New GAO Reports and Testimony
Source: Government Accountability Office
1. Climate Change: Future Federal Adaptation Efforts Could Better Support Local Infrastructure Decision Makers. GAO-13-242, April 12.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/653740.pdf
2. Data Center Consolidation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Achieve Cost Savings Goal. GAO-13-378, April 23.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654091.pdf
3. Defense Infrastructure: Communities Need Additional Guidance and Information to Improve Their Ability to Adjust to DOD Installation Closure or Growth. GAO-13-436, May 14.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654598.pdf
1. Data Center Consolidation: Strengthened Oversight Needed to Achieve Billions of Dollars in Savings, by David A. Powner, director, information technology management issues, before the Subcommittee on Government Operations, House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. GAO-13-627T, May 14.
Highlights – http://www.gao.gov/assets/660/654606.pdf
Source: Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College
Increased reliance on the Internet and other networked systems raise the risks of cyber attacks that could harm our nation’s cyber infrastructure. The cyber infrastructure encompasses a number of sectors including: the nation’s mass transit and other transportation systems; banking and financial systems; factories; energy systems and the electric power grid; and telecommunications, which increasingly rely on a complex array of computer networks, including the public Internet. However, many of these systems and networks were not built and designed with security in mind. Therefore, our cyber infrastructure contains many holes, risks, and vulnerabilities that may enable an attacker to cause damage or disrupt cyber infrastructure operations. Threats to cyber infrastructure safety and security come from hackers, terrorists, criminal groups, and sophisticated organized crime groups; even nation-states and foreign intelligence services conduct cyber warfare. Cyber attackers can introduce new viruses, worms, and bots capable of defeating many of our efforts. Costs to the economy from these threats are huge and increasing. Government, business, and academia must therefore work together to understand the threat and develop various modes of fighting cyber attacks, and to establish and enhance a framework to assess the vulnerability of our cyber infrastructure and provide strategic policy directions for the protection of such an infrastructure. This book addresses such questions as: How serious is the cyber threat? What technical and policy-based approaches are best suited to securing telecommunications networks and information systems infrastructure security? What role will government and the private sector play in homeland defense against cyber attacks on critical civilian infrastructure, financial, and logistical systems? What legal impediments exist concerning efforts to defend the nation against cyber attacks, especially in preventive, preemptive, and retaliatory actions?
See also: Cyber Infrastructure Protection (2011)
INRIX Traffic Scorecard Reports U.S. Congestion on the Rise in 2013 Following Two Years of Double-Digit Declines
INRIX, a leading international provider of traffic information and driver services, today released its sixth Traffic Scorecard Annual Report, which revealed that traffic congestion is back on the rise in 2013 after two consecutive years of declines. In the first three months of this year, traffic congestion is up 4 percent compared to 2012. This suggests that after a tumultuous economic year in 2012, the economy is back on the mend bringing increased traffic congestion.
The uptick in traffic congestion in 2013 follows a 22 percent decrease in 2012. The “stop n go” nature of the results indicate an overall economic climate that has not yet returned to pre-recession levels in many areas, including total jobs and unemployment rates.
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Synthesis 442: Practices and Performance Measures for Local Public Agency Federally Funded Highway Projects explores what performance measures, delivery practices, strategies, and tools are currently used in relation to federally-funded local public agency (LPA) highway project development and delivery, and how they are used to measure success in project administration.
Source: University of Toronto
We investigate the determinants of driving speed in large us cities. We ﬁrst estimate city level supply functions for travel in an econometric framework where both the supply and demand for travel are explicit. These estimations allow us to calculate a city level index of driving speed and to rank cities by driving speed. Our investigation of the determinants of speed provide the foundations for a welfare analysis. This analysis suggests that large gains in speed may be possible if slow cities can emulate fast cities and that the deadweight losses from congestion are sizeable.
See: A Need for Speed: Why Building More Roads Won’t Conquer Gridlock (Knowledge@Wharton)
Source: United Nations Environmental Programme
Building upon previous work of the International Resource Panel on Decoupling Natural Resource Use and Environmental Impacts from Economic Growth, this report examines the potential for decoupling at the city level. While the majority of the world’s population now live in cities and cities are where most resource consumption takes place, both the pressures and potentials to find ways to reconcile economic growth, wellbeing and the sustainable use of natural resources will therefore be greatest in cities.
Analysing the role of cities as spatial nodes where the major resource flows connect as goods, services and wastes, the report ‘s focus is how infrastructure directs material flows and therefore resource use, productivity and efficiency in an urban context. It makes the case for examining cities from a material flow perspective, while also placing the city within the broader system of flows that make it possible for it to function.
