Nominee for top DoD personnel job is bowing out

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  • President Donald Trump’s pick to be the Defense Department’s undersecretary for personnel and readiness J. David Patterson is removing himself from the process POLITICO reports. This comes after a 2017 op-ed Patterson co-wrote on the topic of multiculturalism surfaced. Patterson was just nominated last month.
  • DoD’s inspector general will soon investigate how the Pentagon has been handling firefighting chemicals on bases that are contaminating drinking water. The IG says it will start its report this month and will look at the steps DoD has taken to identify, mitigate and remediate contamination from the chemicals. The report will also look into how DoD is identifying populations exposed to the hazardous elements. The investigation is congressionally mandated. (Department of Defense Office of Inspector General)
  • There are potentially-widespread training shortfalls in the Navy’s surface fleet. The Defense Department’s IG examined readiness records for 12 Arleigh Burke class destroyers, and found nine of their commanders reported significant deficiencies on their latest round of certifications. Those are the same types of ships that were involved in deadly collisions in the Western Pacific in 2017. (Department of Defense)
  • The Army is working on a long-term plan to improve its privatized military housing. The plan is broken into five year increments and will focus on monitoring the current housing situation while bringing installations into the modern era. Army Materiel Command leader Gen. Gustave Perna says he wants to integrate bases into the local communities to help take advantage of the amenities they have to offer. The Army’s long-term goal comes a year after the first nation-wide reports of mice, mold and lead paint in privatized military housing. (Federal News Network)
  • A small House bill would enact something the government has been doing for years. The bill would establish a Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, in the General Services Administration. FedRAMP has been a GSA program for nearly a decade, helping agencies move to cloud computing. The bill, introduced by Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and lying around since last summer, has no co-sponsors. But now it has a Congressional Budget Office estimate. $20 million a year for the next five years, the appropriation recommended in the bill. A companion advisory committee could cost another $3 million.
  • Fewer federal employees and agencies settled disciplinary cases in 2019 compared to previous years. The Merit Systems Protection Board says the settlement rate dropped 6% over the last two years. The decline is partly due to one of the president’s 2018 workforce executive orders, which prohibited agencies from clearing an employee’s personnel record in exchange for a clean settlement. The EO prohibited agencies from clearing an employee’s personnel record in exchange for a clean case settlement. MSPB says fewer settlements mean more cases are headed for hearings before an administrative judge. Adjudicating these cases has also grown more complex. (Merit Systems Protection Board)
  • Another record year for Freedom of Information Act requests at the Department of Homeland Security. DHS received nearly 5,000 more FOIA requests in fiscal 2019 compared to the previous year. It managed to process 15% more requests in 2019 over 2018. The department says it also cut the FOIA backlog by 45%. DHS spent about $165 to handle one FOIA request in 2019. Government on average spent about $610 per FOIA request back in 2018. (Department of Homeland Security)
  • DHS is struggling to hold agencies accountable for reducing their cyber risks.The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s binding operational directives are making federal cybersecurity better. But the Government Accountability Office found CISA is having trouble ensuring agencies are meeting all the requirements of these mandates. A new report shows agencies mitigated critical vulnerabilities and implemented email and website security protocols. At the same time, auditors say CISA is too reliant on self-certification to attest compliance. CISA says it’s taking several steps to improve its oversight, including testing automated reporting tools and piloting the use of non-agency cyber assessment teams. (Government Accountability Office)
  • Last year’s government shutdown appears to have held back federal agencies’ efforts to make their IT systems more secure. Since 2015, the Department of Homeland Security has had the authority to issue binding operational directives telling agencies to fix cyber vulnerabilities. A review by the Government Accountability Office finds the process has generally worked well. As recently as 2018, agencies were fixing 85% of those vulnerabilities within 30 days. But that figure dropped to 61% in 2019. DHS told auditors the shutdown was a major factor, because many of the employees in charge of patching vulnerabilities were furloughed for 35 days. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking input from vendors on the tools and techniques needed to improve data confidentiality. NIST has asked for public participation in two of its projects aimed at preventing data breaches and mitigating the damage caused by breaches. NIST’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence will begin work with interested vendors once it’s gathered enough letters of interest. Vendors may submit those letters of interest starting March 5. (Federal Register)
  • Just over a month into 2020 and we have had two big acquisitions in the federal contractor market. Leidos is buying L3Harris Technologies airport security and automation business unit for $1 billion. At the same time, Koch Industries is expanding its investment to buy all of Infor, a business cloud software provider. Koch had invested in the company in 2017.