Agencies, contractors get more time to purge Chinese-made telecom gear from supply chains

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  • Chinese-made telecommunications gear won’t be totally out of the government’s supply chain for years, despite a law banning it now. The so-called Section 889 law forces agencies and contractors to excise that gear from their networks and from the supply chain. But the Office of the Director of National Intelligence can issue waivers, and it did. Now it has extended waivers, which expired Wednesday, for two more years. Agencies that requested them, including the U.S. Agency for International Development, now have waivers from 889 until the end of the 2022 fiscal year.
  • House Democrats are trying again to expand annual leave flexibilities for federal employees. Rep. Derek Kilmer (D-Wash.) introduced legislation that would let all federal employees carry over any annual leave accrued during the pandemic. The Office of Personnel Management recently revised its policies to allow essential federal employees to carry over leave they’d otherwise have to forfeit at the end of the year. But that policy only covers employees deemed essential. The Federal Worker Leave Fairness Act would cover all employees. The bill has a Senate companion with nine co-sponsors.
  • A bill designed to publicize workplace protections for federal employees during the pandemic cleared the House. The legislation requires agencies to set and publish workplace protections for federal employees during the pandemic. The bill specifically requires agencies to post reopening plans to their websites at least 30 days before employees return to the workplace. Agencies would have to detail their supplies of personal protective equipment and cleaning materials. House members named the bill after a Virginia federal employee who died from complications due to COVID-19. Maryland and Virginia senators introduced a companion bill earlier this week.
  • Risk-based budgeting for cybersecurity investments could be a new requirement for agencies under a new bipartisan bill. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the Risk-Informed Spending for Cybersecurity Act yesterday that would require agencies to spend money for new capabilities that address the most pressing cyber threats. The bill also would require the Office of Management and Budget to develop a risk-based budgeting model that agencies would have to use. OMB reported in 2019 that agencies spent almost $17 billion on cybersecurity.
  • Peters and Portman are also sponsors on a bill, President Donald Trump signed into law Thursday, which incentivizes electric vehicles at agencies. The Charging Helps Agencies Realize General Efficiencies (CHARGE) Act, allows federal employees to use Fleet Services Cards issued by the General Services Administration to pay for refueling electric vehicles. Peters and Portman said the legislation will save taxpayer dollars and encourage agencies to adopt e-vehicles.
  • Does the Congress need another committee? Some lawmakers think so. A bipartisan group of legislators are calling for a committee on cybersecurity within the House of Representatives. Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Mike Gallagher (R-Wis.) said the creation of a committee will increase Congressional cybersecurity policymaking by encouraging expertise. The committee will also streamline oversight from dozens of committees and subcommittees that claim cybersecurity in their jurisdiction. The lawmakers also said the new committee will help Congress act with the speed needed to keep pace with changing technology.
  • Congress pushes back on plans to wrap up Census field operations on Monday. The Commerce Department and Census Bureau are getting bipartisan pushback from Congress over plans to end field operations by Oct. 5. That goes against a federal judge’s order to keep field operations running through the end of the October. Sens. Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) urged both agencies to comply with the court’s order. And House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) is calling for documents and a brief from census officials to explain the decision. Census officials say keeping field operations running longer means it can’t meet its statutory deadline to submit apportionment data by Dec. 31.
  • The federal financial workforce is getting a digital one-stop shop to look up management guidance, policies and instructions. The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service is launching a beta version of a new website, called the Treasury Financial Experience. Its Office of Financial Innovation and Transformation is leading the project, and bureau officials said the site is one of several initiatives aimed at improving the customer experience of its online services.
  • A new approach to use data to drive technology budget decisions. A public-private sector effort to create more transparency and better understanding in where agencies spend money on IT has turned into a new maturity model. The CIO Council and ACT-IAC released a white paper outlining how agencies can turn qualitative activities into quantitative metrics. The model is based on the Technology Business Management framework and aims to help agencies measure progress against mission-centric initiatives. Over the long term, the organizations said the model will help agencies better understand which of the six maturity factors need more attention and data to add value to the effort.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new initial rollout date for its electronic health record (EHR) modernization program after a few delays. The department will deploy an initial set of capabilities to the VA medical center in Spokane, Washington, on Oct. 24. Development delays and the pandemic postponed the initial rollout two other times earlier this year. VA said it will deploy another round of EHR capabilities later in spring 2021. Congress is largely optimistic about the Spokane rollout. But the pandemic delays are reshuffling other plans and milestones further along the project timeline. (Federal News Network)
  • VA’s caregivers program expands to more veterans and their families. The department at last launched the first phase of the highly anticipated caregivers programs to veterans who suffered serious injuries before 1975. VA has struggled to launch a new IT system necessary to support the program’s expansion. But the department told Congress earlier this week the system is ready to go. VA will launch the second phase of the caregivers program in 2022. That phase will cover veterans who served between 1975 and 2001.
  • The Army is missing out on opportunities to make its alternative contracting methods work better. For the last few years, the military has been using methods like other transaction authorities to court nontraditional businesses. But the Government Accountability Office said the service isn’t paying attention to what works, and isn’t sharing the best way of working. GAO said the Army is losing ways to create better and stronger partnerships with industry by not analyzing what is going right with its alternative methods.
  • The new U.S. Space Command continues to fill out its leadership ranks. The Pentagon said the president will nominate Air Force Maj. Gen. John Shaw to be the first deputy commander of Space Command. The position comes with a promotion to lieutenant general if the Senate confirms him.
  • The Postal Service is overpaying for some employees on workers compensation. The agency’s inspector general found 155 transactions with claimants in which they went back to work but were still receiving workers compensation. The IG estimated USPS overpaid hurt employees by almost $4 million in 2018 and 2019.

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