GAO pleading with agencies to follow recommendations to improve pandemic response

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  • Comptroller General Gene Dodaro is imploring agencies and Congress to implement what he called 16 concrete recommendations immediately to significantly improve the nation’s response to the current pandemic. The recommendations range from improving data collection to hardening cyber protections on the Department of Health and Human Services’ systems to better tracking of contract obligations, as well as strengthen preparations for future public health emergencies. The Government Accountability Office highlighted these findings as a part of its third report on the CARES Act and the federal response to COVID-19 pandemic.
  • House Democrats are out with a 10-week continuing resolution that would keep government open through Dec. 11. It would restrict agencies from furloughing their employees through the duration of the CR. The bill would also set a new fee structure and put U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services on a stronger financial footing. It also funds the electronic health record modernization project at the Department of Veterans Affairs and the 2020 Census. It’s unclear whether the CR has bipartisan support yet in the Senate. The House is expected to vote on the bill later this week. Current government funding runs dry next Wednesday. (Federal News Network)
  • The Treasury Department and the IRS don’t know how many people are still waiting for economic assistance payments authorized under the CARES Act. The Government Accountability Office said that could hinder outreach efforts and potentially put millions of people at risk of not receiving these payments before the Oct. 15 deadline to register for a payment. The IRS said remaining individuals are those who don’t normally file a federal tax return. An agency outreach campaign has helped 7 million people register for payments.
  • The Justice Department removed the interim title from one executive. Melinda Rogers is the new permanent chief information officer at the Justice Department. She is the first woman to hold that role in the last 20 years if not ever at the agency. Rogers replaced Joe Klimavicz on an interim basis in February when Klimavicz retired. Rogers has been with DOJ since 2013 when she joined as its chief information security officer. She became deputy CIO in 2019. Before coming to government Rogers worked in the private sector, including as the assistant vice president for Equifax’s Fraud Prevention and Identity Verification Solutions Division.
  • The decision to shorten the timeline to complete the 2020 Census didn’t come from the Census Bureau. That’s according to the Commerce Department’s inspector general, but the watchdog says it’s unclear whether Commerce or White House officials directed the bureau to still meet decennial deadlines at the end of this year. The IG said this shortened timeline increases the risk the bureau won’t collect all the data needed for a complete decennial count. The bureau expects to end field operations at the end of this month.
  • Agencies will shortly have a new place to turn for advice on using data in developing and administering policy. Thursday morning the Mitre Corporation will cut the ribbon on its new Center for Data Driven Policy. It’ll be headed up by former Government Accountability Office information technology issues director David Powner. Powner said the center will incorporate academic, industry and government thinkers. It will help federal agencies learn how to better incorporate data into decision making, and how to curate open source data to add to their own.
  • The Air Force is relaunching its AFWERX office with expanded authority to make it act like a program executive office and report directly to the Air Force secretary. AFWERX is an innovation-driven hub focused on research and acquisition. The new AFWERX will have three branches: AFVEntures will focus on accelerating commercial technologies; Spark will empower innovation and the operational edge by working with airmen; and Prime will focus on emerging commercial markets and new technologies.
  • The Navy removed Norfolk Naval Shipyard commander Capt. Kai Torkelson from his position due to a loss of confidence in his ability to command. The removal of Torkelson comes after a Government Accountability Office report stated maintenance delays were harming the Navy’s ability to rebuild its readiness. Rear Adm. Howard Markely, who is the director of Naval Sea Systems Command’s industrial operations directorate, is assuming the duties on an acting basis.
  • An Army reservist and New York police officer are charged with acting as a spy for the Chinese government. Federal prosecutors say Baimadajie Angwang has been working with a Chinese government handler since at least 2014, mostly to gather intelligence on Tibetan dissidents living in New York. He’s charged with acting as an unregistered agent of a foreign power, plus three counts related to alleged false statements he made to maintain his secret security clearance for the Army. Yesterday’s charging documents don’t allege he turned over any classified information, but officials said he’s the “definition of an insider threat.” (Federal News Network)
  • Hiring changes are coming soon for administrative law judges. The Office of Personnel Management has new draft regulations that move ALJs out of the competitive service. It’s now up to each agency head to appoint administrative law judges to their positions in the excepted service. OPM will no longer oversee the examination process for appointing ALJs or keep a list of prospective candidates. The changes stem from both a 2018 executive order and a Supreme Court decision.
  • A federal court judge said the Postal Service must do more to process election mail on time. The judge’s ruling directs the Postal Service to pre-approve all overtime in the week leading up to Election Day. The Postal Service must also submit a list of steps necessary to improve on-time delivery scores for first-class mail and marketing mail. This comes after a federal judge in Washington state last week blocked the Postal Service from moving forward with operational changes that have led to delays in mail delivery. (Federal News Network)

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