Archive

Archive for the ‘business and economics’ Category

CRS — Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2015 Action in the 114th Congress (March 16, 2015)

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Homeland Security Appropriations: FY2015 Action in the 114th Congress (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

This report provides a brief outline of the FY2015 annual appropriations measure for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its enactment by the 114th Congress. It serves as a complement to CRS Report R43796, Department of Homeland Security: FY2015 Appropriations.

Audit of VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Audit of VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program
Source: U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Office of Inspector General

We conducted this audit to assess how effectively VA’s Drug-Free Workplace Program identifies and addresses illegal drug use among VA employees. VA needs to improve management of its Drug-Free Workplace Program. VA selected about 3 of every 10 applicants for pre employment drug testing before hiring these individuals into Testing Designated Positions (TDPs) in fiscal year (FY) 2013. We estimate that of the nearly 22,600 individuals VA reported hiring into TDPs in FY 2013, about 15,800 were hired without a pre-employment drug test. VA facilities tested about 68 percent of the 3,420 employees selected for random drug testing in FY 2013. We identified at least 19,100 employees in TDPs who were not subject to the possibility of monthly random drug testing.

In addition, VA erroneously designated as many as 13,200 employees in non-TDPs for drug testing in FY 2014. Further, only 17 (33 percent) of the 51 employees who tested positive for drugs as a result of reasonable suspicion of on-the-job drug use or after a workplace accident or injury were referred to VA’s Employee Assistance Program.

These issues occurred because VA does not support that all tentative selectees for TDPs need to be drug tested before being hired. VA also does not effectively monitor local facility compliance with random employee drug testing requirements. Furthermore, VA lacks adequate oversight to ensure the accuracy of drug testing data and that consistent personnel actions are taken when employees test positive for drugs. As a result, VA has little assurance that this program is performing as intended to identify and eliminate illegal drug use in its workforce.

Since VA’s workforce is expected to grow significantly with the passage of the Veterans Access, Choice, and Accountability Act of 2014, VA needs to take actions to address weaknesses in its Drug-Free Workplace Program immediately. We recommended the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management implement processes to ensure full compliance with VA’s pre-employment applicant drug testing and random employee drug testing requirements, and improve program integrity by ensuring the accurate coding of employees in TDPs.

The Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for Human Resources Management concurred with our recommendations and provided an acceptable action plan. We will follow up on the implementation of the corrective actions.

High Interest GAO Report — Library of Congress: Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Library of Congress: Strong Leadership Needed to Address Serious Information Technology Management Weaknesses
Source: Government Accountability Office

What GAO Found

The Library of Congress has established policies and procedures for managing its information technology (IT) resources, but significant weaknesses across several areas have hindered their effectiveness:

Strategic planning: The Library does not have an IT strategic plan that is aligned with the overall agency strategic plan and establishes goals, measures, and strategies. This leaves the Library without a clear direction for its use of IT.

Investment management: Although the Library obligated at least $119 million on IT for fiscal year 2014, it is not effectively managing its investments. To its credit, the Library has established structures for managing IT investments—including a review board and a process for selecting investments. However, the board does not review all key investments, and its roles and responsibilities are not always clearly defined. Additionally, the Library does not have a complete process for tracking its IT spending or an accurate inventory of its assets. For example, while the inventory identifies over 18,000 computers currently in use, officials stated that the Library has fewer than 6,500. Until the Library addresses these weaknesses, its ability to make informed decisions will be impaired.

Information security and privacy: The Library assigned roles and responsibilities and developed policies and procedures for securing its information and systems. However, its implementation of key security and privacy management controls was uneven. For example, the Library’s system inventory did not include all key systems. Additionally, the Library did not always fully define and test security controls for its systems, remediate weaknesses in a timely manner, and assess the risks to the privacy of personal information in its systems. Such deficiencies also contributed to weaknesses in technical security controls, putting the Library’s systems and information at risk of compromise.

Service management: The Library’s Information Technology Services (ITS) division is primarily responsible for providing IT services to the agency’s operating units. While ITS has catalogued these services, it has not fully developed agreements with the other units specifying expected levels of performance. Further, the other units were often not satisfied with these services, which has contributed to them independently pursuing their own IT activities. This in turn has resulted in units purchasing unnecessary hardware and software, maintaining separate e-mail environments, and managing overlapping or duplicative IT activities.

Leadership: The Library does not have the leadership needed to address these IT management weaknesses. For example, the agency’s chief information officer (CIO) position does not have adequate authority over or oversight of the Library’s IT. Additionally, the Library has not had a permanent CIO since 2012 and has had five temporary CIOs in the interim.

In January 2015, at the conclusion of GAO’s review, officials stated that that the Library plans to draft an IT strategic plan within 90 days and hire a permanent CIO. If it follows through on these plans, the Library will be in a stronger position to address its IT management weaknesses and more effectively support its mission.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Annual Report 2014 — Jobs. More Work to Be Done?

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Jobs. More Work to Be Done?
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta

In 2014, the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta continued to focus its research on the labor market and what had to happen before the economy could achieve full employment. Price stability and maximum employment are the two objectives of the Fed’s dual mandate from Congress. By the end of the year, the U.S. economy had made significant progress toward full employment. Two closely watched measures of labor market health, job creation and the unemployment rate, had improved considerably (see the Total Nonfarm Employment and the Unemployment Rate charts).

Employers added an average of 260,000 jobs per month during 2014, ahead of the 194,000-a-month pace of the previous two years. Meanwhile, the jobless rate fell from 6.6 percent at the beginning of 2014 to 5.6 percent in December. The unemployment rate is fast approaching the 5.2 percent to 5.5 percent range the Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) judges to be consistent with full employment. The FOMC is the Fed’s policy-setting body.

Without question, the labor market made real progress last year. But the official unemployment rate and monthly job creation numbers can tell only part of the story. Broader labor market measures continued to indicate that a significant body of available resources—people and their capacity to work productively—were not being used. This “slack” meant that the labor market, and thus the broader economy, was not operating at full capacity.

Targeting Investments To Cost Effectively Restore and Protect Wetland Ecosystems: Some Economic Insights

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Targeting Investments To Cost Effectively Restore and Protect Wetland Ecosystems: Some Economic Insights
Source: USDA Economic Research Service

The environmental benefits of restoring and preserving wetlands—including cleaner water, increases in wildlife populations, and carbon sequestration—as well as costs, depend on wetland type, land productivity, and the public’s desire for amenities, all of which depend on location. Findings show where wetland conservation funding might be targeted to maximize benefits relative to costs.

Living in the United States: A Guide for Immigrant Youth

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Living in the United States: A Guide for Immigrant YouthImmigrat (PDF)
Source: Immigrant Legal Resource Center

Immigration issues are tricky. There are many ways in which your immigration status—whether you’re a green card holder or undocumented—can impact your ability to get a job, go to college, or even remain in the United States. That’s why we created this resource especially for immigrant youth. We hope you find it useful.

Assessing the Merits of Photo EBT Cards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

March 31, 2015 Comments off

Assessing the Merits of Photo EBT Cards in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Source: Urban Institute

In seeking to reduce the trafficking of benefits in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), states are considering policies to require that SNAP electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards include a photograph of the household head. Such policies have sparked controversy, placing in direct conflict the desires to bolster program integrity with the statutory rights of SNAP household members to utilize their program benefits and receive equal customer treatment. Drawing on Massachusetts’ 2013 implementation of a photo EBT policy, this brief suggests that such policies are not a cost-effective means to promote program integrity and may hinder benefit access

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,022 other followers