[govinfo] GovInfo News -- 12-11-06

  • From: "Patrice McDermott" <pmcdermott@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: "govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <govinfo@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "e-gov@xxxxxxxxxxxxx" <e-gov@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>, "FOI-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx" <FOI-L@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 11 Dec 2006 16:12:53 -0500

- Lawmakers demand answers from Doan on proposed IG cut

- Advisory Committee On The Records Of Congress Approves Report
- Secrecy and Foreign Policy

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



Congress is upset about the General Services Administration's proposals to cut 
its inspector general's budget and send auditing duties to private companies, 
and lawmakers are letting GSA Administrator Lurita Doan know it. Several 
lawmakers have denounced the proposals and want explanations.

Disappointed senators sent Doan a letter today wanting to know her reasons for 
the proposals, and three Democrats on the House Government Reform Committee - 
including incoming Chairman Henry Waxman (D-Calif.) - requested Dec. 5 that 
Doan cancel her decision to move pre-award audits to the private sector.
On Oct. 19, Doan announced she would move oversight to small 8(a) audit firms. 
One of her goals for 2007 is to balance the role of the IG because firms have 
concerns about the office's oversight.

"Our contracting personnel spend so much time responding to the IG, and there 
is a certain 'fear factor' that enters into that," she said. She questioned how 
many pre-award audits are needed. If GSA and the IG conduct audits, Doan said 
it would waste money because the IG uses appropriated funds.

Sens. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.) want a detailed estimate 
of expected savings from the budget cut and how the cut will hinder the IG. 
They asked Doan for an analysis of her decision to move audits to outside 
contractors and whether that would lead to an independent analysis of GSA's 
contracts, according to the letter.

Waxman and Reps. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) 
wrote that Doan's proposal to send auditing jobs to private companies risks 
conflicts of interest, especially with small businesses that often subcontract 
with the larger firms they would audit. Moreover, the private sector could be 
impaired from accessing proprietary business information, which companies do 
not easily release. IGs have authority in that area.



Webcasting offers window into government
More municipalities use the technology to put public meetings and training 
videos online

BY Aliya Sternstein
Published on Dec. 4, 2006 As the 2006 election campaign season proved, the 
public turns to the Web for unfiltered government information, especially for 
candid video footage of federal officials. Local governments are now attempting 
to establish credibility with citizens and employees by creating online public 
records in video form.

Municipalities are Webcasting public meetings, firefighter training videos and 
other governmental communications. The idea is to offer a live window into 
government operations - and easy-to-use documentation for future reference.

Some people are suspicious of government entities, and the longer they take to 
answer questions, the more suspicious people grow, said Frank Clifton, county 
manager for Onslow County, N.C. The county began Webcasting public meetings 
live in August, and it also archives them online.

Now when someone is concerned about something the county government discussed 
or voted on, "I can go in and pull up that meeting and let them see it for 
themselves," Clifton said.

He chose to outsource hosting and archival operations to Granicus, a streaming 
media service provider. Since 1999, Granicus has been catering specifically to 
local governments. Those governments often do not have enough bandwidth to meet 
multiple requests from developers, lawyers, the media and agency employees.

Webcasting "creates a public record for us. The written minutes are there 
alongside of the video" in a word processing document, Clifton said. "It 
facilitates records management and responding to requests for information. We 
just refer lawyers to the Internet."

To generate and manage the Webcasts in-house, Onslow County would have needed 
to develop complex synchronization software and distribute video files to Web 
users.  That would have cost hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Clifton said the costs would have outweighed the benefits, whereas the cost of 
Granicus' quick and easy service was justifiable. The upfront fee was about 
$26,000. The monthly fee for the service is $1,100.

With the software platform, Clifton can transmit a video, tape, CD or DVD one 
time to a secure facility at a Granicus site in San Francisco.

Granicus' San Francisco site distributes and stores the content to reduce the 
strain on Onslow County's bandwidth. No user traffic flows over the local 
government's Internet connection. This is all invisible to users, who get 
access to the content directly from the Onslow County Web site.

In Long Beach, Calif., just a handful of streaming requests could bring down 
the city's entire Internet connectivity, said Long Beach officials, who now use 

Local governments are also taking advantage of multimedia tools to communicate 
better internally.

Tom Spengler, Granicus' chief executive officer, said 15 percent of the 
company's work involves streaming videos of training programs and 
intragovernmental communications internally to private government Web sites. 
The distribution process works the same way it does to conserve bandwidth for 
public Web sites.

