Incompatible Software Malfunctioning IT

(FILE PHOTO) Samsung Overtakes Apple As Leading Smart-Phone Supplier

As the workplace becomes increasingly mobile, the federal government is opting for devices other than BlackBerrys. The Obama Administration announced a Digital Government Strategy for federal employees to access workplace networks from mobile devices without compromising privacy and security concerns. In accordance with this strategy, the Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and National Institute of Standards and Technology developed a baseline of standard security requirements for mobile computing and a framework design to reference in designing security and privacy protections. This would allow federal employees to use a range of popular brand devices without compromising government networks and leaking information, and even allow some offices to implement a bring-your-own-device policy instead of on government-issued devices.

Technology insiders applauded the government’s decision to develop the mobile technology to permit federal employees to work remotely. A survey of federal managers and federal workers found that each employee would add an additional seven hours each week in productivity, amounting to $14,000 in productivity gains. Of those federal workers who already have mobile device access, they spend a weekly average of nine additional hours on top of their full-time work schedules checking in to their workplace networks. Almost half of these workers report working more efficiently outside the office.

The Department of Agriculture forked over $20 million to several companies for MDM integration which is now one year behind schedule and malfunctioning. Perhaps if the USDA hired one of the companies approved by the GSA for mobile management solutions, then the USDA would not be having these rollout problems. Or maybe if the USDA required a demonstration of the bidding companies’ capabilities for MDM integration in the USDA’s network, then USDA employees would now be using their own iPhones and Android to access their workplace servers. Instead, the USDA paid three contractors $20 million.

Testing before handing over taxpayers’ money would have shown that one contractor’s software is not compatible with part of the USDA’s network security infrastructure. Eight months after the MDM system was supposed to have completed a 30-day, 3,000 phone test phase, this test phase has been pushed back, and the USDA is still just testing one component of the contractor’s incompatible software to determine whether the software will be used or abandoned. According to the USDA’s Request for Proposal, the agency already supported more than 3,000 mobile devices before the $20 million project and hoped to expand the number of mobile devices to more than 100,000 over the next few years. As of late July, only 1,370 devices were on the USDA’s MDM system.

Surely, given the failure of the MDM integration at the USDA, other federal agencies would restrain themselves from awarding millions in taxpayer dollars to these contractors without first testing their product? Think again. One of these three contractors was awarded $212.1 million in government contracts just in 2013. The contractor with the incompatible software has several multi-million dollar government contracts with the CIA, NSA, FBI, DHS, and the Air Force. Instead of pouring millions of dollars to fix “glitches,” taxpayers would prefer their money go towards testing new technologies first to prevent such rollout problems.

Information found for this “Your Tax Dollars @ Work” post was done by using a Google search. Information compiled from multiple public websites & media outlets.

cropped-Internet-Technology1

USDA Is Playing Secret Santa

grinch1000

While the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) sounded a lot like Scrooge this year by threatening to cut nutrition assistance for low income women and children, it was behaving like a secret Santa to special interests spreading good cheer and taxpayer dollars through the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. Here are more than a few other examples how the program spent $50 million to ring in the holidays early in 2013.

Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree. Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Clause. And the Virginia Christmas Tree Growers Association is one of the six projects involving Christmas trees that was funded. These included shearing, marketing and promoting Christmas trees. The program also supported at least five ornamental plant initiatives, including a project to “to increase consumers’ awareness and preference for Florida-grown ornamental plants by investigating determinants of consumer purchasing behavior such as personal health and wellness benefits and environmental and economic benefits and by developing contextually relevant marketing strategies to increase plant sales” and another to support seminars on ornamental plants at the South Carolina Nursery and Landscape Association conference.

Visions of Sugar plums Dancing in Their Heads. The Specialty Crop Block Grant Program had a sweet tooth for sugar producers this year and gave the plum growers reason to dance. The California Dried Plum Board received taxpayer dollars “to enhance the market for” prunes in Japan and South Korea. Funding was provided for “developing and implementing a comprehensive social media marketing campaign” for the Vermont Maple Sugar Makers’ Association, “organizing and promoting a Maple Weekend including a recipe contest, tours of sugarhouses, restaurant participation, and promotional activities” with the Massachusetts Maple Producers Association, and partnering with the Michigan Maple Syrup Association “to increase the profitability of Michigan maple syrup producers by developing planting stock for new sugar bushes with a higher sap sugar”.

Global Santa Tracker. Just like Santa with his bag full of toys, the USDA Specialty Crop Block Grant Program traveled around the world this year spreading joy, with more than ten grants paying for international junkets. These included conducting the “USA Pear Road Show” in China, sending representatives from the Oklahoma Pecan Growers Association to international tradeshows, bringing wine connoisseurs from China to Washington state, supporting the participation of Puerto Rican coffee producers in the Specialty Coffee Association of Europe trade shows, hosting seminars on “cooking with pistachios and prunes” in Japan and South Korea, putting on “meetings, product showcases, trade tastings, and educational seminars” for Oregon producers in Asia, facilitating a bean grower field day in Mexico, supporting attendance at domestic and international trade shows for Michigan groups and companies, and assisting with a “trade development mission” to Vietnam, the Philippines and Hong Kong.

