Government Accountability Office

For the fourth straight year, federal IT spending was about even with the prior year’s budget – and it seems very clear that trend will come to an abrupt halt in 2013. The Professional Services Council (PSC) stated the “Addressable IT Budgets” in Fiscal Year 2012 added up to $121.7 billion – a total the Council estimates will drop to $115.5 in FY13, with budgets for IT equipment expected to drop 19% in FY13.

With the so-called “fiscal cliff” looming, the new year began promptly with a deal that largely addressed the tax portion of the so-called “fiscal cliff” equation, but delayed measures addressing the spending portion of the “cliff” that include raising the debt ceiling and sequestration spending cuts. Keep reading →

Three years ago, Government Accountability Office was required by law to annually publish a report detailing duplicative, overlapping, and fragmented federal programs. It will be issuing its third report in early 2013. But it is preparing its list now for potential government reorganizers.

The “Memos to National Leaders” project – jointly sponsored by the National Academy of Public Administration and the American Society for Public Administration — recommends a reorganization commission, and it also offers suggestions for “virtual reorganizations” of programs, as an alternative. An earlier IBM Center blog series raised the issue as to whether the federal government should reorganize. Keep reading →

The number of reported cybersecurity incidents involving federal information networks continues to increase while the posture of federal agencies to defend against them appears to be weakening in 2012, according to projected data from a Congressional watchdog agency.

The Government Accountability Office’s director of information security issues, Greg Wilshusen, in a presentation to federal and industry security officials, said that the rate of reported security incidents, which had leveled off in 2011 after a steady four-year climb, was expected to jump again in 2012. Keep reading →

While the Obama administration and the federal government have worked to set up ways to share geospatial data between agencies, a new report from the Government Accountability Office finds that lack of coordination between departments is resulting in costly duplication and millions of wasted tax dollars.

While the GAO report said the extent of duplication in geospatial investments is unknown, it said billions of dollars are being spent across the federal government on duplicative geospatial investments.

Further, “many mission-critical applications, such as those used to respond to natural disasters-floods, hurricanes, and fires-depend on geospatial information to protect lives and property. Thus, it is important that the data acquired to support these critical functions be done in a timely and coordinated manner, with minimal duplication,” the report concluded.

The government has tried to coordinate the use of geographically-related data by setting up the Federal Geographic Data Committee, under the direction of the Office of Management and Budget. One of the FGCD’s tasks was to create a metadata standard to mark geospatial information and a clearinghouse to store and disseminate it.

But the GAO found that agencies that collect and use such data are not using the clearinghouse to identify geospatial investments, coordinate activities and avoid duplication. According to the GAO, the FGCD has not planned or launched an approach that allows agencies to manage and more effectively share geospatial data to avoid costly redundancies.

Additionally, the report said the FGCD’s master plan is missing key elements, such as performance measurements for many of its defined goals.

The three departments responsible for implementing and managing geospatial information government-wide – Commerce, Transportation and Interior – have only put some of the steps needed for national geospatial data sharing into effect.

Among the three departments, the only major goal that they all achieved was to make metadata available on the clearinghouse. Only the Interior Department has designated a senior official to oversee sharing geospatial information with other departments and agencies. None of the three departments has launched a strategy to share data and only the Commerce Department has partially established a metadata policy.

OMB, meanwhile, does not have complete and reliable information to identify duplication in agency investments, the report said.

One example of the lack of coordination cited by the report is that the Census Bureau, the USGS and the Department of Homeland Security are independently acquiring road data, which is reported to have wasted millions of tax dollars.

“Unless OMB, the FGCD and federal departments and agencies decide that coordinating geospatial investments is a priority, the situation is likely to continue,” the report said.

To improve coordination and reduce duplication, the GAO report recommended that the FGCD develop a national strategy to coordinate geospatial information, federal agencies follow federal guidelines to manage geospatial investments and that the OMB develop a mechanism to identify and report on geospatial investments.

The OMB and two of the departments have agreed with the GAO’s recommendations while one department has neither agreed or disagreed with the findings, the report said.

Keep reading →

It’s easy to take all the comforts of our modern lives for granted. Cars are basically parking themselves these days, and Wi-Fi on airplanes allows us to watch our favorite shows as we zip across the country in a matter of hours. Mobile devices can talk to and interact with us like humans – not to mention letting us securely accomplish our work from anywhere and at any time.

We sometimes forget that things haven’t always been this way. December 17 marks the 10-year anniversary of the E-Government Act of 2002 – America’s first step toward a modernized and accessible IT infrastructure.
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The push to adopt continuous monitoring as a more advanced means for ensuring network security can only work if other network technologies are made secure, said a leading computer scientist from the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Agencies need to understand the underlying security issues, beyond what continuous monitoring can offer, because adversaries can take advantage of weaknesses to bring down network capabilities, said Ron Ross, senior computer scientist and fellow at NIST. Ross (pictured above, seated far left) made the remarks at the recent Symantec Government Symposium on government security practices. Keep reading →

Forget haunted houses, tacky Halloween costumes, and increasingly vitriolic campaign rhetoric. What’s scaring us the most this October? Cybersecurity threats – particularly those against the federal government.

Nearly every aspect of our modern lives is increasingly dependent on information technology systems and networks. Evolving cyber threats to our federal information systems have the potential to cause widespread power blackouts, put high-speed trains on collision courses, and compromise U.S. military intelligence, to name just a few frightening scenarios. Keep reading →

Those of us in the airport business take pride in the community and job growth we contribute in good times and bad, so it’s not often we sound the alarm on behalf of more than 400 locally-run economic engines. But sequestration threatens to stall more of our future than many people realize.

Sequestration risks $500 billion in cuts to non-defense federal spending an outcome that is predicted to come down hard on funding for the Next Generation Air Transportation System known as NextGen, and the jobs and economic growth our airports provide. Keep reading →

Getting better performance out of supply chain and operations activities is not at the top of everyone’s priority list, but it should be. In today’s world, moving things smartly and efficiently – regardless of whether they are people, product or petabytes – is paramount to success.

This challenge is not a new one. But, the pressures of meeting customer demands, fulfilling their mission requirements, and maintaining high service levels is significantly complicated at a time of diminishing budgets. Even though government organizations recognize the importance of making their operations more efficient, leaders must prove the benefit of the change before investing time, people, and money in system and process improvements. Keep reading →

Citing a near tripling in the number of malicious software programs aimed at mobile devices in less than a year, a Congressional report is recommending the FCC and other federal agencies take a greater role urging private industry to develop stronger mobile security safeguards.

Cyber criminals are taking increasing advantage of inherent weaknesses in mobile devices and the applications that run on them, said Gregory Wilshusen, director of information security issues for the Government Accountability Office, an investigative arm of Congress.

Wilshusen, who oversaw the just-released report, said that in less than a year, the number of variants of malware programs has risen from about 14,000 to 40,000, or about 185%, according to figures supplied by Juniper Networks. These threats and attacks exploit vulnerabilities in the design and configuration of mobile devices, as well as the ways consumers use them.

Attacks against mobile devices generally occur through four different channels of activities, the report found: Keep reading →

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