Labor: Data miner Westat agrees to pay $1.5M in back wages to settle discrimination cases

Data mining company Westat, a major federal contractor, has agreed to pay $1.5 million to settle allegations that it failed to provide equal employment opportunities to thousands of female minority applicants, the Labor Department said Sept. 10.

Laser-based NASA tool will help measure forests' role in carbon absorption

The Global Ecosystem Dynamics Investigation, or GEDI, lidar -- a remote, laser-based sensing system used to examine Earth's surface -- will be the first instrument to systematically examine the depths of the planet's forests from space. One goal of the tool is to get a better handle on forests' role in the carbon cycle.

Tech coalition urges support for Senate bill banning bulk collection of phone, Internet data

Several major technology trade groups are urging congressional leaders to support legislation that would ban bulk collection of phone and Internet metadata by U.S. spy agencies.

GAO says federal agencies need better oversight of contractor-operated systems

In reviewing six selected agencies, the Government Accountability Office said the agencies generally established security and privacy requirements and had plans to assess the effectiveness of contractor-operated systems. But five of the agencies were inconsistent in such reviews.

USDA provides loans to improve rural electricity service, invest in smart grids

The department will spend more than $518 million in rural electric cooperatives in 15 states – part of nearly $50 billion that it has invested in infrastructure improvements in the past five years. More than $23 million of the funding will go toward smart grid improvements to better manage and increase efficiencies in the nationwide electric system.

Audit: USPS isn't complying with cloud computing standards

An internal investigation found that the U.S. Postal Service's cloud computing contracts did not comply with all of the agency's standards.

Energy Department invests in localized power grids to help keep cities running

The Energy Department has set aside $8 million to set up microgrids -- contained grids that are usually connected to the more traditional electric grid but can also disconnect to operate autonomously and help alleviate grid disturbances – in Alaska, California, Illinois, Minnesota, New York, Tennessee and Washington. Each received about $1.2 million.

Congress turning up the screws on website breach

With the revelation that the website was hacked into last week, congressional lawmakers said they're taking a closer look at what happened as well as stepping up hearings on cybersecurity.

Survey: Majority of government CIOs say they don't have sufficient IT resources

A recent survey found that 62 percent of government chief information officers said they don't have sufficient resources to do their jobs effectively.

NSF: Federal research funding at higher education schools expected to improve

Despite a decrease in federal funding for basic research at universities and colleges in fiscal 2011 and 2012, higher education institutions received more than half of the $31 billion in total federal obligations for basic research. However, a new National Sciences Foundation report also found that funding is expected to improve.

Army pushing for more cybersecurity personnel to combat increasing threats, attacks

As part of its efforts to combat rising cyber threats and attacks, the Army is launching the Cyber Protection Brigade and could start a new cyber branch as soon as the second week of October, an official said.

NATO adopts cybersecurity policy, says such threats, attacks no different from conventional ones

At the two-day Wales summit, the alliance issued pledges and decisions in a number of areas -- including cybersecurity -- to better meet various security challenges. It adopted an Enhanced Cyber Defence Policy that lays out the principles for its members to defend against cyber threats and attacks as they become more frequent, complex and potentially damaging.

Obama names former Google exec Megan Smith as America's top technologist

President Obama Sept. 4 has named former Google executive and Silicon Valley veteran Megan Smith to become the nation's next chief technology officer, replacing Todd Park, who is returning to Silicon Valley to help the administration recruit top tech talent for the government.

Los Alamos inks deal to commercialize quantum cryptographic tech for 'truly secure' computing

The lab said the technology, which has been developed and rigorously tested for 20 years now, creates cryptographic keys "with lightning speed" by using the quantum properties of light particles, or photons, to generate random numbers to securely send data.

New Energy Department computing platform paves way for better biological research

The Energy Department's Systems Biology Knowledgebase, or KBase, will help biologists analyze, store and share data. Led by Lawrence Berkeley, Argonne, Brookhaven and Oak Ridge national laboratories, KBase gathers data available on plants, microbes, microbial communities and the interactions among them in order to improve the environment and energy production.

Cybersecurity technologies being developed, implemented to advance smart grid, new report says

Technologies with built-in cybersecurity functions are in development and in some cases rolling out across the nation's electricity grid as it's being transformed into a smart grid, according to the Energy Department's new status report.

Stimulus funds give thousands of students in rural Georgia better high-speed Internet access

About $56.8 million in grants awarded to the North Georgia Network and Appalachian Valley Fiber Network have resulted in a 3,000-mile fiber-optic Education Exchange that links 30 kindergarten through 12th-grade school districts with more than 330 facilities and 250,000 students. The network will enable schools to share web-based instructional resources, online course material and videoconferencing services via a 10-gigabit private education cloud.

DARPA expands research offerings through its public web portal

Started in February, Open Catalog now includes peer-reviewed publications and other material from the agency's Biological Technologies Office and Defense Sciences Office. Overall, the website now offers open source software, peer-reviewed publications and other materials from the majority of programs in DARPA's Information Innovation Office.

RFID system lets New York City keep better tabs on firefighters' whereabouts

Invented by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory's and others in partnership with the New York City Fire Department, the system is based on an active RFID tag that firefighters carry and works much like how E-Z Pass tracks inventory.

HHS rule change lets more providers meet e-health records goals

More health care providers will now be able to meet goals with certified electronic health record technology, or CEHRT, because of a new rule allowing for more flexibility in how they use it.