Archive for August, 2011

New From the GAO

August 31, 2011 Comments off

New GAO Report and Testimony (PDFs)
Source: Government Accountability Office

+ Report

1.  Environmental Litigation:  Cases against EPA and Associated Costs over Time, GAO-11-650, August 1.
Highlights –

+ Testimony

1.  Defined Benefit Pension Plans: Plans Face Challenges When Investing in Hedge Funds and Private Equity, by Barbara Bovbjerg, Managing Director, Education, Workforce, and Income Security, before the U.S. Department of Labor’s Advisory Council on Employee Welfare and Pension Benefit Plans.  GAO-11-901SP, August 31.
Highlights –

Pursuing Risk Intelligence in a Rapidly Changing Industry; Addressing operational risks faced by pharmaceutical companies

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Pursuing Risk Intelligence in a Rapidly Changing Industry; Addressing operational risks faced by pharmaceutical companies
Source: Deloitte

The pharmaceutical industry continues to evolve and change, particularly in light of a number of important industry trends that are reshaping its future, including: product/service and geographic diversification; consolidation; increased regulation; commercial model changes; and R&D model changes. As management and boards of pharmaceutical companies grapple with this increased complexity and market turmoil, they search for ways to address both the threats and opportunities that may come with disruptive change.

While risk and opportunity reside in the key areas of enterprise risk — strategic, financial, compliance, and operational — we believe that when the implications of these changes are synthesized, operations could be the area facing the greatest levels of risk. Our new paper, “Pursuing Risk Intelligence in a rapidly changing industry,” delves into the risks that challenge effective operations planning and decision making and focuses on substantive consideration that might arise in light of current and transformative industry trends. It underscores the benefits of Risk Intelligence in providing an approach to planning and decision making that can enable an organization to make Risk Intelligent choices that help mitigate downside risks and seize the upside opportunities that expose the enterprise to just the “right” amount of risk needed to pursue value creation.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

State Preemption of Local Tobacco Control Policies Restricting Smoking, Advertising, and Youth Access — United States, 2000–2010

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State Preemption of Local Tobacco Control Policies Restricting Smoking, Advertising, and Youth Access — United States, 2000–2010
Source: Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (CDC)

Preemptive state tobacco control legislation prohibits localities from enacting tobacco control laws that are more stringent than state law. State preemption provisions can preclude any type of local tobacco control policy. The three broad types of state preemption tracked by CDC include preemption of local policies that restrict 1) smoking in workplaces and public places, 2) tobacco advertising, and 3) youth access to tobacco products. A Healthy People 2020 objective (TU-16) calls for eliminating state laws that preempt any type of local tobacco control law (1). A previous study reported that the number of states that preempt local smoking restrictions in one or more of three settings (government worksites, private-sector worksites, and restaurants) has decreased substantially in recent years (2). To measure progress toward achieving Healthy People 2020 objectives, this study expands on the previous analysis to track changes in state laws that preempt local advertising and youth access restrictions and to examine policy changes from December 31, 2000, to December 31, 2010. This new analysis found that, in contrast with the substantial progress achieved during the past decade in reducing the number of states that preempt local smoking restrictions, no progress has been made in reducing the number of states that preempt local advertising restrictions and youth access restrictions. Increased progress in removing state preemption provisions will be needed to achieve the relevant Healthy People 2020 objective.

Can Healthcare IT Save Babies?

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Can Healthcare IT Save Babies?
Source: MIT Sloan School of Management Working Paper

The US has a higher infant mortality rate than most other developed nations. Electronic medical records (EMR) and other healthcare information technology (IT) improvements could reduce that rate, by standardizing treatment options and improving monitoring. We empirically quantify how healthcare IT improves neonatal outcomes. We identify this effect through variations in state medical privacy laws that distort the usefulness of healthcare IT. We find that adoption of healthcare IT by one additional hospital in a county reduces infant mortality in that county by 13 deaths per 100,000 live births. Rough cost-effectiveness calculations suggest that healthcare IT is associated with a cost of $450,140 per infant saved.

