Federal unions’ OPM lawsuits heading back to court

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  • Federal employee unions are heading back to court to pursue their cases against the Office of Personnel Management over the agency’s cyber breaches. Unions first sued OPM back in 2015 and a district court struck down their original lawsuits. The National Treasury Employees Union says OPM failed to live up to its obligation of protecting federal employees’ personal information. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit will now hear oral arguments on two cases on OPM cyber breaches on Friday. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • The Labor Department is going after a federal contractor for shortchanging employees. Fedcap Rehabilitation Services agreed to pay $2.8 million to 443 employees at 17 locations. Labor’s Wage and Hour Division found the company, based in New York City, underpaid employees for health and welfare fringe benefits. The company is under contract with the General Services Administration for cleaning and maintaining federal buildings. Federal law requires contractors to use local prevailing wage and benefits rates. (Department of Labor)
  • New programs to protect the financial sector from cyber attacks are off to a good start, according to two top federal cyber officials. The departments of Defense and Homeland Security are working with financial institutions to share information, combine analytics and scale cybersecurity tools for broader areas. Deputy Assistant Defense Secretary for Cyber Policy Ed Wilson said the pilot program is so popular that the companies currently involved are signed up for the next iteration. (Federal News Radio)
  • The Department of Health and Human Services launched the Health Sector Cybersecurity Coordination Center or HC3 with a more focused mission and clearer name. HHS acting Chief Information Security Officer Janet Vogel told Federal News Network that the HC3 will work mainly with private sector health care partners to provide cyber threat intelligence and advice to protect their systems and data. HC3 replaced the Healthcare Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center, or H-Kick. HHS launched the HCCIC in 2017. The center also will work with the Veterans Affairs Department, the Defense Health Agency and DHS to ensure interagency cyber sharing is happening early and often. (Department of Health and Human Services)
  • The Trump administration said it’s given the Defense Department more freedom to launch its own offensive cyber attacks. In remarks yesterday, John Bolton, the National Security Advisor, said the president signed a classified executive order early in the administration that effectively reversed some of the government’s earlier restraints on offensive cyber operations. Bolton didn’t provide many details. He said the objective is not unrestrained cyber warfare, but it is to make other nations “think a lot harder” about launching cyber attacks against the U.S. (Federal News Network)
  • DoD Comptroller David Norquist said its ongoing audit has it using data in all new ways. For one, it’s forcing the department to embrace data analytics on a more granular level. With the audit verifying the data’s accuracy, it gives DoD more of it to make better decisions. There’s opportunity for industry as well since the Pentagon needs better tools to take advantage of the data. (Federal News Network)
  • Taxpayer data collected by the IRS remains vulnerable. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said the IRS is taking steps to improve security program deficiencies, and comply with the 2014 requirements of the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, or FISMA. TIGTA did give IRS kudos for its handling of a Tax Day systems glitch but said the incident shows the agency needs to reduce risk and response times in the future. (Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration)
  • Artificial intelligence can help the Department of Health and Human Services make sure it’s paying the lowest price possible for bulk purchases. The department’s Buy Smarter team is using IBM’s Watson AI assistant to find discrepencies on common agency purchases items like copy paper and medical examination gloves. Program leaders think it could save the agency $2 billion a year. Lori Ruderman, the Buy Smarter co-lead, said leveraging AI could save HHS’ procurement shop about $2 billion dollars annually. (Federal News Network)
  • The Federal Executive Institute turned 50 years old last month. OPM celebrated FEI’s anniversary on its campus in Charlottesville, Virginia. The FEI provides leadership training for senior executives and leaders. The goal of the institute is to help federal executives better understand their role in government, and improve agencies’ performance. President Lyndon Johnson established the institute with an executive order back in 1968. (Office of Personnel Management)