November is Manatee Awareness Month; but no matter what time of year it is, manatees deserve to be celebrated. These amazing creatures fulfill a unique niche by serving as indicator species for ecosystems across the United States. Because of their reliance on the health of their habitat, manatees often act as a signal of their environment’s well-being. NOAA photo by Michael Buchanan.
Spring is coming early in 3/4 of national parks, according to a new study. Awesome? Not so much. As flowers bloom earlier every year, it’s disrupting the link between the wildflowers and the arrival of birds, bees, and butterflies that feed on and pollinate the flowers. In Shenandoah, an earlier spring is giving invasive plants a head start, and they’re displacing native wildflowers, leading to costly management issues.
Before the 1960s almost everything about living openly as a lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT) person was illegal. New York City laws against homosexual activities were particularly harsh. The Stonewall Uprising on June 28, 1969 is a milestone in the quest for LGBT civil rights and provided momentum for a movement.
Vine Creek Ranch at Death Valley National Park. Steady drought and record summer heat make Death Valley a land of extremes. Towering peaks are frosted with winter snow. Rare rainstorms bring vast fields of wildflowers. Lush oases harbor tiny fish and refuge for wildlife and humans. Despite its morbid name, a great diversity of life survives in Death Valley.
Interior Streamlines IT Organization, Infrastructure
Office of the Secretary
Self-Funding Reorganization to Provide Cost Savings to the American Taxpayers
Last edited 4/25/2016
WASHINGTON – The Interior Department today launched a five-year program of information technology modernization and consolidation that will save taxpayers an estimated $500 million by streamlining administration, cutting back on rented office space, reducing staff through attrition and other savings.
The Department plans to self-fund the consolidation by redirecting the captured savings from initial consolidation actions to later stages of the process, eliminating the need for new funding for the multi-year effort. Interior will achieve the savings by reducing its information technology (IT) infrastructure and aligning its remaining resources to better serve its customer base.
“From the start, we have been focused on changing how the Department of the Interior does business to become more efficient, improve service to the public, and save taxpayer money,” said Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar. “With these IT reforms, we are accomplishing one of our earliest good government goals and advancing President Obama's commitment to increasing energy efficiency, reducing waste, and improving environmental sustainability.”
“The technology infrastructure at Interior had become cumbersome and unresponsive, with overlapping lines of authority, excess staff and equipment, and competing interests,” said Rhea Suh, Interior's Assistant Secretary for Policy, Management and Budget. “The IT professionals who will be involved in this consolidation effort have a lot to be proud of because they are remaking our technology culture and showcasing good government at the Interior Department.”
Salazar will be issuing a Secretarial Order to initiate the consolidation process and also mandate that the Department will have only one Chief Information Officer (CIO) instead of the dozens of CIOs that currently exist. Under the Order, the Departmental CIO will assume ownership of all Departmental IT infrastructure assets as well.
The Department is projecting the effort will produce savings of $100 million annually from 2016 to 2020, for a cumulative total of $500 million. The reduced costs will stem not only from the consolidation plan, but also from redirection of technology staff to other duties, reducing rented office space and lowering other overhead costs. Current IT staff who do not move to other positions within Interior could be reduced through attrition..
“During these difficult fiscal times, the Department of Interior is playing a leadership role in developing good government practices that can achieve significant cost savings to the American taxpayer while simultaneously improving services to Interior's more than 70,000 end-users,” said Suh. “We continue to look for opportunities throughout the Department to identify additional areas for efficiencies and improvements.”
Phase one of the consolidation will focus on the naming of a single Chief Information Officer (CIO) instead of the multiple CIOs now in place, along with data center consolidations and reductions in real estate and overhead costs. The Department currently hosts 210 data centers, with a goal of reducing these to 115 by 2015.
Developing and providing the right mix of IT products and services at a lower cost will be key to delivering greater value and service to Interior's employees and customers. The consolidation process is being planned in close coordination with the multiple Bureaus and Offices within Interior. This will enable the agency to continue to address the unique needs and requirements of Interior's diverse missions as it reduces its IT footprint.
After the project is complete in 2016, Interior will direct continued savings to IT security needs, radio communications, and the modernization of aging mission applications, some of which are decades old. The investments will directly advance mission requirements by promoting interoperability and information sharing both within the Department and across government through the increased use of Web-enabled technologies. Greater standardization, adoption of common enterprise services, and simplification of business processes across common lines of business will be key factors in the modernization.