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Free Government Information (FGI) is a place for initiating dialogue and building consensus among the various players (libraries, government agencies, non-profit organizations, researchers, journalists, etc.) who have a stake in the preservation of and perpetual free access to government information. FGI promotes free government information through collaboration, education, advocacy and research.

FEC vice chair resigns. FEC effectively shut down

Federal Election Commission (FEC) Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced his resignation today. Chalk up another federal agency unable to do its work. This is happening across the federal government. Many agency political appointments simply haven’t been nominated, while some, like Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP)’s science division simply shut down because no staff have been hired; while others like USDA have sought to erode the agency’s work by forceably relocating its staff to places like Kansas City (and then cutting staff buyouts to boot!). This is disturbing to say the least.

Federal Election Commission Vice Chairman Matthew Petersen announced his resignation today. 

This means the agency that enforces and regulates the nation’s campaign finance laws will effectively shut down — something that hasn’t happened since 2008 — because it won’t have the legal minimum of four commissioners to make high-level decisions.

Petersen’s resignation, first reported by the Washington Examiner, will throw the FEC into turmoil for weeks — and perhaps months — as the nation enters the teeth of 2020 presidential and congressional elections.

  • For now, the FEC can’t conduct meetings.
  • It can’t slap political scofflaws with fines.
  • It can’t make rules.
  • It can’t conduct audits and approve them.
  • It can’t vote on the outcome of investigations.

And while staff will continue to post campaign finance reports and attend to day-to-day functions, the commission itself can’t offer official advice to politicians and political committees who seek it.

via Federal Election Commission to effectively shut down. Now what? – Center for Public Integrity.

Cybersecurity of federal agencies reviewed. 71 of 96 rely on “at risk or high risk” programs

The Washington Post is reporting on the release of a new White House cybersecurity report titled “Federal Cybersecurity Risk Determination Report and Action Plan” (I just submitted it to GPO as a fugitive document!). The report has some very disturbing results showing that federal agencies across the government are struggling to get secure. Read on.

The White House and the Department of Homeland Security have finished a governmentwide review examining the security of federal agencies, and the results aren’t pretty.

Dozens of federal agencies have cybersecurity programs that aren’t properly equipped to deal with cyber intrusions in their networks, according to a new report released by the White House Office of Management and Budget. Of the 96 federal agencies examined, a whopping 71 were relying on cybersecurity programs deemed “at risk or high risk.”

…The report found that 12 agencies had “high risk” programs, meaning key cybersecurity tools weren’t in place or weren’t deployed sufficiently. Fifty-nine agencies had “at risk” programs, meaning some of the right policies were in place but there were “significant gaps” in terms of security. OMB also noted that federal agencies lacked the visibility into their own networks that would help them detect attempts to steal data and respond to other cyber incidents.

Although the report doesn’t identify which agencies had cybersecurity problems, the scope of the issues described in the report makes it clear that both small and large agencies alike have a ton of work to do, said Stewart Baker, former assistant secretary for policy at DHS.

[HT BoingBoing]

More on the Federal CTO

The Federal Chief Technology Officer (CTO) position to be created by the Obama administration has been on the radar of government information specialists for some time (check out Chella Vaidyanathan’s recent comments on one of the high profile candidates, Vivek Kundra). Via Mark Drapeau’s Twitter stream, take a look at a recent CRS report on the new position.

The report reviews the history of the CIO Council established by President Clinton in 1996, and discusses the similarly widespread nature of CTO responsibilities throughout federal agencies.

Among the early challenges a CTO may face are defining and communicating the roles of the position; identifying and recruiting talent, from both inside and outside of government; and negotiating domains of responsibilities, formal and informal, within the White House (if that is where the Obama Administration or Congress decides to establish a CTO) and with executive branch agencies that have overlapping missions. Beyond these initial challenges, a CTO would need to establish goals and milestones, set priorities, secure resources, and develop and execute a strategy. If the position or office of a CTO is not established by Congress and provided with statutory authorities and a dedicated budget, it may be difficult for a CTO to affect change in individual federal agencies or systemically throughout the federal government. In such a case, the efficacy of a CTO may depend largely on the mandate provided by President Obama to a CTO (and agencies’ perception of the mandate), the imprimatur of the White House, and the personal attributes of a CTO (e.g., relationship with the President, past accomplishments, knowledge, professional reputation, persuasiveness).

Perhaps one of the most difficult and enduring challenges a CTO may face would be “turf wars” associated with overlapping responsibilities with other executive agencies and their principals on issues such as technology and innovation policy, computer and network security, and intellectual property enforcement…

When the plan for the CTO position is finalized, it may benefit the government information community to develop a message and a means to share it with the CTO in a way that is tailored to the powers and capabilities of the position. Our concerns about transparency certainly complement the stated concerns of the new administration, and while the new CTO may be hearing messages from throughout the government, our message deserves to be heard.

News by Agency

Government Executive has a new feature that allows you to easily track their stories about many individual government agencies:

News By Agency

Return of the BIA

Nextgov reports that the Bureau of Indian Affairs is free to reconnect itself to the Internet, thanks to a Washington D.C. District Court ruling earlier this month.

Interior allowed to reconnect to Internet, by Gautham Nagesh, Nextgov, May 21, 2008.

District Judge James Robertson granted on May 14 motions filed by [Deparment of the] Interior requesting that the Bureau of Indian Affairs, the Office of Hearings and Appeals, the Office of the Special Trustee, and the Office of Historical Trust Accounting be allowed to reconnect their networks to the Internet.

The BIA network was ordered to shut down in 2001 amid accusations of poor data security in the ongoing Cobell v. Kempthorne class action case.

Security questions remain, however.

[Judge] Robertson acknowledged that Interior’s IT security may still be inadequate. “The congressional and inspector general reports indicating that the Interior Department, overall, continues to receive failing grades on its IT report card are troubling, but I have no authority to act in response to them, nor do I have any colorable suggestion that the declarations before me … were made in bad faith,” he wrote.

As of this writing, the BIA site has not been fully restored. According to Interior chief information officer Michael Howell, it is expected to take a couple of months for the BIA to reconnect.

-Brian Provenzale