The report also highlights the way that the design, construction and operation of energy, waste, water, sanitation and transport infrastructures create a socio-technical environment that shapes the “way of life” of citizens and how they procure, use and dispose of the resources they require. Its approach is innovative in that it frames infrastructure networks as socio-technical systems, examining pressures for change within cities that go beyond technical considerations. The importance of intermediaries as the dominant agents for change is emphasized, as well as the fact that social processes and dynamics need to be understood and integrated into any assessment of urban infrastructure interventions and the reconfiguration of resource flows.
A set of 30 case studies provide examples of innovative approaches to sustainable infrastructure change across a broad range of urban contexts that could inspire leaders of other cities to embrace similar creative solutions. Of course, innovations in and of themselves do not suffice if they are not integrated into larger strategic visions for the city, and as each city is unique, interventions need to be tailored to the set of challenges and opportunities present in each case.
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Research Results Digest 381: Guidebook for Construction Management Practices for Rural Projects focuses on tools and techniques that may be used to help improve aspects of construction management in the rural environment. Tools and techniques covered in the report address issues such as construction administration, engineering, operation, and safety; cost estimation; scheduling; quality control and assurance; and claims and disputes.
NCHRP RRD 381 defines rural projects as those that cost less than about $2 million and occur in an area with a population less than 50,000 people.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
Local Administrative Records and Their Use in the Challenge Program and Decennial
GAO-13-269, Feb 21, 2013
Critical Infrastructure Protection
DHS List of Priority Assets Needs to Be Validated and Reported to Congress
GAO-13-296, Mar 25, 2013
Assessment of the Nation’s Need Is Missing
GAO-13-466R, Feb 25, 2013
Worker and Family Assistance
Summary of Proposals to Address Income Eligibility Requirement for Federal Foster Care Reimbursement
GAO-13-323R, Mar 25, 2013
Source: National Research Council
For thousands of years, the underground has provided humans refuge, useful resources, physical support for surface structures, and a place for spiritual or artistic expression. More recently, many urban services have been placed underground. Over this time, humans have rarely considered how underground space can contribute to or be engineered to maximize its contribution to the sustainability of society. As human activities begin to change the planet and population struggle to maintain satisfactory standards of living, placing new infrastructure and related facilities underground may be the most successful way to encourage or support the redirection of urban development into sustainable patterns. Well maintained, resilient, and adequately performing underground infrastructure, therefore, becomes an essential part of sustainability, but much remains to be learned about improving the sustainability of underground infrastructure itself.
At the request of the National Science Foundation (NSF), the National Research Council (NRC) conducted a study to consider sustainable underground development in the urban environment, to identify research needed to maximize opportunities for using underground space, and to enhance understanding among the public and technical communities of the role of underground engineering in urban sustainability.
Underground Engineering for Sustainable Urban Development explains the findings of researchers and practitioners with expertise in geotechnical engineering, underground design and construction, trenchless technologies, risk assessment, visualization techniques for geotechnical applications, sustainable infrastructure development, life cycle assessment, infrastructure policy and planning, and fire prevention, safety and ventilation in the underground. This report is intended to inform a future research track and will be of interest to a broad audience including those in the private and public sectors engaged in urban and facility planning and design, underground construction, and safety and security.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
If constructed, the Keystone XL pipeline would transport crude oil (e.g., synthetic crude oil or diluted bitumen) derived from oil sands in Alberta, Canada to destinations in the United States. Because the pipeline crosses an international border, it requires a Presidential Permit that is issued by the Department of State (DOS). The permit decision rests on a “national interest” determination, a term not defined in the authorizing Executive Orders. DOS states that it has “significant discretion” in the factors it examines in this determination.
Key events related to the Presidential Permit include
• September 19, 2008: TransCanada submitted an application for a Presidential Permit for its Keystone XL pipeline.
• November 10, 2011: DOS announced it needed additional information concerning alternative pipeline routes through the Nebraska Sandhills.
• January 18, 2012: In response to a legislative mandate in P.L. 112-78, DOS, with the President’s consent, announced its denial of the Keystone XL permit. • May 4, 2012: TransCanada submitted a revised permit application to DOS.
• January 22, 2013: Nebraska Governor approved TransCanada’s new route through Nebraska.
Although some groups have opposed previous oil pipeline permits, opposition to the Keystone XL proposal has generated substantially more interest among environmental stakeholders. Pipeline opponents are not a monolithic group: some raise concerns about potential local impacts, such as oil spills or extraction impacts in Canada; some argue the pipeline would have national energy and climate change policy implications.
A number of key studies indicate that oil sands crude has a higher greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions intensity than many other forms of crude oil. The primary reason for the higher intensity: oil sands are heavy oils with a high viscosity, requiring more energy- and resource intensive activities to extract. However, analytical results vary due to different modeling assumptions. Moreover, industry stakeholders point out that many analyses indicate that GHG emissions from oil sands crude oil are comparable to other heavy crudes, some of which are produced and/or consumed in the United States.
