News in Brief

When a 'short-term' extension is a bridge too far, 3D printing at the Pentagon and more

audit paperwork

GAO: Some short-term contracts are a bridge too far

Federal agencies are getting creative when it comes to the meaning of "short term," according to the Government Accountability Office.

A GAO report concluded that agencies have limited or no insight into their use of bridge contracts. The review of 73 of the short-term contracts -- including some at the departments of Defense, Health and Human Services, and Justice -- concluded that the contracting vehicles are not defined or addressed in department-level guidance or the Federal Acquisition Regulation.

However, GAO said two DOD components -- the Navy and the Defense Logistics Agency -- have established definitions, policies and procedures to manage and track the use of the contracts.

Bridge contracts are supposed to be short-term solutions until longer, more extensive contracts can be delivered. According to GAO, the Navy and DLA instituted tighter controls because they were concerned that bridge contracts were being used too frequently and reducing competition.

GAO said the bridge contracts it analyzed varied widely in characteristics such as the type of service and length of contract. In addition, almost half were used to procure professional management or IT services.

Auditors said some bridge contracts spanned multiple years and were probably undetected by the appropriate officials. For example, of the 29 contracts auditors reviewed in-depth, six lasted longer than three years. One Army bridge contract for computer support services was initially planned for 12 months, but because of subsequent extensions, it ultimately spanned four years.

GPO to digitize 2 million pages of Federal Register

The Federal Register archive is going online. The daily diary of federal regulations, meeting notices and presidential documents dating back to 1936 is being digitized and catalogued by employees of the Government Publishing Office. More than 14,500 individual issues will eventually go online.

GPO Director Davita Vance-Cooks said the project is another effort to meet the public's changing demands for accessing government information.

The project is expected to be completed in 2016. Currently, digital versions of the Federal Register dating back to 1994 are available online on GPO's Federal Digital System.

GAO: DOD needs a 3D printing czar

The Defense Department needs to put someone in charge of tracking its diverse 3D printing experiments, the Government Accountability Office recommended in an Oct. 14 report.

Various teams within DOD are exploring 3D printing possibilities for a range of uses, including medical devices and communications equipment. But GAO auditors said that in order to maximize the effectiveness of those projects, DOD should name a leader at the level of the Office of the Secretary of Defense to track the projects and share findings with other teams throughout the organization.

Is the threat posed by hackers overhyped?

The exposure of personal data is a serious problem, but the media might be overplaying the threat hackers pose to individuals, according to new research.

Personal data is much more likely to be exposed through negligence than direct attack, according to a paper by Stephanie Forrest, a computer science professor at the University of New Mexico; Ph.D. student Benjamin Edwards; and Steven Hofmeyr from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

The paper, "Hype and Heavy Tails: A Closer Look at Data Breaches," examines both malicious infiltrations and negligent breaches caused by lost or stolen hardware. The researchers concluded that news reports often use inaccurate or inappropriate statistical comparisons to determine the impact of big data breaches, and their results are often skewed.

However, the researchers also said data breaches remain a costly, dangerous problem. Using existing cost models, they predict that over the next three years, data breaches could cost individuals, companies and public entities as much as $180 billion.

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