[govinfo] GovInfo News 12-04-06

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "e-gov@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <e-gov@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 4 Dec 2006 11:36:00 -0500

- GSA Chief Seeks to Cut Budget For Audits
- Incidents point to need for a chief privacy officer
- OMB must sell e-gov to new 'in' party

Patrice McDermott, Director
202-332-OPEN (6736)

- GSA CHIEF SEEKS TO CUT BUDGET FOR AUDITS - Contract Oversight Would Be Reduced

By Scott Higham and Robert O'Harrow Jr.
Washington Post Staff Writers
Saturday, December 2, 2006; A01

The new chief of the U.S. General Services Administration is trying to limit 
the ability of the agency's inspector general to audit contracts for fraud or 
waste and has said oversight efforts are intimidating the workforce, according 
to government documents and interviews.

GSA Administrator Lurita Alexis Doan, a Bush political appointee and former 
government contractor, has proposed cutting $5 million in spending on audits 
and shifting some responsibility for contract reviews to small, private audit 
Doan also has chided Inspector General Brian D. Miller for not going along with 
her attempts to streamline the agency's contracting efforts. In a private staff 
meeting Aug. 18, Doan said Miller's effort to examine contracts had "gone too 
far and is eroding the health of the organization," according to notes of the 
meeting written by an unidentified participant from the Office of Inspector 
General (OIG).

The GSA is responsible for managing about $56 billion worth of contracts each 
year for the departments of Defense and Homeland Security and other agencies.

Doan compared Miller and his staff to terrorists, according to a copy of the 
notes obtained by The Washington Post.
"There are two kinds of terrorism in the US: the external kind; and, 
internally, the IGs have terrorized the Regional Administrators," Doan said, 
according to the notes.

Through a spokesman, Doan said she respects the inspector general's role and is 
not doing anything to undercut his independence. She also denied that she had 
referred to Miller, a former terrorism prosecutor, or his staff as terrorists.
Doan, who was confirmed as administrator May 26, has publicly criticized Miller 
on other occasions. In her Nov. 10 annual report, Doan stated there was only 
one GSA manager unwilling to "confront programs and policies that had outlived 
their usefulness and were wasting taxpayer money." She later told Miller that 
she was referring to him, according to officials familiar with Doan's statement 
who asked not to be identified for fear of retribution.

Doan also complained in the annual report that Miller was being "unsupportive 
of recent changes" and said vendors and government contracting officials had 
reported that his auditors and investigators were exerting "undue pressure."
Before joining the GSA in August 2005, Miller served as a federal prosecutor 
and worked on the government's case against al-Qaeda terrorist Zacarias 

Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, 
has written to Doan expressing his concerns.
The GSA inspector general's office's audits have helped the agency recover 
billions of dollars in recent years from flawed or fraudulent contracts. Some 
vendors and government workers have complained that the audits have made 
contracting more cumbersome than necessary.

Soon after Doan was nominated to lead the GSA this spring, she promised outside 
vendors that she would make contracting with the agency much easier for both 
government bureaucrats and corporations. After she assumed the post, she began 
trimming the budget proposal of the inspector general's office. She wrote in 
her annual report that the office's budget and staff had "grown annually and 
substantially" in the past five years.

Since 2000, the number of employees in the inspector general's office has grown 
from 297 to 309, according to the office.

In August, a budget official in the inspector general's office described Doan's 
efforts to cut funding and to limit the number of audits as "unprecedented," 
according to an e-mail obtained by The Post. The official, John C. Lebo, said 
that "for the first time in memory, the Budget Office changed or deleted 
portions of our budget without notifying us prior to their changes."

Lebo, who has since left the agency, said the changes were troubling.

"The Administrator's Office wants to change the IG's overall approach from 
independently rooting out crime, fraud and abuse, to one in which the OIG is a 
team player working with GSA," he wrote.



