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Strange but True: Snakes, Rodents Plague DISA's Fort Huachuca Buildings

By Bob Brewin // March 14, 2014

Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com

Buried deep in the boilerplate of the detailed 2015 budget request for the Defense Information Systems Agency released this week is the revelation that 19 Fort Huachuca, Ariz., buildings that house the Joint Interoperability Test Command “have numerous environmental hazards and safety issues.”

These hazards include “roof leaks, mold infestations, rodents and snakes,” and two of the JITC buildings have no running water, DISA said in its request for $1.9 million to renovate an existing Army building for the testers.

JITC folks at Fort Huachuca test all the network gadgets and gizmos used by the Defense Department, a serious task not at all aided by the need to keep an eye out for varmints while parched in the desert sun due to lack of water.

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(Image via Heiko Kiera/Shutterstock.com)

What Happens After Sexting and Luxury Travel at VA? Paid Leave

By Bob Brewin // March 13, 2014

Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock.com

An unidentified Veterans Affairs Department ratings service representative in Nashville, Tenn., who downloaded software onto his agency laptop to sext friends and misused $31,000 in travel funds was placed on paid administrative leave this week.

The VA inspector general last week released a report that detailed the employee’s travel and sexting adventures, with recommendations that top VA management “determine the appropriate administrative action, if any” to take against the employee.

The Nashville ratings representative managed to win the backing of supervisors for a job at the Washington-based VA Center for Innovation and between May 2011 and February 2013 traveled “at his own discretion” to Washington 34 times and took one trip each to Newark, N.J., and Tampa, Fla., at a total cost to taxpayers of $109,200, the IG reported.

Questionable travel expenses for this employee included “multiple valet hotel parking charges between October 2012 and January 2013, although [he] did not rent a car during these trips,” and business class train travel, the IG said.

In September 2011, the Nashville employee changed his departure from Reagan National to Dulles International Airport at an additional cost of $383 because “he wanted to attend a horse show near ...

No Major Cuts for DISA in 2015 Budget Request

By Bob Brewin // March 5, 2014

Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Sears relays an update to his platoon commander during an exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif.
Marine Corps Staff Sgt. Brian Sears relays an update to his platoon commander during an exercise at Camp Pendleton, Calif. // U.S. Marine Corps

The 2015 budget request for the Defense Information Systems Agency reflects the reality that even a slimmed down Defense Department still needs global connectivity.

DISA’s 2015 budget request for operations and maintenance -- which keeps its networks running on a daily basis -- took only a $12 million hit from its 2014 budget, and still stands at a robust $1.3 billion dollars after you do the rounding things.

The agency’s requested research and development budget slipped a modest $6 million to $216 million, from $222 million in 2014.

The top-line DISA budget does not contain totals for its procurement accounts request, but instead details 12 “major equipment projects” including $80 million for the worldwide Defense Information Systems Network, up a modest $3 million from $77 million in 2014.

Evidently President Obama has enough communications gadgets to take care of him for the next year, as the White House Communications Agency requested $33.4 million in its procurement budget, down $20.9 million from $54.3 million in 2014.

A Pentagon spokesman told me more will be revealed next  Tuesday (March 11), when DISA releases a more detailed, line-item budget.

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Sexting, Valet Parking and Luxury Travel at VA

By Bob Brewin // March 4, 2014

Lisa F. Young/Shutterstock.com

The Veteran’s Affairs Department Inspector General has reported a wild and sad tale of an unidentified ratings service representative in Nashville, Tenn., who among other things “downloaded Skype software onto his agency laptop for sexting close personal friends.”

At the same time this unnamed Veterans Benefit Administration employee had the unofficial backing of a supervisor for a new job at the Washington-based VA Center for Innovation, and that supervisor “engaged in a prohibited personnel practice” to help him land him the D.C. job.

The innovation center was created in 2010 “to transform VA into a 21st century people-centric, results-driven and forward looking organization.” 

Between 2011 and 2013 the Nashville employee racked up over $100,000 in travel charges to and from Washington to work on the VA “Fast Track” claims processing program, and the VA IG found the Nashville employee misused about $31,000 in VA travel funds.

Questionable travel charges for this employee included “multiple valet hotel parking charges between October 2012 and January 2013, although [he] did not rent a car during these trips,” the IG said.

In September 2011, the Nashville employee changed his departure from Reagan National to Dulles International Airport at an additional ...

10,000 Year Nuclear Waste Storage Site Fails After 15 years

By Bob Brewin // February 27, 2014

Plutonium’s half-life  runs from days to thousands of years.
Plutonium’s half-life runs from days to thousands of years. // concept w/Shutterstock.com

The Department of Energy’s underground nuclear waste storage plant in New Mexico was designed to safely store plutonium and other nuclear waste for 10,000 years, eons longer than recorded history.

That’s because plutonium’s half-life -- the time it takes to decay -- runs from days to thousands of years.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant fell 9,985 years short of this goal on Feb. 14, when radioactivity leaked from the site. Ryan Flynn, secretary of the New Mexico Environment Department, said a leak “should never happen . . . one event is too many.”

Maybe it’s time to develop another 10,000 year plan.

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