Vivek Kundra on cloud computing in the government When Vivek Kundra joined the Obama administration as its chief information officer, a position he held until last month, he found huge inefficiencies and waste in the federal government's IT budget. Private contractors encourage "reliance on inefficient software and hardware that is expensive to acquire and to maintain." By embracing "cloud computing," Kundra writes in The New York Times, the federal government could save money and increase productivity and security. Cloud computing is "the shift from hardware and software that individuals, businesses and governments buy and then maintain themselves, to low-cost, maintenance-free services that are based on the Internet and run by private companies" like Amazon and Google. "Like a large office building," Kundra writes, "cloud data centers are efficient: many different tenants occupy the same space, sharing the same critical infrastructure, yet each tenant still has its own secure, customizable space." The government has already required agencies to move toward cloud computing, but some, like the State Department, have resisted, citing security concerns. "But cloud computing is often far more secure than traditional computing, because companies like Google and Amazon can attract and retain cyber-security personnel of a higher quality than many governmental agencies." The United States should not abandon the advantages of the cloud, Kundra says, because countries like Japan and India are already embracing it and reaping economic benefits. "One of the critical remaining issues concerning cloud computing is whether cloud data can and should flow between nations and what restrictions should be placed upon it." The United States, he says, should lead in finding solutions for these issues.
Mark Essig on America's wild pig problem Rick Perry recently signed legislation in Texas that would allow those with a hunting license to shoot feral pigs from helicopters. "Biologists and wildlife officials hope to wipe out feral hogs--which are simply domestic stock turned wild--because they tear up wetlands, kill native vegetation and eat the eggs of turtles and ground-nesting birds," writes Mark Essig in The New York Times. "Farmers detest them because they destroy fences, root up crops and harbor livestock diseases." Most of the wild pig population came from pioneers, who depended on pigs for meat because they bred quickly. Farmers allowed their stock to run wild, keeping them in line with offerings of food. But some pigs chose to run free. "They are tenacious, weedy creatures; release a pair of fat, placid porkers into the woods and within a few generations their descendants will be lean, hairy, tusked beasts, happily dining at a garbage dump, browsing on acorns or rooting for grubs." The pig population is spreading quickly northward because some hunters want to expand hunting programs. To do so, they trap the pigs and release them elsewhere. "Trapping and hunting are important parts of controlling feral pig populations, though aerial shooting is unnecessarily cruel because it often wounds rather than kills," Essig says. Public efforts should be stepped up, and though they are expensive, they will outweigh the millions in damage to farms and crops the pigs currently cause. "Most important, we must deal with the hunters who are helping pigs spread." Laws should be strengthened and "ethical hunters" should spread the word to stop the practice, he writes.