By Charles E. Tompkins III
GCN-National Defense University IT Leadership column

Among the controversies the federal government faced this year, its handling of 
personal information continues to be front and center. Consider the following:
On May 27, the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that personal data of 
up to 26.5 million veterans had been stolen.
On May 11, USA Today broke the news that the National Security Agency has 
secretly been collecting telephone records of "tens of millions" of Americans.
On March 27, the Los Angeles Times reported that an American Civil Liberties 
Union Freedom of Information Act inquiry revealed the FBI had been "gathering 
information on anti-war and environmental protesters and on activists who feed 
vegetarian meals to the homeless."
An October 2006 report to the Government Reform Committee of the House of 
Representatives concluded: "Taken as a whole, the agency reports outline 
hundreds of instances of data breaches involving sensitive personal information 
since Jan. 1, 2003. . The number of individuals affected in each incident 
ranges from one to millions. However, in many cases, the agency does not know 
what information was lost or how many individuals potentially could be 

Many instances, all leading to the same question: How can federal agencies 
assure citizens that their private information is protected appropriately and 

Back in 2005, in a report to Congress on the implementation of the E-Government 
Act of 2002, the Office of Management and Budget released Memorandum 05-08, 
"Designation of Senior Agency Officials for Privacy." It directed agencies to 
appoint a senior official with "responsibility and accountability for ensuring 
the agency's implementation of information privacy protections, including full 
compliance with federal laws, regulations and policies relating to information 

But it's not working well. Continuing privacy-related news raises serious 
concerns about whether these privacy officers are sufficiently independent to 
be effective. Citizens are generally unaware of their rights under the federal 
Privacy Act and cannot hold agencies accountable. Protection offered from 
agencies appears to be weak in many instances.

To achieve greater agency accountability and prevent privacy breaches, it is 
time to consider a federal chief privacy officer with independence and 
authority to protect citizens from unreasonable and unlawful intrusions upon 
their privacy.

A good example of this position can be found just north of us in Canada. Its 
privacy commissioner, currently Jennifer Stoddart, serves for seven years, 
following approval by the Senate and House of Commons. The privacy commissioner 
is empowered by statute to investigate complaints arising under the Canadian 
Privacy Act. She may act upon receiving a complaint or on her own initiative, 
and she may compel testimony under oath, or demand documentation and other 

However, the powers granted to the Canadian privacy commissioner have been 
criticized as incomplete, as she may only offer findings and recommendations to 
the offending agency. In a 2006 opinion, H.J. Heinz Co. of Canada, Ltd v. 
Canada, the Canadian Supreme Court concluded that the privacy commissioner is 
"is of little help because with no power to make binding orders, she has no 

To avoid the same trap, a U.S. chief privacy officer would need greater 
strength in three aspects.

First, the officer should come under jurisdiction of the Justice Department. 
This would give the position legal authority, resources and other "teeth." But 
to insure the position's independence, the officer should report directly to 
the appropriate committees of Congress.

A good model for this arrangement might be the statutory protection afforded 
the director of operational testing and evaluation at the Defense Department. 
While he is on the staff of the secretary of Defense, he reports to Congress 
directly as well as to the secretary, who cannot change his reports.

Second, the officer should have the power to issue orders enjoining a federal 
agency from taking actions he believes as the law until those actions could be 
considered by a court.

Finally, the officer's authority should extend to national security systems, 
such as those that collect intelligence information. These systems are exempted 
from many aspects of federal information technology law, including the 
requirement that they develop privacy impact assessments.

Charles Tompkins, a lawyer and former Defense Department program manager, 
teaches classes on privacy and information assurance law at the National 
Defense University's Information Resources Management College. The opinions, 
conclusions, and recommendations expressed or implied within are those of the 
author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Defense Department or 
any other department or agency of the federal government.


By Rob Thormeyer

Uncertainty hangs over how House Democrats will deal with ongoing IT issues

If the White House couldn't sell e-government to its own party on the Hill, 
what chance will officials have now that the Democrats control Congress?

