Interior IG refers investigation into Sec. Zinke to Justice Dept.

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  • The Department of the Interior’s inspector general referred an investigation into Secretary Ryan Zinke to the Department of Justice. The Wall Street Journal reports the action was taken more than two weeks ago. Zinke is currently the subject of at least three investigations by the department’s IG. Those include his decision to block two Native American tribes from operating a casino in Connecticut, his involvement in a development deal with the chairman of Halliburton in Montana, and a plan to sell land that is part of a Utah national monument. It’s not clear which investigation was referred to DOJ. (Wall Street Journal)
  • A U.S. Geological Survey employee was caught looking at pornography on government computers, thus exposing his agency to some pretty serious cybersecurity problems. The unnamed employee visited more than 9,000 web pages containing malware. The Interior Department inspector general found he was visiting porn sites in Russia with computer viruses and downloaded photos to his personal cell phone and to a USB drive. Auditors also say two cybersecurity vulnerabilities around website access and open USB ports put the agency’s networks at further risk. (Department of the Interior Office of Inspector General)
  • A Federal Emergency Management Agency logistics manager falsified documents in the aftermath of Hurricane Irene to get fake government travel reimbursements. The Office of Special Counsel got tips from a whistleblower, who was a former FEMA employee. OSC found Paul Swindells conspired with his supervisors to create a false driving route to make him seem eligible for travel reimbursement during FEMA’s disaster response. FEMA plans to fire Swindells and two of his supervisors. (Office of Special Counsel)
  • The Trump administration may soon take a closer look at recruiting entry-level talent and retraining the existing IT workforce. Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent says her office is focused on identifying places where the cybersecurity talent gap is most severe. She expects to have an update on those programs in the next couple of months. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies and industry alike are starting to feel the pressure to produce after a busy year of cyber. After awarding $3.2 billion in cyber contracts over the last year, the Homeland Security Department is experiencing a back up on the CDM highway. And at the same time, the vendors who are supporting these contracts are struggling to find enough qualified workers. These challenges are causing a backlog of sorts for DHS’ continuous diagnostics and mitigation program. The CDM program office wants to hire about 30 new employees to address the immediate demand for services and tools. Vendors, meanwhile, are trying to find enough cyber experts to begin implementing new capabilities across agency customers.
  • Participation on the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey should be higher. Office of Personnel Management Acting Director Margaret Weichert said only about 40 percent of the federal workforce took the 2018 survey. She said OPM will convene focus groups and look for ways to encourage more employee feedback. Weichert said participation is especially important during times of major change and encouraged agency leaders and managers to look for trends in their survey results. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of the Director of National Intelligence said the backlog of pending investigations stands at 600,000. Principal Deputy DNI Sue Gordon said the backlog should be at 300,000 investigations by spring. She said the ODNI is writing common investigative standards for all of government, which should be done by the end of 2019. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department’s budget for military intelligence programs in fiscal 2018 was $22.1 billion. The number includes funds from the base budget and from emergency war spending. Details on funding stayed mostly classified due to the sensitivity of the operations. The budget increased about $4 billion from 2017. (Department of Defense)
  • Naval officers taking over major commands will need to start hitting the books. The Navy announced leaders of major commands must have post graduate degrees. The branch said education programs help mature critical and strategic thinking skills. Graduate programs will be required for officers in year group 2015 and forward. (Navy)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs said it will fast-track benefit appeals from veterans who were affected by hurricanes in the southeastern U.S. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the Board of Veterans Appeals will prioritize cases that came from counties deemed by FEMA to fall in the disaster areas impacted by hurricanes Florence and Michael. Those include several in Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina and Georgia. The cases will automatically move toward the top of the board’s docket for the next six months. The move comes amid ongoing pressure by Congress and veterans groups to speed up the appeals process. Some cases have faced a years-long wait because of an ongoing backlog. (Department of Veterans Affairs)