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The Pentagon is on the hunt for an ethicist who can guide defense agencies on the application of artificial intelligence. Air Force Lt. Gen. Jack Shanahan, head of the Joint Artificial Intelligence Center, said that though there is still a long way to go before actually creating AI programs for use, the center is working right now on the ethical use of AI. Shanahan added the person will also be responsible for creating technical standards. (Defense Department)
Federal employee unions and organizations are praising the president’s surprise reversal on pay in 2020. The American Federation of Government Employees, National Treasury Employees Union and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association all commended President Donald Trump for proposing a 2.6% pay raise for civilian employees next year. But they’re still pushing Congress to pursue a 3.1% raise in the 2020 appropriations bills. The House already cleared a 3.1% raise, which includes a 0.5% locality pay adjustment. The president’s proposal does not. (Federal News Network)
As fiscal 2019 comes to an end in less than a month, the Office of Management and Budget updated the requirements for federal financial audits. OMB detailed 25 changes that agency inspectors general and other auditors will have to pay close attention to, like an expanded definition of intragovernmental transactions. One change is giving auditors an expanded definition of intragovernmental transactions to include new ones identified by the Treasury Department in its Financial Manual. (White House)
A lawsuit brought forth by the National Association of Letter Carriers looks to stop a Postal Service workforce pilot. Post offices in Virginia had begun splitting the mail-sorting and mail-delivery tasks of letter carriers’ jobs into two separate types of positions. NALC argues the pilot puts an added burden on letter carriers who spend their entire workday walking routes to deliver mail. The union’s lawsuit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia for an injunction against the pilot.
Agencies have stood up a whole host of robotic process automation pilots in recent years, but getting the workforce on board with RPA has proven more difficult. Margaret Weichert, OMB’s deputy director for management, said unions and members of Congress have pushed back on RPA pilots over concerns that workers may lose their jobs. Weichert said RPA tools will help federal employees feel more engaged at their jobs, by reducing time spent on rote tasks. (Federal News Network)
There is a new leader at the top of the Defense Health Agency. Lt. Gen. Ronald Place became the DHA director during a ceremony at the agency’s headquarters Tuesday. He replaced Vice Adm. Raquel Bono who is retiring. Prior to now, Place led the DHA program management office in charge of implementing recent Congressional reforms to military health care, including transitioning the military’s hospitals and clinics to DHA management. He is only the third director since DHA’s founding in 2013. (Defense Health Agency)
Several agencies are launching a National Insider Threat Awareness Month in September. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence, Defense Department, FBI and State Department said the goal is to educate federal employees and the private sector about the risks insider threats pose, and how employees can recognize and detect them early. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center said most insider threats display concerning behaviors early on, before engaging in violence, theft, betrayal or some kind of cyber incident. (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
Long-standing IT challenges continue to plague FEMA. For the 13th year in a row, the agency is falling well short of meeting some of the basic federal IT management practices. The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found the agency has not established an IT strategic plan, architecture, or governance framework. These shortcomings are impacting how FEMA responds to and provides assistance to citizens after natural disasters. Auditors said the poor IT management practices have led to field personnel having to do time-consuming, manual processes to accomplish mission tasks. The IG attributes these deficiencies to the FEMA chief information officer’s limited authority to manage IT agencywide, as well as to a decentralized budget that hinders funding for the centralized IT environment. (Department of Homeland Security Office of Inspector General)
U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services’ plan to create fake social media accounts to monitor for signs of immigration fraud has hit a slight snag. Facebook said even though USCIS is a government agency, it will still shut down any fake profiles it finds. The company said even undercover law enforcement officers have to follow its terms of service. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Health and Human Services is mobilizing to help Georgia and South Carolina as the big hurricane heads there. Dorian is weakening but Secretary Alex Azar declared a health emergency in the two states. HHS plans to waive requirements to allow easier access to Medicare, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program. It launches a web site listing blanket waivers available to specific hospitals and providers. It will also hold a special enrollment period for people to obtain Federal Health Insurance Exchange coverage. The department activated a system for dialysis during emergencies. (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services)
Add the U.S. Agency for International Development to the list of agencies helping with federal disaster response to Hurricane Dorian. USAID said it’s deployed a Disaster Assistance Response Team to the Bahamas after the hurricane brought record flooding and damage to the area over the weekend. DART is working with the Bahamas Red Cross to deliver relief supplies and hygiene kits. USAID said the team will assess the damage in the coming days to determine what areas need the most help. (U.S. Agency for International Development)