Army went a decade without major IT upgrade on bases

The Federal Headlines is a daily compilation of the stories you hear discussed on Federal Drive with Tom Temin.

In today’s Top Federal Headlines, the Government Accountability Office releases a report looking into the total scope of federal public relations activities.

  • The Army went more than a decade without conducting any major IT upgrades on its bases. Officials said that’s changing — 21 Army bases underwent major IT upgrades over the past year, another 44 are planned. For the most part, the upgrades involve a dramatic expansion of network pipelines via multi-protocol label switching technology, and moving the bases behind consolidated network defense points called Joint Regional Security Stacks. Last week, the Army also released a long-awaited solicitation to replace its aging phone and video conferencing systems with a modern, contractor-operated unified communications system. The goal is to let soldiers communicate from just about any device, including smartphones, so they’re not tied to their desks while at their home station.
  • The government spends big-time on flacks and ad agencies. The Government Accountability Office found the federal government spends an average of  $1 billion a year on public relations and advertising. By far, the biggest spender is the Defense Department — its tab last year hit $590 million. The next highest spender was Health and Human Services at a mere $114 million. OPM, spent nearly $4 million on PR last year, four times its average. (Government Accountability Office)
  • A federal contractor has been arrested for stealing top-secret information. The Justice Department did not name the agency or company Harold Martin was working for, but that he did have a top secret national security clearance. Officials searched his Maryland home last August and said they found documents and devices containing highly classified information. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Defense Innovation Advisory Board has tried to change the Defense Department in its first public meeting. The board will explore a long list of ideas to keep DoD at the forefront of technology. Ideas include instituting a digital ROTC and establishing a chief innovation officer. Members of the board include Instagram COO Marne Levine and astrophysicist Neil Degrasse Tyson. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Obama administration is pushing for a more diverse national security workforce. It has directed affected agencies to start collecting and sharing data on their demographics. In a memo, the White House called on agencies to conduct stay and exit interviews and to reward efforts to promote inclusion. (Federal News Radio)
  • About 180 of the new people the Homeland Security Department hired during its cyber and technology job fair at the end of July are still on the job today. DHS Chief Human Capital Officer Angela Bailey said the hiring process took about six weeks. It’s a record time-to-hire for the agency. That process usually takes an average of 125 days. DHS filled 400 positions from the thousands of resumes it got at its job fair over the summer. (Federal News Radio)
  • DHS has lost an employee in the management field. Deputy Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas is stepping down. His last day will be Oct. 28. Mayorkas held the position for three years. He helped to establish the department’s expanded role in cybersecurity. He was the Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for four years. Russ Deyo, the Under Secretary for Management, will serve as acting deputy secretary. (Federal News Radio)
  • A new research center is coming to help DHS focus on the future. The Homeland Security Department’s Science and Technology directorate is bringing some extra brain power to its goal of better protecting the homeland. DHS S&T awarded nearly a $500 million contract to the RAND Corporation to create a new Federally Funded Research and Development Center known as the Homeland Security Operational Analysis Center. The new center will provide independent studies around seven focus areas, including acquisition, homeland security threat and opportunity and innovation and technology acceleration. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • Agencies are starting to see some success with rotational assignments among their senior executives. The Office of Personnel Management said it’s encouraging agencies to begin rotating senior leaders to other offices within the agency. FEMA, for example, rotated all 82 senior executives to short-term positions within the agency or to other departments altogether. Rotation of leadership is one of four key priorities that President Barack Obama described in the SES executive order back in December. (Federal News Radio)

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