Berkeley, Calif., has eliminated the need to repeat retirement benefits classes 
four times a year by posting a single video on the city's intranet. New city 
employees can watch whenever they want and immediately download the necessary 
forms via links on the video's Web page.

The company also gives customers the option of storing their material on 
Granicus' servers longer than the standard 12 months. When Sacramento County, 
Calif., needed to store sensitive content, it purchased multiple storage vaults 
and applied security controls to the vaults that contain the sensitive material.

The system can restrict access to only authorized password holders or 
authorized IP ranges.

"Security is always becoming a bigger and bigger factor in what our customers 
want to do," Spengler said.

With Granicus, the files are recorded in Windows Media format and automatically 
indexed, he said. Government officials and citizens can search the archive by 
resolution number, date or keyword and go straight to the video segments they 
want to watch.

Webcasting more affordable for local governments

Open government advocates say local government Webcasting has increased because 
the cost
of streaming video has decreased in the past year.

"It's become a lot more affordable for folks to use Webcasting to see what was 
said and how people said it, as opposed to just written format," said Ari 
Schwartz, deputy director of the nonprofit research group Center for Democracy 
and Technology. He said the video-sharing Web site YouTube has also boosted 
Webcasting's appeal.

Schwartz said some cities and counties have devised in-house systems.

"For podcasting, all you need is a good microphone and an MP3 player," he said.

But government organizations must be wary of security and privacy risks, 
Schwartz said.

They need to be careful with third-party providers to ensure that the 
government maintains ownership of all content, he said. Schwartz recommends 
that officials include language in the contract to dictate what happens to the 
material if the company dissolves. 

Government officials also need to ensure that people can access archived 
footage after a change in administration, he said.

"Even from Republican committee chair to Republican committee chair, we've lost 
the data when the new chair comes in" on government Web sites, Schwartz said. 
"What happens when you get a whole new party in charge? Just losing the link to 
it means it's inaccessible."


NCH WASHINGTON UPDATE (Vol. 12, #47; 8 December 2006) by R. Bruce Craig and Lee 
White (Co-editors) http://www.h-net.org/~nch/

On 4 December 2006, the Advisory Committee for the Records of Congress
conducted its last meeting of the 109th Congress.

Following opening comments by Clerk of the House Karen Hass and Secretary
of the Senate Emily Reynolds, and after the update report by the Archivist
of the United States Allen Weinstein, the committee addressed the principal
agenda item -- approval of the 4th report of the Committee for transmission
to Congress.  The report is mandated by Congress to be issued every five

This year's report highlights four critical developments relating to
Congressional records: it details the progress being made in providing
guidance in records management and support for the preservation of official
and personal papers of members; it discusses recent advances in electronic
record keeping; it describes the activities of the Association of Centers
for the Study of Congress; and it discusses the effort to complete the
Capitol Visitor Center, a project that seeks to make the Capitol building a
much more visitor-friendly environment.  The full report will be accessible
at the Archives.gov website where it will be posted early in the 110th

The committee also discussed various initiatives relating to the 
preservation of the records generated by the 109th Congress.  NARA
representatives reported that committee records were being transferred to
the archives and that a concerted effort was being made to see to it that
departing members' papers were being preserved in various private
repositories.  The committee learned, for example, that all but one
outgoing senator has already made arrangements for preservation
of  personal and political papers.  Center for Legislative Archives
director Richard Hunt added that action had been taken to capture
Congressional websites as they appeared at the end of the 109th Congress
and that these "snapshots" of websites would be preserved and made
available to scholars for research purposes.

A good deal of the meeting was devoted to reflections of the various
committee members who, now that the Democrats have captured control of the
House and Senate will rotate off the committee.  When the 110th Congress
convenes, a new House Clerk and Secretary of the Senate will also be
appointed to lead the advisory committee next Congress.  One can only hope
that the next committee will be as productive as this one was.


Robert Pallitto | December 8, 2006

Since the beginning of the republic, U.S. presidents have used some form of 
secrecy in the course of governing. In the wake of the Watergate scandal, 
congressional hearings in the 1970s and the disclosure of covert U.S. programs 
of assassination and destabilization overseas temporarily reduced the scope of 
secret activities sponsored by the executive branch. From the 1980s on, 
however, presidents have come to rely increasingly on secrecy-related 
practices. Though the U.S. Constitution does not explicitly grant executive 
secrecy in the list of Article II powers, presidents have increased their 
powers through legislation, the federal courts' recognition of legal defenses 
to conceal information, and responses to the ongoing threat of terrorism.


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