Commerce IG auditing Census Bureau’s cybersecurity ahead of 2020 count

In today's Federal Newscast, the Commerce Department’s inspector general is running an audit of the bureau’s cybersecurity measures.

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  • A few months out from the start of the Census Bureau’s 2020 count, the Commerce Department’s inspector general is running an audit of the bureau’s cybersecurity measures. The IG office will work alongside the U.S. Digital Service to review the bureau’s prep work for the first decennial count where the public can respond online, or over the phone. The bureau has partnered with the Department of Homeland Security, and the intelligence community, to mitigate cyber threats and misinformation. (Department of Commerce Office of Inspector General)
  • The Defense Department now has a new intellectual property policy. Going forward DoD and its components will try to individually negotiate IP used in weapons systems to find a balance between government and industry interests. DoD will also set up an IP Cadre, made up of experts who will help program managers and DoD components on data rights issues. DoD wants to find ways to work with industry on IP so it can take advantage of commercial technologies. (Federal News Network)
  • A new software acquisition policy is also set to come out of the Pentagon. Ellen Lord, undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, said the strategy will shorten acquisition timelines so they are on a better schedule with software lifecycles. It will also gather continuous input from end users and establish a framework to manage risk. The strategy is based off recommendations from a year-long study conducted by the Defense Innovation Board. (Federal News Network)
  • The Commerce Department’s National Technical Information Service and Booz Allen Hamilton are partnering to help DoD do more with artificial intelligence. NTIS and Booz Allen are teaming up to provide DoD’s Joint AI Center’s cybersecurity national mission initiative with an assortment of services, including establishing a Dev/Ops pipeline to rapidly and securely deliver AI capabilities into DoD mission environments. Booz Allen and NTIS entered into a joint venture agreement to make it easier for agencies to acquire specific services. (BusinessWire)
  • A bipartisan duo of lawmakers on the House Armed Services Committee have introduced a bill that would require the Defense Department to identify vulnerabilities that come from relying on Chinese pharmaceuticals. Reps. John Garamendi (D-Calif.) and Vicky Hartzler (R-Mo.) said the Chinese government is the principal developer of generic prescriptions. They are concerned about the possibility of manipulating service member’s medical regimens. (Rep. John Garamendi)
  • The Pentagon’s inspector general sided with a Defense contractor employee who said her employer retaliated against her for being a whistleblower. The case is noteworthy in that it’s only the fifth time in as many years that the IG has substantiated a whistlebower claim by a contractor. Investigators found Valiant Integrated Services fired a Baghdad-based employee after she participated in a government investigation into assault allegations by a coworker. Valiant said her disclosures weren’t protected by whistleblowing laws because they didn’t relate specifically to waste, fraud, abuse or serious criminal issues. The IG disagreed and is recommending the Army take action against the company. (Department of Defense)
  • The Intelligence and National Security Alliance has some new advice and resources available for agencies who are still trying to understand the impact of insider threats. INSA said agencies rely too much on technology to identify insider threats, when properly trained employees are often in the best position to make leaders aware of suspicious behavior. INSA also suggested agencies all adopt a common lexicon for insider threats. A lack of common definitions creates confusion for security experts who develop strategies to prevent insider threats. INSA said a single set of definitions would help security experts better share best practices. (Intelligence and National Security Alliance)
  • A senior senator is pressing the Social Security Administration to do more to prevent scams. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) told newly confirmed SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul that she expects the agency to take concrete actions to protect seniors from scammers. The chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Aging wrote to Saul asking for more information on what SSA is doing because she called the agency’s response so far “lagging.” Collins wants answers to seven questions by Nov. 1. Among the questions are what is SSA doing to protect its phone numbers from being spoofed, how the agency is ensuring the public is aware of the scams and whether it has enough staff to handle the increased volume of calls because of the bad actors. (Senate Committee on Aging)
  • Citizenship and Immigration Services said it’s seen a 64% drop in its backlog of Freedom of Information Act requests in 2019. USCIS launched a new end-to-end online FOIA processing and tracking system back in July. The agency said productivity is up with the new system, cutting processing time by 22 minutes. Average processing time for an individual FOIA case is down 22 minutes from the previous year. The Department of Homeland Security said its overall FOIA backlog is down 40% since the previous year. (Federal News Network)
  • The General Services Administration has put a plan forward to buy the Transportation Department’s headquarters building, which it’s been leasing for years. GSA officials expect to finalize the sale by next March, and close out its lease on the building 19 months in advance. The agency is buying it for $760 million, and will save nearly $100 million by ending the lease early. Congress authorized the money to buy the Transportation Department headquarters in the fiscal 2019 spending bill. (General Services Administration)

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