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Publicly Submitted Questions and Answers for Press Lock-up Rules: April — May 2012

Question: Will you provide Microsoft Excel as a spreadsheet application on the workstation?

Answer: While current plans for the desktop suite do not include providing Excel, we are considering whether making this program available to all credentialed lock-up room participants would enhance reporting that serves the purpose of the lock-ups. A decision is pending.

Question: Because of the detailed treatment we give to the economic data reports worldwide, including those provided by the Labor Department, we routinely send up to five reporters to the major reports such as employment, and never less than two. The allows us to provide an extensive journalistic package for our readers that includes news stories with interviews of Labor Dept economists, analysis stories, and a series of detailed tables. In addition, it ensures that a second and third pair of eyes is always re-checking the material to prevent errors. We request that we be allowed to bring up to four reporters to the major reports (employment), and two to three to the others, with a minimum of two at every lockup.

Answer: A committee of Department of Labor career staff members currently is considering all requests for organizational credentials, including the number of seats allotted to each organization. Determinations are pending.

Questions: On the phone call, Carl said that there are not separate computers per workstation, but every workstation will have its own operating system on the server.

That means that everybody is running in their own virtual machine on the server. Separately, however, he said that the lockup will be "using the same cut off as we've used before." You cannot use physical cut off switches with virtual network interfaces, so we are trying to understand what this means. Will there be just a single network cutoff switch, attached to the server's connection to the outside network?

If so, how are the telephones being cut off? Will there also be a cutoff at each workstation to perform this task, or is there some other arrangement?

Answers: You are mistaken. A virtual system accesses the Internet using the same route or path as a physical work station. The end result is that all lock-up participants will be using the same gateway to access the Internet. If the termination in the room is turned off, all Internet access will be blocked. It doesn't matter whether the work station is physical or virtual. Every work station is a clone from a parent work station.

Telephone service provided at each work station will be cut off in the same way as computer equipment.

Question: What exactly in the user's profile will be persisted between a lockup session and the next one? Browser data (cookies, cached items), reporter generated files (text files, word docs, batch scripts) on the pc.

Answer: The department cannot provide an answer to this question at this time. We will provide one at a later date.

Question: Will we be given access to DOS prompt? Will we be able to run batch scripts that we create during the embargo period?

Answer: The department will consider whether there is a justification for doing so and will provide an answer at a later date.

Question: Can we get more technical detail on how the connectivity is going to be re-established? What is the expected variance in latency between all the workstation in getting out to the Internet?

Answer: All work stations will be provided Internet access via the same switch, so there will be no variance.

Question: How is bandwidth going to be partitioned between one news agency and another? Could one agency potentially "starve out" another agency if it sends a large amount of data? How much separation is there in the DOL infrastructure for each news agency? If there are N workstations, are there N virtual servers using N nics on N separate Internet connections?

Answer: There will not be any partitioning. Bandwidth will be equally distributed.

Question: Please provide specifications of the virtual machine environment including software packages used and their version information.

Answer: Each work station will offer a telephone, monitor, mouse and keyboard. The server and network gear will be located in the lock-up room within a locked cage but separate from the workspace area. Microsoft Word 2010 will be loaded on the computers. Secure copies/secure file transfer capability will be installed as part of a desktop image.

Question: Please provide specifications and samples of the release material that will be provided digitally in the mounted network drive.

Answer: Currently, the Bureau of Labor Statistics provides press releases and tables in HTML format via a compact disc. The Employment and Training Administration provides press releases and "Page 8" state details via a thumb drive. Under the new system, all of those materials will be presented through a mounted image. The department also can provide BLS historical data in the same way if having that data available would be helpful to news organizations.

Question: In case of system failures or slowness, what will be the process to analyze the situation, autopsy the issue, and review audit logs.

Answer: Before and after each lock-up, systems will be thoroughly tested. Should a problem be encountered during a lock-up, the department will address them promptly. There will be extra work stations available for use in case an active station is down.

Question: Have you considered providing additional access time prior to the embargo period when reporters can use the government equipment and Internet access to review charts, historical data and download story templates.

Answer: The department's security protocol does not allow for Internet access prior to the start of a lock-up.

Question: Would more than 1 reporter be allowed to work on a given workstation?

Answer: Each organization that is credentialed will be allotted a specific number of work stations. The organization will be able to send a number of personnel equal to the number of stations allotted.

Question: Please provide information regarding the Internet Connection that will be made available such as available bandwidth, connection type, Internet provider (ISP) used.

Answer: For security reasons, the department cannot provide that information.

Question: Have you considered allowing our Internet facing server to be co-located within your datacenter? If so please provide details regarding the co-location requirements.

Answer: Such an arrangement will not be permitted.

Question: Will the PC times be in sync with an atomic clock and if so which one and down to what resolution?

Answer: As is the case now, Internet access will be enabled at precisely 8:30 a.m. Eastern Time according to the U.S. Naval Observatory Master Clock following a 10-second countdown synched with an atomic clock.

Question: Have you considered providing a dedicated URL on your website to each news agency so it is possible to access and download release data reliably without being impacted by outside factors.

Answer: The department's security protocol does not allow for Internet access prior to the start of a lock-up.

Question: Can you please provide the range of IPs that we should expect a connection from so that we can white-list them on our servers for security reasons, as trustworthy sources of Department of Labor lockup data.

Answer: For security reasons, the department cannot provide this information.

Question: Will we be able to write, save and run power-shell scripts on the designated workstations?

Answer: No

Question: To provide broader access to the information that you embargo in the confines of the lockup, I propose installation inside of the lockup of an HD TV camera/recording system that would permit a DOL spokesperson to instantly create an official video news release of the information in the 30-minute period prior to the release time. This recording would be under control of the DOL and the video file would be released simultaneously through this system to the TV networks and the internet along with the other forms of permitted electronic communications.

To facilitate this, VideoLink has a compact, single-camera TV studio system called ReadyCam. It is used by scores of organizations — including the Census Bureau and the N.I.H. — to do live interviews from remote locations for networks such as CNBC and Bloomberg. The recording and transmission from a ReadyCam could be controlled completely by DOL, just as you're going to be controlling all outbound communications from the lock-up. Since the ReadyCam connects via a single IP connection, you could have full control over its ability to transmit outside of the building.

This is a unique, proven technology used by dozens of financial services firms, universities and corporations to do video communications without the need to add any staff.

I'd appreciate the opportunity to connect with someone in the OPA to discuss how this system would help expand access to the info DOL disseminates while still meeting all of the technical considerations that have gone into the design of the lockup program.

Answer: Thank you for the suggestion. However, under Office of Management and Budget Statistical Policy Directive 3, "Except for members of the staff of the agency issuing the principal economic indicator who have been designated by the agency head to provide technical explanations of the data, employees of the Executive Branch shall not comment publicly on the data until at least one hour after the official release time."  Furthermore, government regulations require that procurement procedures be followed in engaging contracted services. Consequently, it is not possible to implement your suggestion.

Question: Will we be able to program phone numbers into the telephone? And will the phones be capable of receiving incoming calls?

Answer: Phones will not be programmable. They can be used for both outgoing and incoming calls. However, seats at each lock-up may be assigned randomly. In order for lock-up participants to receive calls, they will have to advise outside parties of the numbers to reach them. Phones will be enabled at 8:30 a.m., when the embargo ends.