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The Treasury Department soon will once again face tough decisions about how to keep the government running as the debt ceiling limit approaches. The Congressional Budget Office said Treasury has options like continuing its suspension of investments in the Thrift Savings Plan G-Fund. Treasury also could redeem about $8 billion in securities under the Civil Service Retirement and Disability Fund and the Postal Service Retiree Health Benefits Fund. CBO said Treasury would run out of cash sometime in late March or early April unless the ceiling is raised. (Congressional Budget Office)
After President Trump touted the success of the Veterans Affairs Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act, VA followed up with statistics. The agency fired over 1,700 employees since Trump signed the law. The grand total for 2017 was over 2,500. V-A fired 2,000 people in 2016.
President Trump promised action on opioid addiction, and now the Justice Department is following up. Attorney General Jeff sessions has promised a 45-day surge by the Drug Enforcement Administration. It’ll focus on pharmacies and doctors that appear to dispense large or disproportionate amounts of drugs. The surge will involve special agents and intelligence research specialists. They’ll use information produced by Justices’s data analytics program, established last summer. Sessions promised the surge will produce more arrests and convictions. (Department of Justice)
Lt. Gen. Paul Nakasone is expected to be nominated as the next leader of the National Security Agency and U.S. Cyber Command. Multiple news reports have said he will replace Admiral Mike Rogers. Nakasone currently serves as the leader of Army Cyber Command. He has been instrumental in setting up the Army’s cyber mission teams, which conduct offensive and defensive cyber missions. (POLITICO)
Military bases are vulnerable to climate change, according to a new study from the Defense Department. The study identifies how some bases will be affected by drought, flooding and extreme temperature caused by changes in climate. More than 780 military sites reported drought conditions, while wildfires and storm surges affected over 200 sites. (Center for Climate and Security)
A Congressionally-appointed panel released its first set of recommendations to fix what’s wrong with Defense acquisition. The 600-page report is nothing if not comprehensive. It includes dozens of recommendations dealing with topics ranging from business IT systems and contract audits to streamlining DoD’s bureaucracy, along with proposed legislation Congress should pass to fix the issues its expert members identified. Among the suggestions, the panel said DoD could safely do away with more than a dozen of its acquisition-related organizations and stop spending time on delivering little-read reports to Congress. The “Section 809” panel has planned to write two more volumes of proposed reforms before it finishes its work in 2019. (Federal News Radio)
A contractor was indicted for subcontracting work to other vendors and then not paying them over the course of nine years. The Justice Department said Chester Neal has been accused of defrauding 35 subcontractors out of $2.6 million, involving at least 105 contracts with the Army, Air Force and Interior Department. (Department of Justice)
Sen. Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.) wants to make the Homeland Security Department’s Joint Requirements Council permanent. DHS revived the Joint Requirements Council in 2014. The group brings together different DHS components to buy common goods and services together. McCaskill’s bill would ensure the council remains a priority in the department. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is working with federal agencies to help them comply with an updated version of its digital identity implementation guidelines. By the end of June, all federal agencies’ legacy IT systems and applications must comply with NIST’s Special Publication (SP) 800-63-3. As the deadline draws near, a survey by Unisys found that 64 percent of federal IT employees believe identity management is a very important part of cybersecurity at their agencies, but only 20 percent said their agencies are using biometrics to verify identities. (Federal News Radio)
The Postal Service turned to robots for help during the busy holiday season. It deployed a chatbot on USPS.com this past December to help customers track packages and give them options for next steps once a package’s location is determined. USPS’s chatbot uses artificial intelligence to simulate conversations to field questions and complaints. When a customer keyed in a tracking number, the chatbot provided the location information and follow-up suggestions, including reporting a missing or damaged package. USPS said the chatbot offered several advantages, including letting customers solve problems outside of normal working hours and avoiding long hold times or a voicemail system. (U.S. Postal Service Office of Inspector General)