Because of oil sands’ increased emissions intensity, further oil sands development runs counter to some stakeholders’ energy and climate change policy objectives. These objectives may vary based on differing views concerning the severity of climate change risk and/or the need for significant mitigation efforts. Opponents worry that oil sands crude oil will account for a greater percentage of U.S. oil consumption over time, making GHG emissions reduction more difficult. On the other hand, neither issuance of a Presidential Permit nor increased oil sands development would preclude the implementation of energy/climate policies that would support less carbon intensive fuels or energy efficiency improvements.
A primary local/regional environmental concern of any oil pipeline is the risk of a spill. Environmental groups have argued that both the pipeline’s operating parameters and the material being transported imposes an increased risk of spill. Industry stakeholders have been critical of these assertions. To examine the concerns, Congress included provisions in P.L. 112-90 requiring a review of current oil pipeline regulations and a risk analysis of oil sands crude.
Opponents of the Keystone XL pipeline and oil sands development often highlight the environmental impacts that pertain to the region in which the oil sands resources are extracted. Potential impacts include, among others, land disturbance and water resource issues. In general, these local/regional impacts from Canadian oil sands development may not directly affect public health or the environment in the United States. Within the context of a Presidential Permit, the mechanism to consider local Canadian impacts is unclear.
Source: American Society of Civil Engineers
From Executive Summary:
Every family, every community and every business needs infrastructure to thrive. Infrastructure encompasses your local water main and the Hoover Dam; the power lines connected to your house and the electrical grid spanning the U.S.; and the street in front of your home and the national highway system.
Once every four years, America’s civil engineers provide a comprehensive assessment of the nation’s major infrastructure categories in ASCE’s Report Card for America’s Infrastructure (Report Card). Using a simple A to F school report card format, the Report Card provides a comprehensive assessment of current infrastructure conditions and needs, both assigning grades and making recommendations for how to raise the grades. An Advisory Council of ASCE members assigns the grades according to the following eight criteria: capacity, condition, funding, future need, operation and maintenance, public safety, resilience, and innovation. Since 1998, the grades have been near failing, averaging only Ds, due to delayed maintenance and underinvestment across most categories.
Now the 2013 Report Card grades are in, and America’s cumulative GPA for infrastructure rose slightly to a D+. The grades in 2013 ranged from a high of B- for solid waste to a low of D- for inland waterways and levees. Solid waste, drinking water, wastewater, roads, and bridges all saw incremental improvements, and rail jumped from a C- to a C+. No categories saw a decline in grade this year.
Source: BMC Public Health
‘Suicide hotspots’ include tall structures (for example, bridges and cliffs), railway tracks, and isolated locations (for example, rural car parks) which offer direct means for suicide or seclusion that prevents intervention.
We searched Medline for studies that could inform the following question: ‘What interventions are available to reduce suicides at hotspots, and are they effective?’
There are four main approaches: (a) restricting access to means (through installation of physical barriers); (b) encouraging help-seeking (by placement of signs and telephones); (c) increasing the likelihood of intervention by a third party (through surveillance and staff training); and (d) encouraging responsible media reporting of suicide (through guidelines for journalists). There is relatively strong evidence that reducing access to means can avert suicides at hotspots without substitution effects. The evidence is weaker for the other approaches, although they show promise.
More well-designed intervention studies are needed to strengthen this evidence base.
Source: Congressional Research Service (via Federation of American Scientists)
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities challenge governments, businesses, and individuals worldwide. Attacks have been initiated by individuals, as well as countries. Targets have included government networks, military defenses, companies, or political organizations, depending upon whether the attacker was seeking military intelligence, conducting diplomatic or industrial espionage, or intimidating political activists. In addition, national borders mean little or nothing to cyberattackers, and attributing an attack to a specific location can be difficult, which also makes a response problematic.
Congress has been actively involved in cybersecurity issues, holding hearings every year since 2001. There is no shortage of data on this topic: government agencies, academic institutions, think tanks, security consultants, and trade associations have issued hundreds of reports, studies, analyses, and statistics.
This report provides links to selected authoritative resources related to cybersecurity issues. This report includes information on:
• “Executive Orders and Presidential Directives”
• “Data and Statistics”
• “Cybersecurity Glossaries”
• “Reports by Topic”
• Government Accountability Office (GAO) reports
• White House/Office of Management and Budget reports
• Cloud Computing
• Critical Infrastructure
• National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace (NSTIC)
• Research and Development (R&D)
• “Related Resources: Other Websites”
The report will be updated as needed.
