NIST gives suggestions for keeping sensitive virtual meetings secure

In today's Federal Newscast, with more federal employees working from home due to the Coronavirus pandemic, the National Institute of Standards and Technology g...

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  • With more federal employees working from home, the National Institute of Standards and Technology gave advice on how to keep virtual meetings secure. NIST recommended limiting the reuse of access codes for web meetings and conference calls, and limiting the recording of meetings unless necessary. The agency also suggested using multi-factor authentication for meetings to discuss sensitive issues.
  • Agencies have two days to develop and begin implementing risk-based policies and procedures to keep federal workplaces, employees, contractors and citizens safe from the coronavirus. A new memo from the Office of Management and Budget tells agencies to reduce and re-prioritize non-mission-critical services to free up capacity for critical services. This includes minimizing face-to-face interactions with the public. The administration also wants agencies to modify existing professional services and labor contracts to extend telework to contractors as much as possible. (Federal News Network)
  • U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services is suspending in-person services at field offices, asylum offices and Application Support Centers due to the coronavirus. USCIS will send notifications to customers with appointments and naturalization ceremonies impacted by the closures. These services are suspended at least through April 1 but will provide limited emergency services.
  • The IRS is allowing its frontline employees to decide on their own whether they want to continue in-person service interactions. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said it’s up to each employee to decide what’s best for their own health and safety during the coronavirus pandemic. In-person services within coronavirus hotspots should stop immediately. And eligible IRS employees should start teleworking now. But some IRS managers said they’re not used to having this much authority or decision-making power, and they’ve been hesitant to approve telework and leave requests on their own. (Federal News Network)
  • Government contractors are finally getting some guidance from agencies for how to deal with the coronavirus. The Small Business Administration and the General Services Administration released new frequently asked questions to help contractors prepare for potential disruptions because of the pandemic. The FAQs give vendors some insights into contract fulfillment or performance interruptions. Meanwhile, the Department of Veterans Affairs and GSA raised their respective micropurchase thresholds and simplified acquisition thresholds for purchases directly supporting the coronavirus relief effort. For both agencies, the micropurchase threshold is now at $20,000 and the simplified acquisition threshold is now at $750,000 for purchases made inside the United States.
  • Online dispute resolution services are coming soon at the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. FMCS said it’s moving to online collective bargaining and employment mediation to comply with recent social distancing and telework guidance. It’ll use secure video teleconferences to host private meetings with mediators and others. The FMCS will also allow parties to share documents with each other. FMCS said online mediation will allow its employees to telework during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Justice Department adopted new procedures so its anti-trust division can keep going during the crisis. Because of mass telework, the Antitrust Division temporarily changed how it does civil merger investigations. It will ask companies with pending mergers or proposals to add 30 days to their timing agreements for DOJ reviews. The division also postponed depositions but plans to reschedule them after it sets up secure videoconferencing. Staff will hold only phone or video conference meetings, and the Division will accept so-called Hart-Scott-Rodino filings electronically.
  • The Defense Department is opening up some of its inventory to the public in response to coronavirus. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the Pentagon will provide 5 million N95 masks domestically and open up 14 of its labs to do civilian testing. Esper said DoD will also provide 2,000 deployable ventilators. He said the key is to ramp up production because DoD will not be able to meet the demand.
  • Army Emergency Relief is offering up to $500 to soldiers who recently conducted a permanent change of station and need funds for childcare. The Army’s nonprofit wing will provide the money for three months after a move in the form of an interest-free loan, a grant or a mixture of the two. Childcare access is a major problem for the Army, and the Defense Department said it currently is short about 9,000 daycare employees. Part of that is due to the slow background check process for hiring.
  • The director of the Office of Personnel Management abruptly resigned after being on the job for six short months. Dale Cabaniss is out as the OPM director, sources told Federal News Network, after she butted heads with OMB and White House staff over OPM, its mission and the proposed merger with GSA. Cabaniss was the third person to lead OPM in three years. Deputy Director Michael Rigas will be its acting leader. (Federal News Network)
  • Two former federal data officials are on the move. Former Chief Statistician of the U.S. Nancy Potok and GSA’s former chief data officer Kris Rowley have joined the Data Foundation’s Board of Directors. Potok stepped down from her previous job at the end of last year while Rowley left GSA earlier this month.
  • James Taiclet will take over as the new president and CEO of Lockheed Martin starting June 15. He replaced Marillyn Hewson, who is expected to become executive chairwoman of the board. Hewson has been chairwoman, president and CEO since 2014, and president and CEO since 2013 of the aerospace and defense giant. Taiclet joined Lockheed Martin’s board in 2018. He also has been president and CEO of American Tower Corporation since 2004. Government contracting represents more than 60% of all Lockheed’s revenue.

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