A FOIA app, Chamber targets cyber, shelling out for Shell and more

News and notes from around the federal IT community.

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FOIA request? There's an app for that.

The Department of Homeland Security has unveiled an app for Freedom of Information Act requests, the first by a federal agency.

The department's Privacy Office said the mobile app will simplify and enhance the submission process for FOIA requesters. It will allow the public to submit a FOIA request to any DHS component; check the status of requests; access all the content on the FOIA website; and get updates on activities, such as DHS stakeholder meetings, conference calls and recently published documents.

The department has been under increasing pressure to clear a huge backlog of FOIA requests. This spring, the Justice Department issued a report saying DHS had 103,000 backlogged requests in fiscal 2014. The House passed legislation in June that would require DHS' chief FOIA officer to improve and streamline the request process to reduce the backlog and provide greater transparency into that process.

The FOIA app is the latest in a series of efforts the Privacy Office has undertaken to help modernize FOIA processes and improve the customer experience. Other efforts include an improved online FOIA submission form and a recently launched online tool for checking the status of a request.

Chamber of Commerce launches cyber lobby

The Chamber of Commerce's new lobbying organization will be a forum for executives to discuss "what is effective, missing or needed in regard to cybersecurity policy or practices," the group announced July 7.

The formation of the Cybersecurity Leadership Council -- whose members include corporate giants such as Boeing and JPMorgan Chase, along with BlackBerry and software firm Splunk -- comes at a critical time for cybersecurity legislation. A measure awaiting action in the Senate would offer incentives for companies to share more threat information with the government via a portal maintained by the Department of Homeland Security.

Senate Democrats blocked the bill on June 11. It could still make a comeback this year, though similar legislation has stalled in Congress in recent years because of privacy concerns.

Chamber of Commerce officials have supported information-sharing legislation, but they wrote to lawmakers in April to express strong opposition to amendments related to breach notifications and other issues, which the group said should be considered separately.

The Cybersecurity Leadership Council is not the only such group to spring up in recent months. Passing an information-sharing bill is also a priority for the new Coalition for Open Security, which is backed by senior IT executives representing 33 private- and public-sector organizations.

OPM shelling out for Shell project managers

The Office of Personnel Management is seeking four project managers to help shepherd its IT modernization project.

According to a posting on USAJobs, "The Information Technology Senior Project Manager (ITSPM) will serve as one of the key experts within [the office of OPM CIO Donna Seymour] to provide leadership of critical IT initiatives in support of the dynamic migration of existing software applications to OPM's new infrastructure environment ('Shell')."

The job listing stresses the importance of agile experience and says the ITSPMs will be responsible for maintaining legacy systems, managing migration and justifying spending to Congress, among other things.

The four positions would be Senior Level hires, with salaries ranging from $121,956 to $168,700. OPM said applications will be accepted through July 13.

Although Seymour and OPM Director Katherine Archuleta have championed the Shell project to lawmakers, OPM's inspector general is ringing alarm bells.

IG Patrick McFarland announced a flash audit last month, citing concerns about the project's funding and management.

Michael Esser, assistant IG for audits at OPM, testified on June 23 that the $93 million estimate OPM had provided for the project is likely nowhere near the true cost because the agency neglected to include the expense of migrating existing applications to the Shell.

Online mapping tool links Medicare, weather data

The Department of Health and Human Services has unveiled an interactive mapping tool that harnesses Medicare, geographic and weather data to help local agencies support a particularly vulnerable population during disasters: people who rely on electrically powered medical and assistive equipment to live independently at home.

More than 1.6 million Medicare beneficiaries nationwide rely on electricity-dependent equipment such as oxygen concentrators, ventilators and wheelchairs, according to HHS. The emPOWER Map, sponsored by the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response, links data on those people to an online mapping tool.

The tool maps Medicare beneficiaries' claims for electricity-dependent equipment at the national, state, territory, county and ZIP code levels and incorporates real-time severe weather tracking services from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

HHS officials said the emPOWER Map can help hospitals, first responders and power companies work with community health officials to protect vulnerable residents from negatives impacts due to prolonged power outages caused by storms and other disasters.