Pentagon to start vetting foreign soldiers trained on bases

In today's Federal Newscast, the Defense Department is getting ready to announce new vetting procedures for foreign military members studying and training at U....

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  • The Defense Department is getting ready to announce new vetting procedures for foreign military members studying and training at US facilities. The Pentagon said Defense Secretary Mark Esper will announce the changes during a visit to Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida next week. Until now, vetting has been handled by students’ home countries, the Department of Homeland Security and the State Department. But following the deadly shooting in Pensacola, DoD wants to use its own screening procedures. (Department of Defense)
  • The most recent paychecks for some federal employees may be incorrect due to a processing error at the National Finance Center. NFC said it’s trying to determine why federal taxes were incorrectly withheld for some of its customers. The error occurred on the last paycheck dated Jan. 13. The NFC said it’s still compiling data on the impacted employees. It hopes to resolve the issue by the next pay period near the end of the month. (Federal News Network)
  • The election year claimed its first casualty of a Hatch Act violation. An Energy Department employee has been barred from federal employment for three years, after she conducted a private tour of a radioactive waste treatment plant on behalf of a Congressional candidate after agency management had vetoed the tour. The Office of Special Counsel called the action a flagrant violation of the Hatch Act, which bars political activity on the job. The employee resigned, and agreed to the debarment from returning. (Office of Special Counsel)
  • The Office of Management and Budget is giving agencies four months to publish policies for how their grant-making processes ensure religious organizations can compete on equal footing for federal financial assistance. President Donald Trump issued the executive order Thursday, telling agencies to ensure applicants for sub-grants are not discriminated based on religion.
  • Amid the threat of an Iranian cyber attack, leaders of the Senate Small Business Committee have asked newly confirmed Small Business Administration chief Jovita Carranza to double down on small business cybersecurity. They’ve asked Carranza to step up the agency’s outreach to small businesses that have limited resources to deal with cyber threats. Committee Chairman Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) and ranking member Ben Cardin (D-Md.) have asked Carranza to step up the agency’s outreach to small businesses that have limited resources to deal with cyber threats. Both senators requested a briefing from SBA on steps the agency is taking to defend small businesses from cyber threats. (Sen. Marco Rubio)
  • A retired Chief Logistics Specialist for the Navy has been censured for his role in the now infamous Fat Leonard bribery scandal. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly issued a Secretarial Letter of Censure to Ulysis Guno. Modly said it’s been determined Guno improperly accepted and solicited gifts from Leonard Francis, and his company GDMA. (Navy)
  • Air Force Research Laboratory Commander Maj. Gen. William Cooley was removed from his post due to a loss of confidence in his ability to lead. A press release from Air Force Materiel Command does not go into specifics over the nature of the allegations against Cooley. He is currently under investigation. Brig. Gen. Evan Dertien will serve as the new laboratory commander. He served as Air Force Research Laboratory vice commander from July 2016 to May 2017.
  • The Army is pressing the reset button on one of its top modernization priorities. The service had high hopes for getting a replacement for the Bradley Fighting Vehicle into the field as quickly as possible — so much so that it had planned to use DoD’s new “middle tier” legal authorities for rapid prototyping. But in a statement Thursday, the Army said it was cancelling the competition because vendors couldn’t meet the requirements it laid out in the time period it hoped for. Officials said they’re still committed to the Optionally Manned Fighting Vehicle program, and plan to issue a new solicitation based on the lessons they learned from this one.
  • Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) is urging the Defense Health Agency to remove sensitive medical data belonging to service members from the internet. Warner said the data are vulnerable due to insecure data practices at Fort Belvoir Medical Center, Ireland Army Health Clinic and Womack Army Medical Center. Warner’s concerns stem from reports of servers that left names, dates of birth, medical images and other information on service members available to anyone with basic computer expertise. (Sen. Mark Warner)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs said it’s on track to move 350 applications to an enterprise cloud by 2024. That’s about half of VA’s applications and systems. Migrating to the cloud is a key component of VA’s massive IT modernization efforts, and an ongoing part of the department’s plans to prepare outdated infrastructure for a new electronic health record. VA recently completed an infrastructure overhaul at its medical center in Spokane, Washington. The department said it’s on track to achieve initial operating capability on a new EHR at that site in March.
  • Sylvia Burns is the new chief information officer for the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation. She’s been deputy CIO since September 2018. FDIC said she’ll be overseeing the agency’s shift to cloud-based platforms and software, to reduce its IT hardware on site, and provide more responsive solutions to FDIC’s dynamic business needs. (Federal Deposit Insurance Corportation)
  • Interior joined a small but growing number of agencies who have met a March IT modernization deadline. The Interior Department awarded a 12-year, $1.6 billion contract to modernize its network and take more advantage of cloud services. Interior chose CenturyLink under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions or EIS contract. Under the task order, Interior will receive managed core network services that includes designing, engineering, building and maintenance of a software-defined network and other technologies. CenturyLink also will provide managed security services such as zero trust networking. Interior’s award to CenturyLink overcame a protest by Verizon in December. (CenturyLink)
  • A bipartisan duo from the House Oversight and Reform Committee has introduced a bill that would prohibit federal agencies from relying on reverse auctions for construction contracts. Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) and Mark Meadows (R-N.C.) claim reverse auctions reward the lowest bidder, but often overlook bids from small businesses and the bid’s overall quality. The Construction Consensus Procurement Improvement Act follows a ban on reserve auctions for construction contracts by the Army Corps of Engineers. (Rep. Ro Khanna)

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