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A huddle between agencies may have yielded new cybersecurity guidance for teleworking federal employees. Jeff Greene, the director of National Institute of Standards and Technology’s National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence, says the agency has met with Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency officials on ways to fill in some of the cyber gaps in telework guidance. Greene says any guidance would reflect updates in new telework technology and practices. NIST last week gave advice to organizations on how to keep virtual meetings secure during the coronavirus pandemic.
The Thrift Savings Plan is tracking the coronavirus and its impact on three big fronts. The TSP is monitoring coronavirus and its impact on the funds, its operations and its employees. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board says some TSP participants are transferring more money from the C, S, I and L funds to the G fund. Just five percent of participants transferred some $21 billion into the G fund in the last four weeks. The TSP says it is getting more calls but contact centers are still open and responding to them. Most federal TSP employees are teleworking until at least April 3. (Federal News Network)
A bipartisan group of senators say they need legislation to enforce mandatory telework across the federal workforce. Democratic Senators Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.) and Republican Senator James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the Emergency Telework Act. The bill gives agencies a clear directive to mandate telework to eligible employees during a public health crisis like the coronavirus pandemic. Senators say previous telework guidance from the Trump administration has been unclear and inconsistently implemented. Their bill would compel agencies to include telework in their pandemic plans. (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
Industry is still looking for more guidance for the cleared federal and contractor workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. The Intelligence and National Security Alliance says agencies need to make clear government shelter-in place orders are directed actions, and fully-reimbursable under federal contracts. INSA is also looking for more flexibilities for background investigators. Investigators should be able to conduct virtual interviews and other remote activities to process security clearances.
At the National Institutes of Health, some science is on and some is off as the government focuses on the virus crisis. Some 30,000 employees are teleworking, with only those doing research connected to corona virus coming onto the Bethesda, Maryland campus. Director Francis Collins says institutes have suspended or frozen their other research. A few staff can visit to ensure freezers are working and animals are cared for. Some grantee have asked to pivot to corona virus with existing grant dollars, a flexibility Collins says officials will consider. (Federal News Network)
House Democrats unveiled a coronavirus spending package to give the Postal Service $25 billion over the next two years. The bill would set aside those funds through September 2022 to make up for an expected decline in mail volume. It would also require USPS to prioritize the delivery of medical products. The bill, which outlines more than $2 trillion in overall spending, comes a few days after postal unions and Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-VA) submitted their own US-PS stimulus proposals. The bill would also require USPS to prioritize the delivery of medical products, including prescription drugs. (Federal News Network)
House Democrats are also seeking a major boost for the Technology Modernization Fund in the latest coronavirus spending bill. Lawmakers would set aside $3 billion, for the TMF, which offers loans for agencies to invest in multi-year IT upgrades. The Trump administration asked for $125 million dollars for the TMF in its 2021 budget request, and asked to roll over $25 million dollars in funding from this year.
Looking for a silver lining in the coronavirus threat, check out the performance of federal technology systems. The fact that so many agencies moved to the cloud for things like email and collaboration tools is one of the saving graces that is keeping the government running. Federal CIO c told Federal News Network that daily calls with agency chief information officers and chief information security officers provide reassurance that agency networks and systems are performing well under the strain of having so many employees working remotely. Kent says agencies and vendors stress tested networks and upgraded them to prepare for the larger than normal number of teleworkers. (Federal News Network)
About 11,000 soldiers are stuck in limbo due to the Defense Department’s stop move order in response to the coronavirus outbreak. Soldiers expecting to move to their next permanent station are still living on their old bases, put into temporary houses or hotels. The Army says it will try to stagger moves once the stop move order is lifted so they won’t all happen at once. The order is currently planned to finish on May 11. If that date does not change the order will lift right as peak moving season is about to start. (Federal News Network)
Defense Sec. Mark Esper says the coronavirus will affect the capacity of the military. The top official in the Pentagon says if coronavirus continues at the scale and scope predicted then it will start to effect the military’s readiness. Defense Secretary Mark Esper says the impact of delayed training is one of the main factors for readiness issues. He does not think it will stop the military from performing its national security objectives. (Federal News Network)
The nominee to run the Defense Department’s Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation or CAPE team brings a wealth of experience to the Pentagon in a large civilian agency and in the private sector. President Donald Trump yesterday said he plans to nominate John Whitley to run the independent assessment organization. Whitley currently serves as the assistant secretary of the Army for Financial Management and Comptroller. He also held similar roles at the Homeland Security Department and was a senior fellow at the Institute for Defense Analyses and the Center for Naval Analysis. (White House)
A new round of base closures and increased forces sizes for both the Army and the Air Force are among the 74 recommendations the Heritage Foundation sent to Congress ahead of the writing of the fiscal 2021 Defense authorization bill. Heritage released the report with a goal of pushing lawmakers to make changes they believe would help DoD fare better in the great power competition with China and Russia.