Government - federal, state, local

  • BiolabsK-State animal health expert selected to lead NBAF strategic partnership effort

    The Department of Homeland Security has selected Marty Vanier, the K-State’s director of operations at the National Agricultural Biosecurity Center, to be the senior program manager for strategic partnership development at the National Bio and Agro-defense Facility, or NBAF. Vanier will start her new responsibilities with the DHS Science and Technology Directorate this month. Construction on the $1.25 billion animal disease research laboratory will begin in May and is expected to be completed in 2020. The lab is on the northeast edge of Kansas State University’s Manhattan campus.

  • Chemical safetyHead of Chemical Safety Board resigns under WH pressure, lawmakers’ criticism

    Rafael Moure-Eraso, the chairman of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board(CSB), resigned after increased pressure from lawmakers and at the White House’s request. Under Moure-Eraso, complaints have risen regarding poor management, his use of a personal e-mail account for agency work, “abuse of power, employee retaliation, and lack of honesty in his communications with Congress,” according to an 18 March letter from the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee.C

  • InfrastructureU.S. economy imperiled by crumbling infrastructure

    The U.S. economy remains strong, but the nation’s dated, crumbling public infrastructure may threaten its future dominance, according to experts. The World Economic Forum (WEF) placed the United States 25th in infrastructure investment and 30th in air transportation, a field previously dominated by the United States. Since the 1960s, public spending on infrastructure, as a share of GDP, has dropped to around half the European average and, the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) reckons, $3.6trn will have to be spent if the U.S. is to catch up.

  • ResilienceStates must consider climate change threats to be eligible for FEMA disaster preparation funds

    Roughly every five years, states publish reports detailing their vulnerability to natural disasters, qualifying them for part of the nearly $1 billion aid money administered annually by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). States looking to receive grants from the federal Hazard Mitigation Assistance program to help them prepare for natural disasters such as floods, storms, and wildfires will have,beginning next year, to consider the threats posed by climate change.

  • DHS budgetDHS shutdown averted as House passes “clean” funding bill

    The House yesterday voted to fund the Department of Homeland Security to the end of the fiscal year, without conditioning the extension on defunding the implementation of Obama’s immigration executive order. The “clean” funding bill passed on a 257-167 vote, with seventy-five Republicans joining all 182 Democrats to avert a shutdown. Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio), in a rare move for a speaker, left his chair and went to the House floor to cast a vote in favor of the funding extension. In a speech to the Republican caucus on Tuesday, just before Israeli prime minister Binyamin Netanyahu addressed a joint session of Congress, Boehner presented members of the caucus with three options: another stopgap bill, taking up a “clean” bill which has already passed the Senate, and a Friday-into-Saturday shutdown of DHS. Boehner told fellow Republicans that he did not want to run the risk of a DHS shutdown, which, he stressed, “wasn’t an option” with the current level of threats to national security.

  • DHS fundingHouse votes for one-week extension of DHS funding

    On Friday, just hours before the partial shut-down of DHS, the House Republican leadership, with the help of Democratic lawmakers, managed to secure a majority for a one-week extension of the funding for the department. The vote for a one-week extension passed 357 to 60 — but not before a humiliating defeat for Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and members of the GOP House leadership. The leadership was convinced it had the votes for a three-week extension, but that proposal was defeated when more than fifty Republican lawmakers bolted and voted against the bill – and their leaders. Democrats lawmakers then came to the help of the speaker, voting for the one-week extension on what they regard as a tacit understanding that toward the end of this week the House will vote on a “clean” extension of the DHS budget to the end of the fiscal year.

  • Cyber operationsThe CIA bolsters cyber operations

    The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is planning to join the growing list of U.S. intelligence and security agencies which have redefined their missions to include cyber operations — in the CIA’s case, cyber espionage. Current and former agency officials say the new effort will be part of the broad restructuring of an intelligence service long defined by its human spy work. The shift also reflects the increasing role cyber plays in intelligence gathering, with allies and adversaries relying on smartphones, social media, and other technologies to communicate.

