Senator wants to give FTC more firepower to take on big tech

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  • Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) is hoping to reform the Federal Trade Commission to reign in the tech industry. He’s proposing to overhaul the agency by restructuring it to meet the needs of today’s digital markets. His proposal includes relocating the FTC to the Justice Department and giving it authority to enforce rules requiring interoperability, data portability and data minimization. Hawley says for years companies like Google and Facebook have to been able to skirt anti-trust laws and obtain monopoly power. (Sen. Josh Hawley)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is urging carriers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program to do everything they can to keep costs down for the coming year. OPM described its priorities in a new letter to FEHB carriers. It wants all carriers to develop tools that spell out prices and health quality measures for their services by 2021. OPM is also encouraging FEHBP carriers to implement new search tools that show which providers are in and out of network. The goal is to reduce the costs associated with surprise billing. (Office of Personnel Management)
  • The Department of Homeland Security expects to roll out its Cyber Talent and Management System later this year, but its cyber branch is already taking steps to accelerate recruiting. Chris Krebs, director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told senators the agency is using retention incentives to lower its workforce attrition rate. Krebs said CISA is also working with the private sector to provide tuition incentives for hires that work for the federal government for two or more years.
  • Days after congressional overseers urged it to get moving, DHS finished its strategic plan for election security. The plan comes from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, which posted it on the eve of the New Hampshire presidential primary. Earlier this month, the Government Accountability Office urged CISA to get the plan out. The plan calls election security a cooperative effort among all levels of government. So far, CISA has distributed so-called last-mile security products to 15 states, with 20 more having expressed interest.
  • The new National Counterintelligence Strategy is elevating the need to secure federal technology supply chains during the acquisition process. The Office of the Director for National Intelligence detailed three steps the government will take to reduce supply chain threats over the next three years. Supply chain risk management is one of five focus areas across the strategy. Among the steps ODNI will undertake are the creation of a supply chain risk assessment shared repository. It will address deficiencies in the federal acquisition process and seek more streamlined authorities to exclude high risk vendors.
  • The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t have a strategic insider threat plan. But the Government Accountability Office says it could use one. TSA does conduct random screenings of federal and private aviation workers. But the agency estimates one point eight million aviation employees have unchecked access to restricted areas of U.S. airports. TSA says it’s working on a more detailed insider threat mitigation plan. (Government Accountability Office)
  • The Defense Department wants $23.1 billion in its Military Intelligence Program budget for 2021. The fund is frequently referred to as the “black budget” because its contents are mostly classified. The money goes toward things like covert operations or sensitive research. The MIP budget is about the same as the request for 2020. The request for 2019 was $21.5 billion. (Department of Defense)
  • Nearly $900 million may go towards modernizing the way the Army trains its soldiers. The Army Consolidated Product Line Management Plus will improve the Army’s individual and collective training systems at home stations, combat training centers and ranges. The focus will be on evolving the family of training systems through virtual training and cyber education. The Army awarded the contract to General Dynamics Mission Systems. The contract is for eight years. (Department of Defense)
  • The daily publication Stars and Stripes has been delivering news to troops since the Civil War. But this year’s Pentagon budget proposal could put it out of business. The editorially-independent newspaper gets most of its revenue from subscriptions and advertising, but it does depend on an annual DoD subsidy of about $7 million a year for its operations. Defense officials say they’ve decided to cut that funding as part of a Defense-wide budget review, because they believe newspapers are not the best way to deliver information. The newspaper’s leadership says they weren’t informed about the cut until the budget was rolled out to the public yesterday. The decision to eliminate funding would have to be approved by Congress.
  • In response to coronavirus concerns, the Navy has started its own quarantine procedures for any personnel who’ve visited China recently. The service is directing that anyone who’s returned from China since the beginning of February be restricted to their residence for at least 14 days and be checked by medical staff once a day. Servicemembers who normally live in shared housing facilities will need to be moved to temporary lodging for that two-week period.
  • An old plan to save the Postal Service $97 billion over the next 11 years has gotten new life. The fiscal 2021 budget request has refreshed recommendations made by a postal task force in December 2018 led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. The task force recommended rolling back the right for postal unions to collectively bargain over compensation. The White House has also tacked on a plan to restructure USPS payments to pre-fund retiree health benefits. (Federal News Network)
  • More House Democrats say they have concerns with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s plans to eliminate some official time for union representatives. An EEOC proposed rule describes the agency’s plans to prohibit union officials from using official time to prepare employee discrimination complaints. Over 80 other House members wrote to EEOC Chairman Janet Dhillon. Members say those plans undermine employee rights and harm the EEOC mission. (Rep. Jamie Raskin)
  • The General Service Administration’s new contracting opportunities website continues to leave contractors less than satisfied. Industry remains frustrated with the new contracting opportunities website, Beta.Sam.gov. The Professional Services Council collected feedback from large, medium and small contractors and found consistent themes of frustration and dissatisfaction. PSC sent a letter to GSA highlighting vendor concerns around access challenges, the need for more and improved search parameters; and display difficulties especially on mobile devices. The industry association offered to create a volunteer customer test team to provide feedback to GSA on a more regular basis. (Federal News Network)

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