NSA officials worry agency is facing brain drain

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  • The loss of talented workers  leaving for higher-paying, more flexible jobs in the private sector has reportedly left the National Security Agency (NSA)  facing a brain drain. The Washington Post reported current and former US officials found the loss of  hundreds of hackers, engineers and data scientists has had a significant impact on national security. Officials said though the departure rates are low and the vacancies are being filled, most new personnel lack the experience of those who have left. (Washington Post)

 

  • A new Gallup poll suggested the Trump administration has contributed to a boost in the opinion Americans hold of federal agencies. The poll showed improvements in the public’s opinion of almost every agency, compared to the last survey in 2013. Only the FBI’s approval rating held steady at 58 percent. The biggest improvement: The Secret Service jumped from 43 percent to 63 percent. The lowest rating went to the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA), with only 38 percent of Americans saying it does an “excellent” or “good” job. But even VA’s score jumped nine points from three years ago. (Gallup)

 

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  • A computer outage on New Year’s Day left many holiday travelers rather upset with airport workers with Customs and Border Protection. Long lines across the country were the result of a two hour technology disruption to CBP’s processing systems. The agency said there was no indication it was caused by malicious acts. (ABC News)

 

  • CBP has started recruiting students at the University of North Dakota with the hopes of bringing on more pilots after they graduate. CBP’s Air and Marine Operations selected the school to start its Pathways Program. The program offers recruits positions as aviation enforcement trainees until they graduate and gain enough flight hours to become pilots. (Associated Press)

 

  • As a way to grow its ranks, the Air Force said it’s asking colonels who’d normally be forced to retire in 2018 to stick around for another three years. The move bypasses the normal requirement that colonels retire after 30 years of active duty service unless they’re promoted to brigadier general. Officials said the steps are needed because a growing Air Force needs more leaders. The service has made similar moves in its more junior ranks, which it said are undermanned. Officials announced late last year that 100% of the Air Force’s captains would be eligible for promotion to major. (Air Force)

 

  • After reviewing its hiring process with managers and applicants, the Food and Drug Administration said it is piloting a new one this spring. Both groups were frustrated with how long it takes to complete the hiring process, as well as the lack of communication. It takes FDA between 150 and 550 days to hire a new recruit. FDA said it’s piloting a new process at two user-fee based centers at the agency before widening use in other offices. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • A  deadline is fast approaching for agencies who must meet goals of hardening their email systems against cyber attacks. Fewer than half of all agencies have reportedly met the goal in advance of the Jan. 15 deadline for implementing the Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) standard. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued its binding operational directive in October to implement DMARC and other website standards to protect against domain name spoofing and to secure email communication. New research from Agari, a cyber company, found as of December 18 that 47% of all federal domains have adopted DMARC. That showed a 13% increase in compliance since November. (Agari)

 

  • The Thrift Saving Plan ended 2017 on a strong note, with stock-market funds benefiting from  higher market prices around the world. The international stocks I fund, one of the lowest-performing funds in 2016, ended up as the top-performing TSP fund of 2017, with an annual return over 25 percent. The C fund (stock-index) posted the second-highest rate at more than 21 percent, almost double what it posted last year. The low-risk, low-reward G fund (short-term U.S. Treasury securities) had the lowest annual return at 2.33 percent. (Federal News Radio)

 

  • Health and Human Services said it is trying to make it easier for health care providers to send in their performance data. Doctors and others expecting reimbursement under the department’s Quality Payment Program have a newly revamped website through which they can submit data. The new portal is QPP.CMS.gov. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services launched the site to replace multiple sites required last year. CMS said clinicians will be able to see their quality scores accumulate as they enter information. (Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services)

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