Bill to create cyber incident response teams at DHS passes House

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  • A bill to give the Department of Homeland Security more firepower in protecting critical infrastructure from cyber attacks passed the house. Rep. Michael McCaul’s (R-Texas) bill, the DHS Cyber Incident Response Teams Act, would create groups of cyber-first responders in the event of an attack on the government or the private sector. The teams will be run by DHS’ Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and will consist of experts from both the public and private sectors. McCaul said the teams are critical to protecting digital networks and communication systems. (Rep. Michael McCaul)
  • Federal managers are another step closer to a pay raise next year. The House Appropriations Committee advanced a 3.1% pay raise for 2020, as part of the financial services and general government appropriations bill. The measure also includes more funding for the Office of Personnel Management, while rejecting the administration’s proposed merger with the General Services Administration. The appropriations bill now heads to the full House for a vote. (Federal News Network)
  • The committee also approved a provision to restore the IRS’ streamlined critical pay authority until September 2023. The authority lapsed in 2013; it allows the agency to hire short-term cyber and IT talent more quickly at a rate beyond the General Schedule pay scale for career employees. If passed, the IRS could make up to 40 new hires at any one time under critical pay authority and bring those new temporary employees onboard within six-to-eight weeks. (Federal News Network)
  • The White House is threatening to veto the first fiscal 2020 omnibus spending bill put together by the House. The Office of Management and Budget said the House version raises the discretionary spending caps by more than $350 billion. It also is almost 7% more than President Donald Trump requested for the departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, Defense, State and other related agencies.
  • As the House begins debate on the future of the National Flood Insurance Program, members will have more data about the program itself. FEMA published machine-readable databases for 2 million flood insurance claims over the last 40 years, and for 47 million policy records dating back 10 years. Users can analyze trends such as where claims occurred and how much the program paid out. A deputy administrator said FEMA will refresh the data every 45 to 60 days. Specific policy holders will remain anonymous. (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
  • The Navy expects to have a central housing data warehouse up and running by September. The idea is to provide consistent oversight of private housing programs. The system will automatically pull and complete maintenance records from companies to give the Navy real-time detailed reports of maintenance requests and the progress on them. The Navy is implementing the system after reports of mice, mold and lead paint in privatized military housing. (Navy)
  • Of the 10 most critical technology systems in need of modernization, six are at least 30 years old. The departments of Health and Human Services, Transportation and Education are sitting on legacy systems that haven’t been updated in at least three decades and have no plans to do so anytime soon. The Government Accountability Office said these three agencies were in the worst shape of the 10 departments and systems auditors reviewed. This latest review came after GAO in 2016 reported on the oldest IT systems in government. Auditors found the systems at HHS, DOT and Education rely on outdated languages like COBOL or MUMPS and are running unsupported software causing additional security risks. (Government Accountability Office)
  • A new location has been chosen for the temporary housing of migrant children. Health and Human Services’ Office of Refugee Resettlement said Fort Sill near Lawton, Oklahoma, will be the site for a new facility. It’s also considering an emergency shelter at New Mexico’s Santa Teresa port of entry. The agency said it’s dealing with a dramatic spike in the number of children crossing the border without parents. (Associated Press)
  • Acting Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan issued two separate memos telling DoD personnel to keep politics out of their official duties. Shanahan said the memos — one to the civilian workforce and one to military leaders — were intended as a reminder that the military should not be politicized. He said he decided to issue them after someone in the White House Military Office asked the Navy to keep the USS John McCain out of the president’s view during his recent trip to Japan. Shanahan wrote that all DoD personnel “must be the epitome” of ethics, and that nothing they do on-duty or in a federal building should imply DoD support for any particular political cause. (Federal News Network)
  • Employees at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture overwhelmingly voted to form a union with the American Federation of Government Employees. The vote came weeks after employees at USDA’s Economic Research Service formed their own bargaining unit. Employees at both agencies face possible relocation outside of Washington, D.C. (Federal News Network)
  • A Drug Enforcement Administration official used his influence to advance his son’s contractor career, and to hire two former colleagues as DEA contractors. The Justice Department inspector general found that the official authorized more then $340,000 for his son’s company. The IG also found the people involved weren’t qualified for the jobs. This all occurred while the official’s Senior Executive Service supervisor knew what was going on and did nothing to stop it. The IG could not substantiate whether the offending official, who has since retired, came to work drunk. (Department of Justice Office of Inspector General)

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