New GAO Reports
Source: Government Accountability Office
MODERNIZING THE NUCLEAR SECURITY ENTERPRISE
Observations on DOE’s and NNSA’s Efforts to Enhance Oversight of Security, Safety, and Project and Contract Management
GAO-13-482T, Mar 13, 2013
VETERANS’ DISABILITY BENEFITS
Challenges to Timely Processing Persist
GAO-13-453T, Mar 13, 2013
Approaches and Issues for Financing Drinking Water and Wastewater Infrastructure
GAO-13-451T, Mar 13, 2013
Learning From Iraq: A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
Source: Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction
A Final Report From the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction culminates SIGIR’s nine-year mission overseeing Iraq’s reconstruction. It serves as a follow-up to our previous comprehensive review of the rebuilding effort, Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience.
This study provides much more than a recapitulation of what the reconstruction program accomplished and what my office found in the interstices. While examining both of these issues and many more, Learning From Iraq importantly captures the effects of the rebuilding program as derived from 44 interviews with the recipients (the Iraqi leadership), the executors (U.S. senior leaders), and the providers (congressional members). These interviews piece together an instructive picture of what was the largest stabilization and reconstruction operation ever undertaken by the United States (until recently overtaken by Afghanistan).
The body of this report reveals countless details about the use of more than $60 billion in taxpayer dollars to support programs and projects in Iraq. It articulates numerous lessons derived from SIGIR’s 220 audits and 170 inspections, and it lists the varying consequences meted out from the 82 convictions achieved through our investigations. It urges and substantiates necessary reforms that could improve stabilization and reconstruction operations, and it highlights the financial benefits accomplished by SIGIR’s work: more than $1.61 billion from audits and over $191 million from investigations.
Source: Reconnecting America
Above you’ll find a map of all the under construction and planned fixed guideway transit projects in the United States. These projects were gathered in 2012 from local sources including but not limited to, long range plans, discussions with local officials, and newspaper coverage. We understand that these projects are fluid and the estimates of cost as well as the projects themselves are subject to change frequently. This list should be seen as a snapshot in time and not a definitive source on the subject matter.
Projects listed within the Transit Space Race are fixed guideway projects including heavy rail, commuter rail, LRT, streetcars, various technologies such as cog railways, and Bus Rapid Transit lines that have more than 50% of their right of way dedicated to the bus alone. Rapid buses without dedicated lanes are an important part of any transit network however the inclusion of them in this project would have made the list hard to create. Additionally, this catalog is not a list of projects we would like to see built or an endorsement of any project. It is simply a list of what regions around the country have listed as potential projects.
In 2011, we found 643 projects in 109 regions. 439 projects had cost estimates which added up to a total of $233 billion.
In 2013, we found 721 projects in 109 regions. 497 projects had some cost estimate which added up to a total of $250 billion.
In terms of process, we also found that 88 projects are in Alternatives Analysis, 99 projects are in the Engineering phase, 43 projects are currently stalled, and 52 projects are under construction. The rest are future plans without definite funding or determined alignments.
In terms of funding and construction, using a rudimentary calculation of existing New Starts funds listed at $1.6 billion per year and assuming a 50 percent local match, it would take 78.1 years to construct all of the lines that have cost estimates.
Context-Aided Sensor Fusion for Enhanced Urban Navigation
The deployment of Intelligent Vehicles in urban environments requires reliable estimation of positioning for urban navigation. The inherent complexity of this kind of environments fosters the development of novel systems which should provide reliable and precise solutions to the vehicle. This article details an advanced GNSS/IMU fusion system based on a context-aided Unscented Kalman filter for navigation in urban conditions. The constrained non-linear filter is here conditioned by a contextual knowledge module which reasons about sensor quality and driving context in order to adapt it to the situation, while at the same time it carries out a continuous estimation and correction of INS drift errors. An exhaustive analysis has been carried out with available data in order to characterize the behavior of available sensors and take it into account in the developed solution. The performance is then analyzed with an extensive dataset containing representative situations. The proposed solution suits the use of fusion algorithms for deploying Intelligent Transport Systems in urban environments.
See: Precision of GPS in Cities Improved by 90 Percent (Science Daily)
Guidebook: Project Management Strategies for Complex Projects
Source: Transportation Research Board
TRB’s second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Renewal Project R10 has released a prepublication, non-edited draft version of a report titled Guidebook: Project Management Strategies for Complex Projects that is designed to facilitate the application of the five-dimensional management approach for complex projects. The objective of the guidebook is to identify and communicate the critical factors involved in successfully managing complex transportation design and construction projects. A training course based on the information in the guidebook was also developed.
In addition, SHRP 2 Renewal Project R10 developed a report titled Project Management Strategies for Complex Projects that describes the five-dimensional management approach for complex projects. The goal of the five-dimensional approach is to identify issues that should be planned and managed proactively, rather than retroactively. The five areas of the new project management approach address cost, schedule, engineering requirements, external influences, and financing.