Actually, according to industry observers and former government officials, it 
could be a pretty good chance. But the window of opportunity could be small, 
and open for only a short time.

"It all depends on how much [the Democrats] want to play ball with the White 
House," said Robert Atkinson, president of the Information Technology and 
Innovation Foundation of Washington. "I could see them being more supportive of 
e-government. ... Democrats have a stronger stake in making government work, 
they're the party of government, and they want it to work."

But Atkinson and others say OMB has to demonstrate-now more than ever-that 
e-government programs will truly result in the efficiencies and cost savings 
they project.

If not, agencies, with the end of the Bush administration looming, could dig in 
and wait for the next White House to pursue its management agenda, experts say.

Competing signals

A former CIO under the Bush administration, who spoke on the condition of 
anonymity, agreed. "Agencies will feel empowered to drag their feet and wait 
for the administration to croak," the official said, adding that complying with 
the President's Management Agenda scorecard will not be a priority.

One initial hurdle e-government faces is that it is not a top priority for the 
new Congress. With Democrats proposing an ambitious agenda focusing on the Iraq 
war, health care, homeland security and the 9/11 Commission reforms, and labor 
issues, e-government and other IT issues are not high on the list.

"I think [Congress is] going to go after the war big time," the former CIO 
said. "The absence of thought about [IT issues] from Democrats leads me to 
think that their thoughts are somewhere else. IT and e-government just won't be 
a focus."

For its part, OMB is optimistic.
While observers anticipate new Democratic committee leaders, such as expected 
House Government Reform Committee chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.), to be 
highly critical and suspicious of any White House initiative, they also note 
that much of the congressional opposition to e-government has come from the 
president's own party.

This could provide OMB an intriguing opportunity to sell its agenda to a 
Democratic Congress that may have more support for such citizen-centric ideas, 
observers said.

Atkinson and others noted that Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) was one of the 
chief proponents of the E-Government Act of 2002 and was the chairman of the 
Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee when Congress passed the 
bill. He's projected to resume chairmanship of that committee.

"I'd expect considerable continuity in the Senate if Lieberman takes over as 
chairman," IBM's Bruel said. "He's had a long-standing support for 

But while the transition could be smooth in the Senate, the House is another 
story. Current chairman Tom Davis (R-Va.), who ushered the e-government law 
through the House, has been one of the initiative's biggest and loudest 
champions, while Waxman, as ranking member, has been largely silent on IT 
issues, observers say.

"I don't think IT will receive the same level of attention [in the House] as it 
did under Davis," the former CIO said. "I think Waxman's focus will turn more 
toward policy and less toward technology."

In fact, this official said committee Democrats were not all that visible 
during hearings on technology and security issues.

On the horizon

Also due to change is the oversight of OMB's Financial Management Line of 
Business initiative, currently under Rep. Todd Platts (R-Ohio), chairman of the 
Government Reform Subcommittee on Government Management, Finance and 
Accountability. The ranking member of the subcommittee is Edolphus Towns 

At this point, Waxman has not formulated an agenda for IT matters such as 
e-government and data security, a Government Reform Committee staff member 
said, speaking on the condition of anonymity, adding that the incoming chairman 
will work closely with Davis to address these concerns.

Perhaps the only sure thing about the new Congress' IT agenda is that it will 
be some time before it's sorted out. The change in power means new committee 
chairmen, assignments and, perhaps, oversight responsibilities have to be 
named-all before any committee can hold its first hearing.
But for the first time under the Bush administration, Congress, not the White 
House, will likely be setting the direction.

"It will be interesting to watch," said the former CIO. "I don't think the 
president is driving the agenda anymore."

Attachment: image001.gif
Description: GIF image

Attachment: image002.gif
Description: GIF image

Attachment: image003.gif
Description: GIF image

Other related posts:

  • » [govinfo] GovInfo News 12-04-06