News in Brief

New Hatch Act rules affect feds on social media, DOT faces cyber audit and more

Shutterstock image (by OmniArt): Facebook

Feds have to leave the office to #FeelTheBern

The U.S. Office of Special Counsel published a social media-centric update to its Hatch Act guidelines for federal employees on Nov. 12.

Feds are welcome to have a political header photo on their Facebook or Twitter pages, but profile pictures are another matter. If they have a partisan image as their profile photo, feds will have to refrain from any social media posting at work because those pictures are pegged to most social media actions and, OSC says, would signal partisan support.

Any partisan social media activity, including "liking" political pages, will have to take place on personal time away from the office.

OIG to audit DOT on cybersecurity funding

In the wake of recent cyberattacks on government IT systems, the Transportation Department's Office of Inspector General will audit DOT in November to make sure adequate funding is being used for cybersecurity.

Auditors want to know if DOT adequately foresaw how much funding it would need for cybersecurity and if it used the funds it received wisely. Congress allocated nearly $29 million to DOT's Office of the CIO for cybersecurity from 2012 to 2015.

DOT experienced a major security breach in 2014 when hackers sent email messages to about 5,000 users. The email contained malware attachments designed to steal personal information from employees. A review in 2014 also found that DOT's IT systems had "multiple deficiencies" in protecting against security threats.

Treasury seeks public input for new USAspending.gov site

The Treasury Department plans to launch the new USAspending.gov in May 2017, and officials want to know what you think of their work so far. Treasury and the Center for Open Data Enterprise held a roundtable meeting on Nov. 10 to seek public input on OpenBeta.USAspending.gov.

The goal is to allow users to track government spending from congressional appropriation to purchase and grant details. The beta site has search tools for looking at federal contract and grant data.

The 2014 Digital Accountability and Transparency Act requires federal agencies to report spending data in detail and make that information publicly available by May 2017. It also requires agencies to post data on USAspending.gov using a standard data exchange. 

Open data is typically of use to developers who build applications, but OpenBeta.USAspending.gov is aimed at a more generalist audience, with search options and filters to help narrow search results and use data to create charts, graphs and maps.

National labs busy with new supercomputing center

The Energy Department's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory has a new 149,000-square-foot supercomputing center on its campus across the bay from San Francisco.

The newly opened Wang Hall will house the National Energy Research Scientific Computing Center (NERSC), which serves almost 6,000 researchers in the U.S. and abroad. The building will also be ground zero for DOE's collaborative Energy Sciences Network, which connects researchers around the world on big projects.

The lab claims the facility is one of the most energy-efficient computing centers in the world and uses the region's climate to cool NERSC supercomputers without using mechanical cooling.

Separately, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory is retrofitting the old air cooling technology on two of the supercomputers in its high-performance computing stables to use more efficient liquid cooling technology. Lab officials said the refit will use all-in-one liquid cooling technology that reduces power use, greenhouse gas emissions and noise.

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