Newly revealed emails show how VA officials felt about ‘Mar-a-Lago crowd’s’ involvement in agency affairs

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  • New emails from employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs show just how confused career IT officials were about the influence of the so-called Mar-A-Lago crowd on VA’s electronic health record modernization efforts. Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington obtained hundreds of emails, showing VA IT officials questioned the Mar-A-Lago crowd’s involvement and understanding of the department’s EHR and its interoperability goals. (Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics)
  • A project started in 2010 to protect personal information is paying dividends for the IRS. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration gave solid marks to the first phase of the Safeguarding Personally Identifiable Information Data Extracts Project. Auditors said the data-in-motion tools identified and blocked common personally identifiable information types from exfiltration by email and that potential incidents were identified, reviewed and resolved. At the same time, delays in implementing additional capabilities are stopping the IRS from enjoying the full benefits of the Data Loss Prevention solution. (Department of the Treasury)
  • Veterans homelessness is down nearly 50% since the departments of Veterans Affairs, and Housing and Urban Development began a joint partnership back in 2010. HUD said 77 communities and three states have declared an effective end to veterans homelessness over the past nine years. A small group of members on the House Veterans Affairs Committee late last week heard from VA, HUD and local officials in San Diego, California, about the veterans homeless challenge. Lawmakers are concerned VA isn’t providing enough proactive support to help veterans transition from the military, to stable and affordable housing once they leave active-duty. (House Veterans Affairs Committee)
  • The Drug Enforcement Administration accelerated a program on marijuana research. Acting Administrator Uttam Dhillon claims progress in registering pot growers for research sanctioned by DEA. In a Federal Register notice, DEA gave specific instructions to growers who want to send in their output to the program, which dates back to 2016. By January, 542 people had registered to conduct research on marijuana and its derivatives and extracts. DEA said in the same period it doubled the quota of pot production intended for research. (Drug Enforcement Administration)
  • The Defense Health Agency may look into contracting out some medical services if it needs to cut staff in the near future. DHA Director Vice Admiral Raquel Bono said the Defense Department may consider private services to care for service members and their families in remote areas. Bono’s announcement comes as DoD is considering reducing its medical force by 18,000.
  • Another new chapter has opened in the DoD cloud contract saga known as JEDI. Oracle Corporation filed a motion with the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit to continue its case against the Defense Department and its mega-cloud contract known as JEDI. Dorian Daley, the general counsel for Oracle, said in a statement that despite the Court of Federal Claims ruling that the company didn’t have standing to pursue the protest, the matter is one of procurement integrity and regulations. Daley said the July decision acknowledged problems with JEDI and Oracle believes the determination of no standing is wrong as a matter of law. The company also said that because it believes the procurement was unlawful for a host of reasons, it will pursue the case. (Federal News Network)
  • The Pentagon said it’s standing up a new group of experts to overhaul how it handles intellectual property in its contracts. The move comes two years after Congress ordered DoD to hire a cadre of experts to create more consistency in its approaches to data rights. Ellen Lord, the Pentagon’s top acquisition official, said the new office will be up and running by October. She said it will develop new policies that make IP rights a first consideration in contract planning. The new strategies will be partly based on work already done by the Army, which released its own IP policy late last year. (Federal News Network)
  • President Donald Trump plans to nominate John Sander as the Navy’s general counsel. Sander is currently the Army’s deputy general counsel. Before that, he worked as a lawyer in the Justice Department and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Navy’s top legal position has been vacant since Trump took office. The president’s first nominee for the job, Charles Stimson, did not win Senate approval. (White House)
  • The merger of the 24th and 25th Air Forces is expected to happen this fall. Air Combat Command leader Gen. Mike Holmes said the cyber- and intelligence-focused organizations will be consolidated to better communications and information sharing. The Air Force announced the pairing of the two entities in April. The commander of the new, combined organization will serve as the Air Force’s service component in U.S. Cyber Command.

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