+ Full Paper (PDF)

On the Doorstep of the Information Age: Recent Adoption of Precision Agriculture

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On the Doorstep of the Information Age: Recent Adoption of Precision Agriculture
Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service

The adoption of precision agriculture, which encompasses a suite of farm-level information technologies, can improve the efficiency of input use and reduce environmental harm from the overapplication of inputs such as fertilizers and pesticides. Still, the adoption of precision agricultural technologies and practices has been less rapid than envisioned a decade ago. Using Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) data collected over the past 10 years, this report examines trends in the adoption of four key information technologies—yield monitors, variable-rate application technologies, guidance systems, and GPS maps—in the production of major field crops. While yield monitoring is now used on over 40 percent of U.S. grain crop acres, very few producers have adopted GPS maps or variable-rate input application technologies.

+ Summary (PDF)
+ Full Report (PDF)

Wartime Contracting Commission releases final report to Congress

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Wartime Contracting Commission releases final report to Congress
Source: Commission on Wartime Contracting

The final report of the congressionally chartered Commission on Wartime Contracting in Iraq and Afghanistan says at least $31 billion has been lost to contract waste and fraud, and that major reforms are required.

Commission reform objectives include improving federal planning for use of contracts, strengthening contract management and oversight, expanding competition, improving interagency coordination, and modifying or cancelling U.S.-funded projects that host nations cannot sustain. The reforms are described in 15 strategic recommendations.

The eight-member, bipartisan Commission filed its 240-page final report, “Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling Costs, Reducing Risks,” with U.S. Senate and House officials this morning. A briefing in the Capitol followed.

The Commission report notes that a consequence of 1990s reductions in the federal acquisition workforce and in support units within the military, the United States cannot conduct large or sustained contingency operations without heavy support from contractors. “Contingency” operations, as defined in federal law for the Department of Defense, are those involving military forces in actual or imminent hostilities, or in response to declared national emergencies. Civilian agencies use a similar definition.

Commission Co-Chair Michael Thibault, former deputy director of the Defense Contract Audit Agency, said, “The government has known for 20 years that contractors would be a key part of any major response to large or sustained hostilities or major disasters. Yet the government was not prepared to go into Afghanistan in 2001 or Iraq in 2003 using large numbers of contractors, and is still unable to provide effective management and oversight of contract spending that will have exceeded $206 billion by the end of September. That has to change.”

Co-Chair Christopher Shays, a former U.S. Representative for Connecticut, said, “The Commission finds the government is over-relying on contractors. Even if you think having more than 260,000 contractor employees at work in Iraq and Afghanistan, at times outnumbering the military they support, is reasonable, there are still problems. Some contractors have been performing tasks that only federal employees should perform, while others are doing work that is permissible but still too risky or inappropriate for contractors. And overall, there is simply too much contracting for the federal contract-management and oversight workforce to handle. From every angle, that’s over-reliance.”

The co-chairs said fraud and abuse are problems in wartime contracting, but the biggest challenge is waste. Thibault said, “We have founds billions of dollars of waste stemming from a variety of shortcomings—poor decision making, vague contract requirements, lack of adequately trained federal oversight people in the field, duplicative or unnecessary work, failure to revise or recompete contracts, unsustainable projects, inadequate business processes among contractors, and delayed audits. There are many causes, and no simple solution.”

+ Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling costs, reducing risks (PDF; low res)
+ Transforming Wartime Contracting: Controlling costs, reducing risks (PDF; high res)

Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations

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Tenth Anniversary Report Card: The Status of the 9/11 Commission Recommendations
Source: Bipartisan Policy Center

“Today, our country is undoubtedly safer and more secure than it was a decade ago. We have damaged our enemy, but the ideology of violent Islamist extremism is alive and attracting new adherents, including right here in our own country. With important 9/11 Commission recommendations outlined in this report still unfulfilled, we fail to achieve the security we could or should have…

“The terrorist threat will be with us far into the future, demanding that we be ever vigilant. Changing circumstances require that we regularly reassess our priorities and expenditures to determine what is needed to defend our country and people.

“Our terrorist adversaries and the tactics and techniques they employ are evolving rapidly. We will see new attempts, and likely successful attacks. One of our major deficiencies before the 9/11 attacks was a failure by national security agencies to adapt quickly to new and different kinds of enemies. We must not make that mistake again.”

+ Full Report (PDF)
+ Report Card (PDF)