  • DHS budgetMcConnell’s DHS budget plan: “No” to 2014 exec. order, “Yes” to 2012 one

    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) has put forth a plan to avoid a DHS shutdown after Senate Democrats on Monday refused to approve a Republican-backed $40 billion DHS appropriation which would defund President Barack Obama’s 2014 immigration actions in order to fund DHS. McConnell’s plan would eliminate Obama’s 2014 immigration action to extend deportation deferment to some undocumented parents of U.S. citizens and permanent residents via the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans(DAPA), but allow a similar 2012 planfor younger undocumented immigrants to continue.

  • DHS budgetDHS shutdown would have only limited immediate impact on national security: Analysts

    If Congress fails to act before the 27 February funding deadline, most DHS operations would continue. During the October 2013 government shutdown, 85 percent of DHS employees remained on the job. Just a little over 30,000 of the department’s 230,000 employees, mostly in managerial and administrative positions, were furloughed.

  • CBPCBP IA’s SAREX: Tomsheck’s program goes rogue – Pt. 4

    By Robert Lee Maril

    As Congressional legislation addresses multiple issues involving immigration and border security, Customs and Border Protection Internal Affairs (CBP IA) faces increased scrutiny. The widening scandal at CBP IA, the watchdog agency of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), is based upon acrimonious allegations by James Tomsheck against what he labels CBP’s systemic failure to meet professional standards including the proper investigation of criminal behavior by its own employees. According to former CBP IA employees, internal memos, and related government documents and reports, however, it now appears that Tomsheck’s own agency may be guilty of a number of allegations against it. Of particular interest is Tomsheck’s attempt in 2011 and 2012 to fashion the Suspicious Activity Reports Exploitation Initiative (SAREX) program, which at the time appeared as a reasonable strategy to deter CBP employees from corruption and other criminal behavior.

  • DHS budgetSenate Democrats block vote on House’s DHS budget bill

    In late 2014, Republicans decided to fund DHS only through the end of February 2015 in hopes of using further funding request conditioned on defunding the implementation of President Barack Obama’s executive order to halt deportations for many undocumented immigrants. Senate Democrats, on the other hand, are demanding a DHS funding bill which does not interfere with Obama’s immigration plans. On Thursday, for the fourth time, Senate Democrats blocked the Republican move to pass a bill which defunds Obama’s executive order.

  • DHS budgetMost DHS employees would go on working even if budget is not approved

    The critical responsibilities of many DHS components require approximately 200,000 of the agency’s 230,000 employees to continue working even if Congress fails to fund the agency, as most DHS employees perform work considered necessary to protect human life and property. Still, withholding funding for DHS could delay the department’s employees’ paychecks until the shutdown ends.

  • CBPTomsheck’s “July Amnesty”: CBP IA loses hundreds of cases alleging criminal activity by CBP Employees -- Pt.3

    An unprecedented scandal continues to unfold within Customs and Border Protection (CBP). Fueling this scandal are allegations by James F. Tomsheck about the U.S. largest federal law enforcement agency. Further investigation suggests that the “July Amnesty,” initiated in Tomsheck’s CBP IA’s Integrity Programs Division (IPD) headed by Director Janine Corrado and Assistant Director Jeffrey Matta, casts doubt on Tomsheck’s allegations against his CBP superiors. Along with the July Amnesty in 2011 and the alleged discrimination and firing of Navy Lieutenant Commander (Ret.) J. Gregory Richardson in March 2014, there appear to be a number of other events calling Tomsheck’s leadership at CBP IA into question.

  • Critical infrastructureDHS releases the wrong FOIA-requested documents, exposing infrastructure vulnerabilities

    On 3 July 2014, DHS, responding to a Freedom of Information Act(FOIA) request on Operation Aurora, a malware attack on Google, instead released more than 800 pages of documents related to the Aurora Project, a 2007 research effort led by Idaho National Laboratoryto show the cyber vulnerabilities of U.S. power and water systems, including electrical generators and water pumps. The research project found that once these infrastructure systems are infiltrated, a cyberattack can remotely control key circuit breakers, thereby throwing a machine’s rotating parts out of synchronization and causing parts of the system to break down.

  • Secret ServiceExpanding mission, budget cuts, retirements at root of current Secret Service problems

    A series of recent security lapses at the White House may be attributed to an expansion of U.S. Secret Service duties ordered by Congress and the White House during the George W. Bush administration, according to a new DHS review of the agency. Officials familiar with the agency’s administrative inner-workings also note that budget cuts forced the agency to ration services while simultaneously dealing with a wave of early retirements from seasoned staff members.