Holiday Wine and Spirits. Santa may enjoy a glass of milk with cookies to get him through a busy evening of delivering holiday gifts and cheer, but the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program showed a preference for wine. The program funded 35 wine related projects this year. These included creating two smart phone apps to help “navigate to the next winery,” promoting wine trails and sales, improving wine tasting room satisfaction, and developing a West Virginia wine trail publication, and hosting a Wine Pavilion at the South Dakota State Fair.

Making a List and Checking It Twice. When making a list of duplicative government programs, the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program is sure to be on it at least twice since it mirrors in many ways at least two other USDA programs, the Market Access Program and Value Added Producer Grants. While not all of the projects funded by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program were wasteful, nearly all were eligible for funding from other federal programs making the program unnecessary. The largest proportion of grants was provided for marketing and promotion, such as social media for strawberries and a YouTube video about the proper handling of watermelons.

The Partridge in a Pear Tree: The “USA Pear Road Show,” promoting pears as far away as China, was one of the two pear related projects funded this year by the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. While a flight to China was included, no partridge was actually involved in either project.

Information found for this “Your Tax Dollars @ Work” post was done by using a Google search. Information compiled from multiple public websites & media outlets.

Why Didn’t I Move To Hawaii

75

Ever dream of escaping it all and owning a dream home on a remote island paradise? Didn’t think you could afford it? Think again. There is now a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) home loan program here to help you. Created to assist those with low and moderate incomes in rural areas obtain safe and sanitary dwellings, the program has expanded to cover “mortgages for millionaires” and homes in suburban and urban areas, as well as seaside resort communities. This year more than 100 individuals or families received loan guarantees for $500,000 or more from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to purchase a residence in Hawaii. If these new homeowners later cannot afford their new homes, it’s no problem; the federal government will protect the banks from losses by repaying 90 percent of the loans.

These and thousands of other loan guarantees were issued this year by the USDA Rural Housing Service (RHS) Section 502 loan programs. The Section 502 guarantee program and Section 502 direct loan program provide loans to low and moderate income individuals for the purchase of modest housing in a rural area. The programs had authority to guarantee $24 billion in privately sourced loans and make $900 million in new direct loans for FY2013. There is no down payment requirement for the loans, no maximum purchase price, and—according to USDA—the government is required to serve all borrowers who meet eligibility requirements and seek to purchase homes in eligible areas. And despite the name of the program, it serves more than just rural areas. An independent analysis found that, today, the program covers nearly the entire U.S. land mass. That has helped turn the program into one of the sweetest deals available.

The program issued nearly 166,000 loan guarantees in FY 2013 and more than 100 of those were for amounts greater than, or equal to $500,000. Nearly all of these half-a-million dollar home loans were in Hawaii. Many of the most scenic parts of Hawaii, including Maui and Kauai, are eligible areas for USDA rural loan assistance. Maui has been selected as the top island in the world for 20 consecutive years in the annual Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. Providing a combination of tropical ambience and American comforts, this island paradise offers an abundance of activities offered, from whale-watching to nature hikes to watersports with unending natural beauty. The entire island of Kauai, described as “a little slice of heaven, is considered rural by USDA.

Since property values in Hawaii exceed the national average, buying a home there may seem to be out of reach for most, but everyone from risky borrowers to the wealthy are benefitting from this USDA loan program. The USDA rural housing program’s income guidelines are generous, notes a senior loan officer in Hawaii. Likewise for those with more modest incomes, the Federal Government will reimburse up to 90 percent of the original loan amount to the lender if a borrower defaults on a loan. Thousands of borrowers do foreclose every year, costing the federal government hundreds of millions of dollars, and the number and cost have skyrocketed over the past five years. In 2008, the program had 3,369 foreclosures costing in $103 million in loss claims paid. By 2011, there were 18,808 foreclosures costing $295 million. Last year, the program paid $496 million in loss claims, according to the USDA Office of Inspector General. If trends continue, this loss will have exceeded half-billion dollars in 2013.

The department acknowledges default rates vary throughout the year and during 2012, the delinquency rate for loans 30 or more days past due ranged from 7.65 percent to 10.44 percent. By comparison, the delinquency rate in a typical housing market is around 3 percent. While designed to operate off of loan fees, the program’s delinquency rates make a taxpayer bailout more likely according to experts who predict it’s likely the program isn’t covering its costs and will probably require taxpayer funding. While USDA was putting taxpayers on the hook for generous and increasingly risky loan guarantees, housing assistance to low-income individuals across the country, including in Hawaii, was being cut. In March, USDA threatened the elimination of rental assistance for more than 10,000 very low income rural residents, generally elderly, disabled, and single female households. In July the Department notified hundreds of borrowers that their contracts would be cut off before the end of FY 2013, 90 including a housing unit for disabled elderly in Kailua-Kona, Hawaii.

And while USDA is quick to threaten assistance for the poor, elderly and disabled, the Inspector General found the Rural Development program did not identify and review loss claims from loans with questionable eligibility prior to payment, resulting in millions of dollars in improper payments. Before USDA kicks out low income elderly and disabled from rural housing, the department should first discontinue its risky loan practices that are costing nearly half-a-billion dollars a year in loss claims. This really has me wondering why I didn’t move to Hawaii.

Information found for this “Your Tax Dollars @ Work” post was done by using a Google search. Information compiled from multiple public websites & media outlets.