Defense employee unions on Trump administration radar

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  • We now know where the administration stands on defense employee unions. The White House published a memo the president signed last month that allows the defense secretary to exclude civilian employees from current collective bargaining law. The memo gave Defense Secretary Mark Esper that authority for national security reasons. But the memo wasn’t public for three weeks. It may now lend way for DoD to strip bargaining rights from its employees.
  • DoD is dealing with a major data breach. About 200,000 people are getting free credit monitoring services after the Defense Information Systems Agency suffered a breach. DISA sent a letter to those impacted by the breach last week. The agency said the data loss happened sometime during the May to July 2019 timeframe where personal information, including social security numbers, may have been compromised. Since the breach, DoD sayid it has put additional security measures in place to prevent future incidents and are adopting new protocols to increase protection of all PII. (Federal News Network)
  • A significant budget cut may be coming to the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities Office. It wants to give the SCO about $770 million next year, or about one third less than it received in 2020. The office has been in flux over the past couple years. Congress considered getting rid of it in 2018 because its functions are being taken up by other shops in the Pentagon. Others have suggested SCO should be part of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.
  • A former analyst at the Defense Intelligence Agency has pleaded guilty to passing classified information to members of the media. Prosecutors said Henry Frese leaked secrets about foreign nations’ weapon systems to two reporters and an overseas counterterrorism consulting group. He’s scheduled to be sentenced in June. (Federal News Network)
  • DoD will adopt five foundational principles for the ethical deployment of artificial intelligence. These principles stem from the artificial intelligence recommendations that its Defense Innovation Board approved last October. The recommendations that the board sent to Defense Secretary Mark Esper for consideration include avoiding unintentional AI bias, and ensuring human operators maintain certain levels of judgement over the deployment of AI systems.
  • The Defense Logistics Agency said it’ll be the first to deploy bots that require no human interaction at all. DLA has deployed over 50 bots that are saving at least 130,000 man-hours a year, but those still require someone to monitor them. DLA says it will launch the first unattended bots this year. But all of those bots are considered “attended” bots. They require a human to monitor or review the automated work. DLA Chief Information Officer said the agency will launch the first unattended bots this year. It’s part of DLA’s ongoing efforts to deploy robotics process automation.
  • The Army is trying to be all it can be when it comes to ad campaigns. The service is considering bumping up how much it spends on recruitment ads. Currently, it spends about $160 million on advertisements. However, Brig. Gen. Alex Fink, leader of Army Enterprise Marketing, said that’s about sixty percent of where the budget needs to be. The Army is considering taking funds from bonus programs and changing the size of the recruiting force to give more money to advertising. (Federal News Network)
  • A new audit said the Pentagon awarded almost $900 million in small business contracts to companies who shouldn’t have gotten them. The DoD Inspector General took a deep dive into a sample of small-business setaside contracts the Pentagon awarded to 29 companies, and found that 16 of them weren’t actually eligible for those awards. In most cases, that’s because the companies didn’t meet the government’s criteria for service-disabled, veteran-owned small business. Under DoD contracting rules, companies self-certify that they qualify for those setasides, but the IG said the department doesn’t have procedures in place to verify whether that’s true. (Department of Defense Office of Inspector General)
  • Data will fuel the Agriculture Department’s new innovation agenda. USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue kicked off the program yesterday by laying out three broad goals all underpinned by better data. The information will help spark the adoption of better conservation efforts and decision-making to bring in new technology. The goal of this entire effort is to increase agricultural production by 40% while cutting the environmental footprint in half by 2050.
  • New data from the Federal Communications Commission shows the so called digital divide is closing, and there’s more competition to provide broadband services. The FCC says substantial progress has been made from 2016 to 2018. The agency says during those two years, the amount of people without internet access dropped by 74%.
  • Federal technology executives aren’t worried about agency budget cuts proposed by the Trump administration. Commerce Department CIO Andre Mendes said that while it’s crucial to justify every dollar of request, his experience is that Congress tends to restore information technology funds administrations try to trim. He says better IT accountability would help justify both its costs and benefits. William Pratt, a technology director in the Homeland Security Department’s CIO office, said DHS is a safe organization, budgetwise, whomever is in the White House. They spoke at a meeting of the Association for Federal IRM meeting.
  • A federal advisory committee charged with recommending taxpayer service improvements to the IRS is accepting new members. The Taxpayer Advocacy Panel, overseen by the independent National Taxpayer Advocate, seeks members to serve a three-year term on the board. Last year, it issued more than 200 recommendations to the IRS to improve its services. Current members have backgrounds in local government, the military, higher education, and more. The Taxpayer Advocate will accept applications through March 30.

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