Large amount of IT updates may have doomed Forever GI bill from the start

In today's Federal Newscast, the Veterans Affairs Department's inspector general released its review of the agency's implementation of the new Forever GI bill.

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  • Too many IT updates and a lack of clear leadership doomed the Department of Veterans Affairs implementation of the new Forever GI bill from the beginning. The agency’s inspector general said VA either needed $70 million or 1,000 new employees to make the necessary IT updates to comply with the new GI bill. Thirteen members of Congress asked the agency to review VA’s implementation of the new law. The IG said the agency didn’t have one person in charge of overseeing the project until 10 months into implementation. VA announced back in November it would delay distributing education benefits under the new law until the end of 2019 to give the agency more time to finish IT updates. (Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General)
  • A new budget proposal from the Senate Budget Committee could make cuts to federal retirement benefits. Senate Republicans proposed a budget resolution for 2020, calling on agencies to make billions of dollars in cuts to discretionary and mandatory spending. It includes reconciliation instructions to five Senate committees. The proposal asked the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to return $15 billion in savings over five years, likely through cuts to federal employee retirement benefits. Congress last debated cuts to federal retirement through budget reconciliation back in 2017. (Federal News Network)
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency released personally identifiable information of 2.3 million disaster survivors to a contractor back in 2017. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general said FEMA violated the Privacy Act and DHS policy when it released the info of hurricane and wildfire survivors to an unnamed contractor. FEMA told the IG it deployed cyber personnel to the contractor’s facilities to assess the situation. FEMA’s joint assessment team found no evidence of intrusion to the contractor’s systems but it did find security vulnerabilities. (Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General)
  • The Labor Department’s lack of IT governance is putting its systems and data at risk. A new report from Labor’s inspector general found 36 cyber weaknesses, and most importantly, continued problems with how the CIO oversees and manages cyber vulnerabilities. The IG said since 2015 DOL’s chief information officer has lacked the authority to ensure systems are patched in a timely manner, leaving some with critical and high weaknesses. Auditors also said the CIO lacked tools to authorize what hardware and software could connect to the network. The CIO responded to the IG’s findings saying it was fixing many of the governance problems by consolidating all IT services under his office. (Department of Labor Office of Inspector General)
  • The Government Accountability Office raised concerns to the Office of Management and Budget, over a lack of consistent data standards mandated by the Digital Accountability and Transparency (DATA) Act. GAO recommended OMB formalize its process for changing data reporting standards. OMB told GAO, two of the law’s initial overseers, the DATA Act Interagency Advisory Committee and Data Standards Committee, were disbanded in July 2018. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Poor property management cost the government nearly $50 million in 2016. The General Services Administration’s inspector general said the Public Building Service for the National Capital Region could better manage its portfolio of building leases. The IG faulted PBS for missing performance targets for the agency to “break even” between its revenue and operating costs. In a review of 11 locations, the IG said PBS lost more than $20 million in rent, real estate taxes and security charges, because the space was vacant. (General Services Administration Office of Inspector General)
  • The Defense Department is testing ways to extend cyber protections to small and medium sized vendors. This is DoD’s latest attempt to grapple with one of its biggest cybersecurity problems: Its smallest vendors are highly vulnerable to cyber intrusions by foreign adversaries and don’t have the resources to adequately defend themselves. As part of its 2020 budget, the department proposed a plan to build a secure cloud to store its sensitive data for companies, instead of asking them to store it in their own systems. The initial work would cost about $15 million. (Federal News Network)
  • Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford planned to meet with Google to debate its responsibilities to the nation. Dunford said last week that Google’s investments in China are doing damage to the United States’ national security. Dunford will likely meet with Google executives this week.
  • A new app will allow Army reserve service members to connect with other soldiers, their families, volunteers and civilians to share resources. The Army Reserve rolled out its Double Eagle app last Friday. It will host discussion boards, a messaging system, command alerts and will help app users find nearby soldiers. (YouTube)
  • The House Judiciary Committee wants another crack at the Trump administration’s former head of the Office of Refugee Resettlement at the Department of Health and Human Services. Committee Chair Jerrold Nadler sent a letter to Scott Lloyd asking him to return to Capitol Hill to further clarify his earlier testimony last month. Nadler said some of Lloyd’s comments on tracking the pregnancies and menstrual cycles of young women in the care of his former office have now been contradicted by documents that have since been made public. (Rep. Jerrold Nadler)

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