Politico. "We could have had a much more constructive last decade."

Politico's shortlist of Librarian contenders: American Library Association President Carla Hayden, University of Pennsylvania President Amy Gutmann, former director of Harvard's Berkman Center on Internet and Society John Palfrey, ex-director of the Institute of Museum and Library Services Susan Hildreth, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation's Global Libraries Initiative Director Deborah Jacobs, Archivist of the United States David Ferriero, and Internet Archive founder Brewster Kahle.

GAO: Agencies face challenges implementing performance management law

The GPRA Modernization Act is designed to help agencies focus on their goals and to create a culture in which data and empirical evidence plays a greater role in policy, budget, and management decisions.

According to a new Government Accountability Office study, the law's implementation across agencies continues to be uneven. The GAO found that nearly 80 percent of previous recommendations from earlier reports had not been implemented, despite support from the Office of Management and Budget.

GAO has observed some progress. For example, OMB increased emphasis on cross-agency priority goals by providing new guidance and governance where cross-agency collaboration is needed, and GAO found that OMB and agencies implemented processes that may lead to improvements on how performance information is reported and used by agency managers.

Nevertheless, federal agencies continue to face challenges linking individual and agency performance to concrete results, the report concluded, and OMB and agencies have not clearly communicated reliable and complete performance information.

DHS crowdsources advice for new agricultural security lab

The Department of Homeland Security's research directorate wants fresh approaches, unique ideas or proven methods from the public to jumpstart the development of tools and programs for its new National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility's (NBAF).

The Research and Development Partnerships (RDP) Group Office of National Labs, which is part of DHS Science and Technology Directorate, on Sept. 28 put up $100,000 in crowdsource rewards for a "Think and Do Challenge" competition. When completed in 2022, the NBAF, a biocontainment laboratory for the study of diseases that threaten the U.S. animal agricultural industry and public health, will replace DHS current research facility, the Plum Island Animal Disease Center at Orient Point, N.Y.

Through the competition, the agency is looking for novel approaches to build one or more pieces of the innovation ecosystem that supports the NBAF.

Plans, it said, could include fleshed out approaches to accelerate deployment and use of novel tools that allow virtual research collaboration over long distances; ideas on developing large animal veterinary exchange programs to train in biocontainment facilities; or a business plan to accelerate agricultural technologies to market.

White House cyber adviser steps down

Ari Schwartz, a top cybersecurity adviser to President Obama, has stepped down, Federal Times reports. Schwartz served as the National Security Council’s director for cybersecurity privacy, civil liberties and policy before being promoted to senior director for cybersecurity policy.

A 2015 Federal 100 winner, Schwartz reflected on information-sharing challenges in an interview with FCW published in June 2014.

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