Federal inspectors general bring attention to unfilled colleagues’ roles

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  • There’s a new page on Oversight.gov to track inspector general vacancies. Of the 74 IG offices that make up the Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency, 11 agencies currently don’t have a permanent inspector general in place. The Defense Department, CIA and Education Department have all been without a permanent IG for more than a year.
  • FEMA will finally have a permanent leader. The Senate confirmed Peter Gaynor with an 81-8 vote to be the agency’s administrator. Gaynor previously served as FEMA’s acting administrator in 2019 and permanent deputy administrator for much of 2018. He also has experience as a state emergency manager and spent over 25 years in the Marine Corps. FEMA has been without permanent leadership for nearly two years. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • Amid concerns of an Iranian cyber threat, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo faced questions about the readiness of the State Department’s cyber workforce. Virginia Sen. Mark Warner (D) has asked Pompeo for an update on the hiring of cybersecurity personnel in the aftermath of the agency’s 2017 hiring freeze, as well employee training and the training of employees to protect them from ransomware and spear-phishing attacks. Warner has also asked Pompeo if he receives direct reports from the agency’s chief information security officer. (Sen. Mark Warner)
  • Agencies have two weeks to patch a critical cybersecurity hole in their networks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS issued an emergency directive yesterday telling agencies to fix a major vulnerability in Microsoft Windows 10 machines. In CISA’s second-ever alert, agency CIOs have until Jan. 17 to submit to DHS their initial assessment of how many endpoints are effected. Then by Jan. 29, they must patch all systems. CISA will oversee agency progress by reviewing data on the continuous diagnostics and mitigation or CDM dashboard. The National Security Agency discovered the threat that affects Windows’ cryptographic functionality. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • The Pentagon’s most critical systems will start using the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification first, according to Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord. The model sets cybersecurity standards companies must meet in order to work with the Defense Department. Lord said DoD will start phasing the model into procurement in June. The first projects to see the model will be nuclear and missile defense programs. DoD said it does not plan to offer waivers for CMMC.
  • The Defense Department is trending toward using its Defense Acquisition University more to flesh out some of its procurement policies. Most recently, the department asked the university to create a framework for a quick contracting method that takes two to five years. Defense Undersecretary for Acquisition and Sustainment Ellen Lord said the university will put together vignettes for how the authority is being used effectively, creating modules to put in key courses and explain how to appropriately use the method. (Federal News Network)
  • Lawmakers are promising to fight more moves by the Trump administration to divert Defense funding for the president’s border wall. The White House is reportedly considering another round of emergency measures to redirect up to $7.2 billion in military construction and counternarcotics funding for the wall this year. That’s despite the just-concluded appropriations process, which allocated just $1.4 billion for physical barriers on the southern border. The administration used similar tactics to divert more than $6 billion in appropriated funds last year, and the Supreme Court has ruled it’s within the president’s power. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal agencies appear to have launched a criminal investigation into one of the military’s largest privatized housing companies. Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Air Force and EPA investigators executed a search warrant at the offices of Balfour Beatty Communities at Tinker Air Force Base in his home state of Oklahoma. Inhofe said the investigation is looking into possible violations of the Clean Air Act. (Sen. James Inhofe)
  • The Department of Homeland Security has a new employee and family readiness council. All DHS subcomponents sit on the council. The group focuses on ways to improve employees’ handling of stress, mental health, financial literacy, personal relationships, dependent care and other topics. The department said the council has and will continue to be pivotal in attempts to improve employee morale and engagement. DHS still ranks last among 17 large agencies on the Best Places to Work rankings. But some individual subcomponents have improved. (Federal News Network)