News in Brief

HHS seeks innovative tech for disease surveillance, new bill targets tax delinquent feds and more

HHS plans start-up approach to disease surveillance

The Department of Health and Human Services is seeking an entrepreneur-in-residence to help it modernize the way the government tracks diseases and foodborne illnesses.

According to an Oct. 26 post on HHS' Idea Lab blog, the ideal candidate is an entrepreneurial software platforms architect who has experience in building scalable infrastructures for storing, exchanging and analyzing data. The goal is to help HHS move from the static world of health informatics to the world of web standards and technologies used by industry.

The successful applicant will spend a 13-month tour of duty with insider access at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention so he or she can develop disruptive solutions to serious health challenges.

CDC has also been busy on other database fronts. On Oct. 20, it released a redesigned tool that takes advantage of 20 years of data on foodborne illnesses and makes it easier for the public to access information about local outbreaks. The Foodborne Outbreak Online Database Tool lets users explore data by state, food or germ.

Pataki blasts Obama, Clinton on cybersecurity

In the Oct. 28 Republican presidential debate, former New York Gov. George Pataki faulted the Obama administration for a "lax" response to cyberattacks and recommended putting one federal agency in charge of cybersecurity to work "across silos to make sure we have the best technology."

Pataki, a long-shot candidate, advocated cutting off Chinese companies' access to U.S. markets in retaliation for hacks, echoing Rep. Curt Clawson (R-Fla.).

Pataki then took aim at Hillary Clinton, the frontrunner for the Democratic presidential nomination, for her use of a private email server while secretary of State. He made the unsubstantiated claim that "we have no doubt that [Clinton's server] was hacked, and that state secrets are out there to the Iranians, the Russians, the Chinese and others."

No bonuses for tax-delinquent feds, say senators

Five senators want to withhold bonus pay from federal employees who cheat on their income taxes or fail to file on time.

Sens. Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), John Thune (R-S.D.), Pat Roberts (R-Kan.) and Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) unveiled the No Bonuses for Tax Cheats Act, which targets feds who are delinquent on their income taxes or have engaged in documented tax cheating.

Burr called it a first step in preventing bureaucrats from getting paid to fleece taxpayers.

In an Oct. 29 joint statement, the senators cited an April 2014 Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration report that found the IRS had paid $2.8 million in bonuses, tens of thousands of hours of leave and hundreds of pay-step increases to employees who were tax delinquent or had committed serious misconduct, including fraud and drug use.

DHS chooses PNNL to crunch disaster simulation data

The Department of Homeland Security tapped the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory to help it explore how hurricanes, earthquakes, pestilence and other natural and manmade disasters could affect the critical systems on which the U.S. runs.

PNNL will support the National Infrastructure Simulation and Analysis Center as it looks for vulnerabilities and potential consequences of disruptions, natural or manmade, to the 16 critical infrastructure sectors in the U.S. The lab will contribute advanced computer modeling and simulation capabilities to explore threats to those sectors, which include hydroelectric systems, transportation and energy grids, and computer and telecommunications networks.

NTIA seeks to improve data on U.S. computer use

The National Telecommunications and Information Administration is trying to make it easier for people to crack into the ocean of data in the annual Computer and Internet Use Supplement to the Current Population Survey.

John Morris, associate administrator of NTIA's Office of Policy Analysis and Development, said the data collection documents the explosion of Internet use and the proliferation of mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets. In partnership with the Census Bureau, NTIA has catalogued detailed trends based on data gathered on more than 1.3 million Americans through more than 600,000 household interviews.

NTIA has taken several steps to make the information more accessible and relevant. Officials have redesigned survey questions, created NTIA Data Central as a centralized resource for statistics and trends, and moved its Digital Nation report series to a blog format to provide quicker access to data and analysis on computer and Internet use in America.

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