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The Department of Veterans Affairs launched a new training program to help employees impacted by the agency’s ongoing electronic health record modernization. The VA chose 76 employees to begin training under the VA Innovative Technology Advancement Lab, or VITAL program. These employees will identify potential challenges in using the new EHR. VA said the goal is to help the department identify challenges and solutions, at one facility, that it can share with others across the country. VA said the training program will help employees develop technical and change management skills needed to implement the new EHR. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
Agencies have new instructions from the Office of Personnel Management on firing or disciplining federal employees more quickly. OPM released new regulations today that implement portions of the president’s May 2018 executive order on employee firing. The OPM regulations implement portions of the president’s EOs that haven’t been enjoined in the courts. OPM is instructing agencies to give employees a limited opportunity to improve their performance before suggesting a removal or reduction in grade. The regulations also set specific penalties for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers. (Federal News Network)
With the National Archives and Records Administration setting a deadline for agencies to move from paper to digital records before the end of 2022, it’s now asking for feedback on its risk management guidance for those digital records. That includes File Format Preservation Action Plans, to help agencies migrate their digital inventories from one industry-standard file type to another. The guidance also features a risk matrix that assesses everything from encryption needs, to the age of certain file formats. NARA will accept comments until Nov. 1. (GitHub)
The Department of Homeland Security threw down the cyber gauntlet challenge to agencies. DHS is pitting federal civilian and military cyber experts against each other in a three-round cyber competition over the next few months. The agency opened registration yesterday for the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition. DHS is holding two competitions, one for individual federal government employees and another for agency teams. The competition features two rounds of “Jeopardy!”-like questions and then a third and final round for the top individuals and teams that features an escape room and a capture the flag contest. DHS developed the President’s Cup Cybersecurity Competition in response to the cyber workforce executive order issued in May. (Federal News Network)
Michael Wooten, the new administrator in the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, has begun to lay out his priorities. Wooten, who the Senate confirmed in early August, said he wants to look at how AI, machine learning, robotics process automation and natural language processing can improve the federal acquisition process and spark innovation. Wooten said by using these emerging technologies, agencies can stay ahead of the capabilities curve by acquiring products and services faster. He also said OFPP needs to do a better job of connecting with acquisition workers and helping to solve systemic problems.
Corporate consolidation in the jet fighter market is worrying the Air Force so it wants to do something about it. The service wants to start building new fighters as often as every five years. The point is to limit the time to market, create more competition and get technology out in the field faster. Air Force acquisition chief Will Roper said there are currently only two or three companies able to make fighters for the service. (Federal News Network)
The Navy is developing a cloud environment, called Cloud-to-Edge, for sailors and Marines to secure combat system development, automate software testing analysis and scale simulations. The goal is to allow the Navy to make software changes against different mission scenarios. The environment is named Cloud-to-Edge and is being developed by the Office of Naval Research and the Navy’s Small Business and Innovation Research program. (Office of Naval Research)
The Army is set to release a new data strategy any day now. The document will enforce new data standards across the Army – something the last version, published three years ago, didn’t do. Lt. Gen. Bruce Crawford, the Army’s chief information officer, told Federal News Network the standards will apply to both new data systems and existing ones. The service sees the standardization effort as a huge challenge, but also vital for other technology modernization pushes like artificial intelligence and moving Army systems to the cloud. (Federal News Network)
Thrift Savings Plan participants have been eager to make changes under the new withdrawal options. The new options went live over the weekend. Nearly 9,400 participants initiated or completed a withdrawal request during the first 24 hours. Five thousand of those participants finished withdrawal requests in their attempt. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board said those participants should see those distributions later this week. The rest are participants who need a signature notarized, or haven’t completed the withdrawal request for some reason. (Federal News Network)
The U.S. Postal Service prepares to withdraw next month from the Universal Postal Union, but it’s not quite a done deal. The Trump administration has been pushing for withdrawal on the grounds that rates set by the UPU are excessively low for small packages coming to the U.S. The Postal Service wants to declare its own rates. UPU plans an extraordinary congress next week to try for a resolution that would keep the United States in. Postal officials said they’re working with State and Defense to keep deliveries flowing regardless.
A House investigation is being launched into Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao. Leaders in the House Oversight and Reform Committee sent a letter to the agency asking for information about Chao’s use of her office to benefit her family’s business in China. This comes after several reports of her using her position to boost her father’s shipping company. (House Oversight and Reform Commitee)
The IRS has plans to award a billion-dollar contract for enterprise cloud services within the next few years. It’s part of a cloud acquisition roadmap the Treasury Department’s Office of the Chief Information Officer laid out in a special notice. IRS and Treasury officials expect to make an award on the contract in fiscal 2022, and say the award will reduce costs by cutting the number of cloud acquisitions across the department. The department has planned to release a request for information early in FY 2020. (FedBizOpps)