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How Big Data Could Help Law Enforcement Catch Bulk Cash Smugglers

By John A. Cassara // April 7, 2014

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Gold-plated handguns. Million dollar pieces of art. Exotic wildlife. These and other ostentatious symbols of wealth were reportedly found at some of the properties formerly owned by Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman – Mexico’s top drug kingpin. But it was the bulk cash, mostly in carefully stacked $100 notes, that caught my attention. Reports from Mexico speculate the money recovered could eventually exceed one billion dollars. While that number is hard to digest, there can be no doubt that before his February 21 arrest, the former godfather of the Sinoloa Cartel controlled an organized criminal enterprise conservatively estimated to have pulled $3 billion in annual revenue.

According to experts at the Financial Action Task Force, bulk cash smuggling is one of the three principal international money laundering methodologies. Bulk cash refers to the large amounts of currency notes that criminals can accumulate through illicit activity – particularly narcotics trafficking.  Smuggling, in the context of bulk cash, refers to money launderers’ subsequent attempts to physically transport the cash from one country to another – for example from the United States to Mexico—where it is easier to launder.

While estimates of U.S. narcotics sales vary widely from $50 billion to $100 billion annually ...

What Kind of Tech Exec (or Potential Exec) Are You?

By Joseph Marks // March 31, 2014

KieferPix/Shutterstock.com

Federal technologists face myriad challenges from delivering quality services on a tight budget to keeping employee morale up when salaries are down.

Everyone would like to be highly productive, maintain tight security and have a perfectly integrated suite of tools to work with. Unlimited opportunity for innovation would be helpful too, of course. In reality, though, technology leaders often have to make compromises in one area to service others.

This week, Nextgov is launching Challenge: Federal Tech, an interactive quiz to help federal technologists examine their priorities and how they make those tough choices.

Quiz questions are based on Nextgov interviews with more than a dozen current and former federal technologists and are designed to simulate some of the toughest choices they have to make. Take the quiz here

(Image via KieferPix/Shutterstock.com)

White House Nixes Baseball Holiday Idea

By Ross Gianfortune // March 31, 2014

Cardinal great Ozzie Smith, shown here in 1987, was the public face of the petition.
Cardinal great Ozzie Smith, shown here in 1987, was the public face of the petition. // Gene Puskar/AP file photo

Sorry, baseball fans. Everyone will be getting mail today, government employees will be working and banks will be open today, no thanks to the White House.

The Obama administration responded Friday to a We The People petition calling for Major League Baseball's Opening Day to be declared "an American holiday." The petition was posted in late February by Budweiser, with Hall of Fame shortstop Ozzie Smith as its main ambassador. The petition reached 100,000 signatures late last week and has over 102,000 signatures as of Monday morning.

The petition is largely a marketing push by the brewing giant. It relies on nostalgia, calling the sport "America's pastime" -- according to polls, baseball is the actually the second-most popular American sport, behind football -- and recalling the hope and possibility of an 0-0 record and a full season in front of a team.

It’s a state of mind where anything is possible. You can feel the electricity in the air. Opening Day brings with it the promise of a new beginning. Every fan is in good spirits. It’s a day of celebration. It’s a day of hope. It’s a day that, for generations, has been ...

Cloud Computing Isn’t Just for Email

By Katherine McIntire Peters // March 28, 2014

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For a lot of federal IT managers, cloud computing offers tremendous potential for tackling a range of challenges, from optimizing data storage to maintaining the most up-to-date software and security. But for most agencies, it remains just that -- potential.

On April 8, Nextgov will explore that potential -- both tapped and untapped -- at a half-day event in Washington: The Path to Open Cloud. David Bennett, chief information officer at the Defense Information Systems Agency, will give a keynote presentation drawing on his experience leading one of the most complex IT organizations in government.

During Bennett’s tenure, DISA has given the nod to a number of commercial cloud service providers, most recently Amazon Web Services, allowing the companies to compete for departmentwide contracts handling low-risk unclassified information. The cloud service providers have met security standards established through the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, known as FedRAMP, as well as additional Defense-unique security standards. Even DISA is getting into the cloud business. Last week the agency launched its own cloud computing service for the department, called milCloud.

Also speaking at the event will be FedRAMP Director Maria Roat, who will discuss how this critical program is evolving. Roat brings a wealth ...

U.S. Cloud Services Companies Are Paying Dearly for NSA Leaks

By Mary DeRosa // The Chertoff Group // March 24, 2014

Edward Snowden spoke during a simulcast conversation during the South by Southwest in early March.
Edward Snowden spoke during a simulcast conversation during the South by Southwest in early March. // Jack Plunkett/Invision/AP

Edward Snowden’s leaks about National Security Agency surveillance practices have had a profound effect on the U.S. cloud computing industry.  Experts disagree on the long-term harm to U.S. companies, but recent projections are for $22 billion or more in lost revenue over the next three years.  The harm comes largely from backlash over the perceived complicity of U.S. technology companies with NSA operations.  That U.S. companies will suffer harm this significant as a result of U.S. government activities raises important questions about U.S. decision-making.  In particular, have economic issues, including the competitiveness of U.S. industry and the health of the Internet economy received enough attention in decisions about surveillance?  The answer appears to be no.

The key problem is the lack of an established process for economic input at the level of most day-to-day surveillance decisions.  There is such a process for high-level national security decisions.  In the Obama administration the process is set out in Presidential Policy Directive 1 (PPD-1), which provides a relatively formal mechanism for senior government officials considering national security matters.  It is not always clean – there can be informal discussions and side meetings that feed into decision ...