Saturday, August 30, 2008

Surreal Saturday: Painting The Mona Lisa With 1100 Paintball Guns...Instantly (YouTube Via Gizmodo)

Great YouTube video on Gizmodo of the Mythbusters guys (in concert?) painting the Mona Lisa with 1100 paintball guns...look, you gotta see this to believe it:

Friday, August 29, 2008

Interested In Learning More About Crime Analysis? (Analyst's Corner)

Deborah Osborne, a writer and former crime analyst, sponsors a very interesting podcast over on her blog Analyst's Corner. Her recent interview with Jim Mallard, the crime analysis supervisor for the Arlington, Texas Police Department and winner of the 2008 Technology Award from the International Association of Crime Analysts, is a good overview of crime analysis as a profession, and the role of technology in crime and intelligence analysis. Worth listening to if you are a professional or a student interested in the profession. For me, the most interesting aspect was comparing the problems and techniques of the crime analyst to those in the national security community (with which I am more familiar).

Thursday, August 28, 2008

37,000 Contract Employees In IC; Cost 66% More Than Government Employees

Dr. Ronald Sanders, the Associate Director Of National intelligence for Human Capital, held a conference call (transcript of that call here) yesterday to discuss the recent results of an inventory of core contractor personnel. Based on the information in the call (and a little math) it appears that there about 100,000 military and civilian personnel in the US national security intel community along with about 37,000 (or 27% of the total 137,000 workforce) contract employees (Note: The numbers were pretty confusing and there was a lengthy, somewhat disconcerting discussion concerning algebra near the end of the conference but I came up with 37,000 based on what was written and so did the Post, so I feel better). Dr. Sanders went to great pains to explain that this was only the core contracting requirements of the IC. He was not including guys contracted to seal the asphalt at Langley, for example...

Dr. Sanders also quoted a number of interesting reasons for using so many contracted personnel. The number one reason (56%) was "to provide unique expertise to IC missions and functions." Specifically mentioned were scientific and engineering expertise, foreign language and regional and cultural expertise. 11% were hired because of the way the budget was structured. The IC wanted to hire permanent government employees but couldn't but had money to hire contractors. 10% of the contractors were hired because it was more cost effective, in some way, to hire them under contract and 8 percent were hired due to surge or non-recurring projects. (Note: I am not sure I understand all these numbers. For example, if you are hiring someone for "expertise" and it is a recurring requirement, then why isn't that person also someone you would want to bring on permanently?).

It also appears that these contractors cost the government 66% more than the average government employee ($207,000 per year vs. $125,000 per year). These numbers appear to be based on full life cycle costs including salary, benefits while in service, pension costs, health benefits into retirement, etc.

The total number of contractors on the payroll from 06-07 was "essentially a flat line" according to Dr. Sanders. Interestingly, the DNI didn't collect data on the numbers of contracted personnel prior to 2006 and can't speak to the exact trend in hiring though he did admit, "We know – you know there’s been a sharp increase in the number of U.S. government civilian employees in the intelligence community."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

New NGA Website Online Now! (NGA)

For those of you who have never visited the old NGA website it was, well, ugly. Really. Ugly. Lots of great people at the NGA and the product is, of course, fantastic but the website did not do the organization justice.

All that has changed with the new NGA site. Very professional and much more logically arranged. Complete with superslick video (that they foolishly made impossible to embed so I can't show it to you) and straightforward links to various important pages within the site (such as jobs and products and services), the re-worked site looks better and is more useful.

I was particularly pleased to see that the NGA has plussed up its history section. There are a number of useful tools there for educators including a nice monograph on the history of the NGA and a useful time line. My only wish is that they would put up some more historical pictures and documents of importance. There is also no FOIA Reading Room like the CIA has usefully established (hint, hint...).