Tech Roundup

Jacquelyn Martin/AP

Crime Stopper

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is shopping for crime forecasting technology to predict where gun violence may occur so that ATF can intercede before it happens.

The Justice Department in April issued a solicitation for a system “designed to accurately identify the risk of personal and property crimes” covering 200 locations throughout the United States, United Kingdom and Canada.

ATF wants software that will display color-coded crime risk maps with interactive features for locations that are identified as high risk. The technology would interpret the current and changing demographics of communities to produce trend analyses and to
generate online reports for users at government agencies and businesses.

“It’s a step forward for ATF,” said Paul Wormeli, executive director emeritus at the Integrated Justice Information Systems Institute. State and local police already are using geolocational information to perform some of the same kinds of predictive analyses described in the solicitation, he noted.

Wormeli expects the technology one day could augment forecasts with smartphone text messages, video and other observations from witnesses and good Samaritans out in the field. “We spend a lot of money getting officers to the scene of an incident,” but dispatchers using “citizens as sensors” can save officers trips by collecting video from people at the scene of a crime, he said.

The solicitation appears to reflect one of the big movements in law enforcement—place-based policing, often called “proximity-based policing,” rather than a person-based approach, Wormeli said.

- Aliya Sternstein

Backlog Backlash

The Veterans Affairs Department faces a “staggering” backlog of 897,566 disability claims with more than 65 percent pending for more than 125 days, a problem compounded by an error rate of 16 percent, representatives of veterans services organizations told lawmakers on the House Veterans Affairs Committee in April.

Officials expect the backlog will grow to 1.2 million claims this year and another 50,000 will accrue in 2013 as veterans of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars flood the system, Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki told the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee earlier this year. He vowed to process all claims in fewer than 125 days with a 98 percent accuracy standard by 2015.

VA plans to roll out its paperless Veterans Benefit Management System to 16 regional offices by September, with installation in all 56 regional offices in 2013. But even as VA moves to a paperless claims system, the department has yet to determine when or how older paper claims will be converted to digital files.

Bob Brewin

CTO Clout

The White House is in the process of launching a new council of federal technology officers who will be tasked with sharing insights and solving problems across government, Veterans Affairs Department Chief Technology Officer Peter Levin said in April.

The new council doesn’t have an official name, but it will function something like a less formal version of the Chief Information Officers Council. It will augment the President’s Innovation Cohort, a group formed early in the Obama administration for politically appointed chief technology and chief innovation officers, by bringing in career staff, Levin said.  

Joseph Marks

Conduct Unbecoming

The Marine Corps wants to sack Sgt. Gary Stein for insulting President Obama on his Facebook page with the comment, “Screw Obama. I will not follow all orders from him.” After the fact, Stein conceded this comment was tasteless, but then argued he had a First Amendment right to express his opinion.

One of Stein’s attorneys told ABC News that “we feel very strongly that the Department of Defense regulation that was used to oust Sgt. Stein is not constitutional, because the law is really clear that a person does not give up their First Amendment right of free speech when they go into the military.”

I have a news flash for Stein: Employers outside the military also have policies that put limits on what their workers can do or say on social media.

- Bob Brewin

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