Briefing

Wanted: Smart Soldiers

Question: One in every nine people in a town votes for Party A. All others vote for Party B. How many people vote for Party B in a town of 810? Answer: A-90, B-720, C-801, D-819. The answer is B.

It's an example of a question on the armed forces' aptitude test-which nearly 23 percent of recent high school graduates failed, according to a new report.

The school reform group Education Trust report is the first publicly released analysis of the military's aptitude tests, used since 1968 to gauge potential career paths for recruits. Minorities, in particular, are far less likely to qualify for enlistment, the report found. Even recruits of color who scored high enough to serve, but still had low test scores, are more often limited to roles in the military with fewer opportunities for advancement. The test measures general aptitude in math and word knowledge, arithmetic reasoning and paragraph comprehension.

The findings add to the concern that the military will not be able to reach its recruiting goals. Even before taking the entrance test, 75 percent of potential recruits are disqualified because they have not graduated from high school, have criminal records, or lack the required physical fitness, according to the report.

-George A. Warner

Freeing Up Information

Few probably were aware of the National Archives' Office of Government Information Services when it set up shop in 2009. The seven-person staff facilitates requesters of federal documents under the Freedom of Information Act. Its role could become more critical since Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., vowed to evaluate agencies' compliance with FOIA.

During OGIS' first year, a large share of its cases came from two agencies, the Justice Department (38 percent) and the Veterans Affairs Department (9 percent).

Not really a mystery. Besides the fact that Justice sets overall FOIA policies, these were the two departments that heeded OGIS' recommendation to offer its services in appeal response letters to requesters. The Agriculture, Homeland Security and Interior departments; the Social Security Administration; and the U.S. Postal Service have followed suit. As of January, OGIS had facilitated 500 FOIA cases.

-Charles S. Clark

Where the Workers Are

The federal government employs 2.06 million workers and more than 700,000 U.S. Postal Service employees nationwide, according to the latest calculations from Federally Employed Women. FEW recently released its interactive map pinpointing the workforce by agency, state and county, urging lawmakers to think twice about the potential impact of personnel cuts within their districts. The map also highlights a federal retiree population of almost 2.5 million.

"Every lawmaker has federal workers and retirees who live and work in her/his state and district," Matthew Fogg, FEW's national vice president for congressional relations, said in a statement. "Therefore, talk of furloughs and layoffs not only greatly disrupt the services that their constituents rely on, but also directly impact their constituents who have dedicated their careers to public service."

FEW's data, which feature population totals every two years since 2000, show the Defense and Homeland Security departments gaining the most employees and retirees since 2008, and USPS totals shrinking in virtually every county. California claims the biggest population, with more than 460,000 in 2010, while Vermont has the smallest share, with 10,792.

-Susan Fourney

Geospatial Design

The National Geospatial- Intelligence Agency designed its new $1.7 billion headquarters in Springfield, Va., so its 8,500 analysts and staff could deliver better intelligence faster.

"This is an opportunity for NGA to implement its vision of increasing our analytic depth," Director Letitia Long said before leading a tour of the 2.4-million-square-foot Campus East in January. With greater speed and better access to data, NGA aims to anticipate events rather than simply provide intelligence about them after they have occurred.

The agency is turning to human geography, which includes a range of elements, from tribal boundaries and population centers to birth and death rates, education and the proximity of people to health facilities. "Culture, race, language and where people congregate" are parts of human geography, Long said.

By combining this knowledge with other geospatial intelligence, NGA expects to predict such things as where pandemics might break out, where transnational crime might spread, where populations are susceptible to extremist ideology and where mass migrations are likely.

Long said she hopes NGA will be able to "tip off the rest of the intelligence community on what to focus on."

-William Matthews

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