On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:
2013 may go down as the year of big data and data analytics. But according to a new report by IBM and the Partnership for Public Service, big data has been around since the 1970s. We take a look at five case studies.
But up front:
The Washington Post: State spending rebounds after hitting a 26-year low- Depending on your politics, there’s either good or bad news in a new report on state spending. Total state spending is projected to have grown during the last fiscal year, a return to normalcy after shrinking for the first time in more than a quarter-century. If you support most state spending, that’s a good thing—spending is back on track after an unfortunate contraction. If you’re more of a free-market type, states are unfortunately back to their old ways. State spending grew 4.7 percent in the fiscal year that ended in June after shrinking 1.7 percent in the year prior, according to a report from the National Association of State Budget Officers, a professional membership organization for state budget and finance officers.
The New York Times: Tension and flaws before health website crash. Interviews with current and former Obama administration officials and specialists offer new details into how tensions between the government and its contractors, questionable decisions and weak leadership within the Medicare agency turned the rollout of the president’s signature program into a major humiliation, the NYT reports. The online exchange was crippled because of a huge gap between the administration’s grand hopes and the practicalities of building a website that could function on opening day. Vital components were never secured, including sufficient access to a data center to prevent the website from crashing. And a backup system that could go live if it did crash was not created, a weakness the administration has never disclosed.
The Washington Post: For beleaguered IRS, a crucial test still awaits after troubled rollout of health-care law: The success of the Affordable Care Act could ultimately turn on the performance of an agency that has so far eluded the public spotlight amid the program’s tumultuous rollout. Whether the new law can be enforced will be up to the Internal Revenue Service, an already beleaguered agency charged under the act with carrying out nearly four dozen new tasks in what represents the biggest increase in its responsibilities in decades. None is more crucial than enforcing the requirement that all citizens secure health insurance or pay a penalty.
The SEVEN stories that impact your life
The Obama administration has decided to extend the deadline for registering for health coverage that would go into effect on January 1. Nextgov reports that the deadline has moved from December 15 to December 23. Though the shift provides more time for citizens to obtain coverage, the change in the timeline is putting pressure on insurance companies, which have to process an increasing number of enrollments before the new year.
The White House is developing strategies for obtaining the Senate confirmations of more than 240 judicial and executive nominees given the Senate’s decision to lower the number of votes that it takes to confirm a presidential appointment. The Washington Post notes that the Obama administration has made the following confirmations a top priority: Jeh Johnson for DHS Secretary, Mel Watt for head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency, and Janet Yellen for chairwoman of the Federal Reserve. The changes in regulations regarding Senate confirmations, however, may have negative implications for HHS Secretary Sebelius. The Hill predicts that she will be removed from her position given the controversy surrounding Healthcare.gov and the fact that it is now easier for another candidate to be confirmed in her place.
Rep. Matt Cartwright (D-PA) has introduced a new bill that would ensure that blue collar federal workers receive the same one percent pay increase promised to general schedule employees by President Obama. Known as the Support the Wage Grade Employee Parity Act, the new legislation requires that pay increases for GS employees equal those of wage grade employees. Federal News Radio reports that thus far, Cartwright’s bill has gained bipartisan support.
Rep. Darrell Issa (R-CA), the head of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, has subpoenaed OPM for contracts and documents related to the agency’s process for granting security clearances. Rep. Issa’s actions are in response to OPM’s continued refusal to submit relevant documentation on the issue of federal security clearances. The Federal Times notes that OPM now has until December 5 to deliver the requested reports.
The House Intelligence Committee has approved a funding bill for the NSA and other intelligence organizations. The bill dedicates $75 million towards NSA efforts to improve the agency’s internal security and combat insider threats. Ars Technica notes that the House’s bill is similar to one put forward by the Senate Intelligence Committee earlier this month. The Senate bill grants funding for the NSA and its surveillance activities. It also sets aside money for the agency to fight insider threats.
GSA has issued a request for quotations on Microsoft software. The agency aims to find better prices for the software as part of its Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative. GSA officials estimate that by using a contracting vehicle, the agency can save up to 20 percent on Microsoft software purchases. The Federal Times states that companies have until December 18 to respond to the RFQ.
The strategies employed by federal agencies this year to mitigate the effects of sequestration will not work in 2014 according to a new report by the Center for American Progress. The report emphasizes that options such as less severe cuts and deferred costs are no longer available. Moreover, the report states that sequestration will eliminate next year an additional $24 billion from agency budgets than it did in 2013. The Government Executive observes that together these factors indicate that sequestration cuts in 2014 will be far more severe.
DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder
The New York Times: Holiday finds Congress well short of goals: The Senate vote to end filibusters for most presidential nominees is just one symptom of the deep level of dysfunction coursing through Congress less than a year before midterm elections.
The Early Bird: Killer Apps To Beat The Crowd
Only 1 in 10 engineers are women. Fewer than 3 in 10 graduates in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics are women. And barely 1 in 10 actual engineers are women. Early in a girl's life, the toys marketed to her are usually things that don't encourage her to enter those fields. GoldieBlox intends to change that by teaching them while they are young that these fields can be fun — and apparently epic, by the looks of this super-genius 2-minute video. Watch and learn: