Why Can’t the Pentagon Pass an Audit? Plus the DorobekINSIDER’s 7 Stories

On GovLoop Insights’ DorobekINSIDER:

  • Ever wonder where your Internet comes from or where it goes when it leaves your living room? After a squirrel took a bite out of his home internet cable, Journalist Andrew Blum decided to go on a mission to find where the internet is located. Seriously. His goal was to find the physical space that held together the various networks that make up the internet. Click here to see if he found it.

But up front:

  • Reuters: Behind the Pentagon's doctored ledgers, a running tally of epic waste: For two decades, the U.S. military has been unable to submit to an audit, flouting federal law and concealing waste and fraud totaling billions of dollars.

  • The New York Times: A Dirty Secret Lurks in the Struggle Over a Fiscal 'Grand Bargain':  Neither Republicans nor Democrats want to take even the actions they demand of the other side for a long-sought agreement on the nation's fiscal future.

The SEVEN stories that impact your life

  1. The House Energy and Commerce Committee has released evidence indicating that the White House was made aware of the risks associated with Healthcare.gov as early as April of this year. The Washington Post explains that a risk assessment of the site was presented to White House officials between March 28 and April 8 by the consulting firm, McKinsey & Co. The analysis predicted many of the problems that the website has suffered from since its release in October. 

  2. Recent assessments by the GAO have found that teleworking and hoteling efforts by federal agencies have yet to demonstrate significant costs savings. NextGov reports that for its evaluation, the GAO examined teleworking and hoteling programs at five agencies: the Agriculture Department, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, General Services Administration, IRS, and Patent and Trademark Office. In its final report, the GAO concluded that these programs are still too young to prove either way if teleworking and hoteling are effective options for reducing real estate costs for the federal government.

  3. TSP hardship withdrawals hit a record high last month thanks to the government shutdown. In October, the number of withdrawals equaled 14,361, which represented the largest monthly amount in the program’s history. The Federal Times notes that the average amount withdrawn last month was $9,300--an amount slightly more than the typical $8,900. Because TSP funds are supposed to be for retirement, those who withdrew money faced steep penalties, including a 10 percent charge, 20 percent of their funds being withheld for income taxes, and the inability to deposit money into their account for the next six months.   

  4. Legislation reintroduced this week by Sens. Richard Burr (R-NC), Tom Coburn (R-OK), and Saxby Chambliss (R-GA) would make newly hired federal employees ineligible for traditional pension benefits under the Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS). If passed, the bill would still allow new employees to participate in the TSP retirement program. The Federal Times observes that members of Congress are still considering the bill and that the White House and certain federal agencies, such as the USPS, are offering alternatives to the initiative.

  5. Federal agencies are expected to spend less on information technology in 2014 than last year. This trend has never happened before, and its negative effects are being felt throughout the federal government according to Federal News Radio. The Defense Department, for example, is pushing its tech innovators in the Defense Advanced Projects Research Agency to build off of their past inventions rather than creating new products and services. Federal agencies as a whole are increasingly using the idea of the lowest-price, technically acceptable (LPTA) to purchase technological goods and services. This practice may undermine the successfulness of federal government operations in the long run, states Federal News Radio.   

  6. The Federal Communications Commission has released an app that uses the power of crowdsourcing to analyze mobile broadband speed and traffic. The Federal Times reports that users download the “FCC Speed Test” app on their phones, which then collects broadband and internet data and sends it back to the agency. The FCC intends to use this information to improve the functionality of mobile broadband networks.  

  7. DHS has adopted a new risk management system known as the Telos' Xacta IA Manager, which will help the agency to monitor and evaluate any potential risks to its information network. The new system has a continuous monitoring component, identifies the security implications of any changes to the hardware or software, and evaluates potential cyber threats, reports FCW.   

DorobekINSIDER water-cooler fodder

  • National Journal Poll: Obama Down But Congress Is Down Further

  • Washington Post: Harry Potter stamp riles Postal Service panel, traditional stamp collectors-- For more than half a century, a committee of cultural heavyweights has met behind closed doors, its deliberations kept secret, weighing the faces and images of Americana worthy of gracing U.S. postage stamps. While its rulings have been advisory, they long carried the weight of writ. Now comes a youngster from across the seas. He isn’t what these leading lights from the fields of arts and letters, athletics, and philately had in mind. For one, he seems kind of crass to some. And worse, he isn’t even American. On Tuesday, the U.S. Postal Service is scheduled to release 20 postage stamps honoring Harry Potter, and officials at the cash-strapped agency hope the images, drawn straight from the Warner Bros. movies, will be the biggest blockbuster since the Elvis Presley stamp 20 years ago. But the selection of the British boy wizard is creating a stir in the cloistered world of postage-stamp policy.

  • Federal Times: 5 awesome apps from federal agencies

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