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NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review

April 27, 2015 Comments off

NIST Releases Draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Public Review
Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

The U.S. Commerce Department’s National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) today issued a draft guide to help communities plan for and act to keep windstorms, floods, earthquakes, sea-level rise, industrial mishaps and other hazards from inflicting disastrous consequences.

NIST is requesting public feedback on the draft Community Resilience Planning Guide for Buildings and Infrastructure, which Acting Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and Acting NIST Director Willie May unveiled during a workshop at Texas Southern University in Houston today.

The official first version of the guide will be released this fall and updated periodically as new building standards and research results become available and as communities gain experience using the guide and recommend improvements.

New Report Identifies Possible Next Steps in U.S. Energy Development

April 27, 2015 Comments off

New Report Identifies Possible Next Steps in U.S. Energy Development
Source: American Geosciences Institute

The U.S. energy portfolio changes over time. Scientific and technologic advances related to hydraulic fracturing have dramatically increased the supply of U.S. oil and gas; because of this, a methane economy – in which natural gas provides the leading share of primary energy consumption – is now a possible scenario for U.S. energy development. In a report released by the American Geosciences Institute (AGI), the social, political, technical and environmental components of a methane economy are identified. The report also addresses how industry, government and the public might best work together to advance common energy goals.

The report is based on the inaugural AGI Critical Issues Forum where experts were asked to consider whether a natural gas-dominant economy is achievable in North America and if such an economy would be desirable. In this forum, U.S. geoscientists, economists and environmental experts identified barriers and enablers to such an economy. They reviewed geological, infrastructural, technological, and financial factors that may affect future gas supplies and the demand for natural gas. The experts also considered the environmental, health, and safety factors that may have a significant effect on the development of natural gas.

One of the conclusions of the report is that social license granted by consensus public opinion – at the national, state and local levels – can be either a substantial enabler or barrier to a methane economy, and its importance cannot be overstated.

Suicide Postvention in the Department of Defense

April 27, 2015 Comments off

Suicide Postvention in the Department of Defense
Source: RAND Corporation

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been struggling with increasing rates of suicide among military personnel for the past decade. As DoD continues to implement new programs and examine its policies in an effort to prevent military personnel from taking their own lives, it is important to assess its current responses to suicide and to identify opportunities to enhance these programs and policies. Unfortunately, there is little scientific evidence on how best to respond to suicides, how to ensure that surveillance activities are managed appropriately and that loss survivors are given sufficient support to grieve, how additional suicides can be prevented, and how to honor and respect the decedent and his or her loved ones. At the same time, there are many resource guides intended to provide recommendations for organizations (mostly schools) in responding to suicides. A review of the existing scientific evidence on postvention (responses to prevent additional suicides in the aftermath of a suicide) and guidance for other types of organizations provides potential insights for DoD, however. Complemented by the perspectives of those most intimately touched by military suicide — the family and friends of those who have died — these sources may help DoD formulate its guidance in a practical and sensitive way.

USPS OIG — Domestic Merchandise Returns and Forwarding

April 24, 2015 Comments off

Domestic Merchandise Returns and Forwarding (PDF)
Source: U.S. Postal Service, Office of Inspector General

The package delivery market is an important and growing segment of the U.S. economy. American businesses and consumers spent more than $68 billion in 2013 to ship packages domestically. As part of this package activity, merchandise sometimes needs to be returned to the merchant or forwarded to a different address designated by the recipient. A recent study conducted from April to June 2013 showed that just over 5 percent of business volume (over 500 million pieces) was returned using a carrier shipping service. The domestic returns business is worth an estimated $3 billion annually and is expected to approach $4 billion by 2016.

The U.S. Postal Service is active in the returns market, having generated about [redacted] in returns-related revenue in fiscal year (FY) 2014. The potential of this market was recently acknowledged when the vice president, New Products and Innovation, stated, “Returns play an important role in our efforts to grow our package business.” The Postal Service has also released its new “Already There” advertising campaign aimed at promoting the ease of its return services. In addition, the Postal Service generated about [redacted] in forwarding-related revenue in FY 2014. To support this growing market, the Postal Service offers a variety of merchandise return and forwarding products and services and continues to develop additional services to keep up with eCommerce, digital innovations, and changing customer preferences.

The objective of our review was to identify opportunities for the Postal Service to grow its merchandise returns and forwarding revenue. To that end, we researched global trends, reviewed actions of foreign posts, met with Postal Service managers and returns companies, and examined prior U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General reports.

A Relevant Risk Approach to Mental Health Inquiries in Question 21 of the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86)

April 24, 2015 Comments off

A Relevant Risk Approach to Mental Health Inquiries in Question 21 of the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF-86) (PDF)
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Background
Individuals vetted by the government for initial or continuing eligibility to access classified information must fill out a personnel security questionnaire as part of a screening process designed to identify those who are not likely to be trustworthy, reliable , or loyal to the United States. Question 21 in the Questionnaire for National Security Positions (SF – 86) asks applicants if they have consulted with a mental health professional in the last 7 years , with certain groups exempted . This approach identifies too many individuals for investigative follow – up who do not have a mental health condition that pose s an unacceptable risk , and likely misses other at – risk individuals . Disagreements over the goal, effectiveness , and adverse consequences ( e.g., stigmatizing the use of mental health services ) associated with this question have resulted in previous Question 21 wording changes but have not significantly resolved concerns.

Highlights
A proposed “r elevant r isk ” approach to Question 21 — focusing only on standardized clinical conditions that could pose a security risk as well as mental health related hospitalizations — would not represent an obstacle to mental health care for the vast majority of personnel and would be consistent with Department of Defense ( DoD ) policy to foster a culture of support with respect to mental he alth. This approach would reduce the costs associated with unnecessary Q uestion 21 follow – up investigative work, as well as much of the stigma – related adverse consequences associated with the current Q uestion 21. At the same time , the “relevant risk” appro ach would identify more effectively the small number of individuals with mental health conditions that may pose security risks. In addition, t his report evaluates the benefits for both security and clinical care for having separate professionals conduct se curity fitness evaluations vice individuals’ mental health treatment.

Carter Unveils New DoD Cyber Strategy in Silicon Valley

April 24, 2015 Comments off

Carter Unveils New DoD Cyber Strategy in Silicon Valley
Source: U.S. Department of Defense

Defense Secretary Ash Carter today unveiled the Defense Department’s second cyber strategy to guide the development of DoD’s cyber forces and to strengthen its cyber defenses and its posture on cyber deterrence.

Carter discussed the new strategy — an update to the original strategy released in 2011 — before an audience at Stanford University on the first day of a two-day trip to Silicon Valley in California.

Deterrence is a key part of the new cyber strategy, which describes the department’s contributions to a broader national set of capabilities to deter adversaries from conducting cyberattacks, according to a fact sheet about the strategy.

The department assumes that the totality of U.S. actions — including declaratory policy, substantial indications and warning capabilities, defensive posture, response procedures and resilient U.S. networks and systems –- will deter cyberattacks on U.S. interests, the fact sheet added.

CRS — Freedom of Information Act Legislation in the 114th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis (February 26, 2015)

April 23, 2015 Comments off

Freedom of Information Act Legislation in the 114th Congress: Issue Summary and Side-by-Side Analysis (PDF)
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)

Both the House and Senate are currently considering legislation that would make substantive changes to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). FOIA was originally enacted in 1966 and has been amended numerous times since—most recently in 2009. FOIA provides the public with a presumptive right to access agency records, limited by nine exemptions that allow agencies to withhold certain types or categories of records.

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