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Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee are wondering why the Commerce Department isn’t playing a bigger role in creating a national 5G Network. Reps. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Mike Doyle (D-Pa.) are looking into the Defense Department’s apparent moves to own and operate a national 5G network and lease federal spectrum for commercial purposes. The lawmakers wrote to both the Government Accountability Office and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration expressing their concern and requesting information.
Capt. John Nettleton, a former commander of Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, has been sentenced to two years in prison for multiple convictions of obstructing justice and making false statements during a death investigation at the naval base. The Justice Department says these all occurred during the Navy’s investigation of a civilian worker who drowned at the base in 2015.
The Army recruited enough soldiers to meet its end strength goals for 2020, despite the challenges of the pandemic. Officials at Army Recruiting Command say they enlisted just over 62,000 new soldiers in fiscal year 2020. That’s slightly short of the recruiting targets the service set earlier in the year, but the shortfall was offset by higher-than usual retention numbers. The Army thinks the economic conditions the pandemic played a major role in those reenlistments. Also, before the pandemic started, monthly recruiting numbers were consistently above the Army’s targets.
Due to the pandemic, some agencies are finally starting to implement zero trust. The Army launched a pilot using government furnished equipment without a VPN. Now it’s looking at a plan to slowly divest from perimeter security. Meanwhile, the Navy was already working with identity management in its financial systems. Now it’s turning that knowledge toward giving it a leg up on zero trust and bring-your-own device pilots. However, it’s still struggling with the question of access to classified environments. (Federal News Network)
The IRS is adding smartphone-friendly barcodes to notices it sends households to collect unpaid taxes. The QR code printed on these forms will take taxpayers to a website with information on how to pay their balance, set up payment agreements, or reach out to the agency for tax help. The IRS sends out about 8 million of these notices every year, which serve as the agency’s first notification to individuals about the taxes they owe.
Microsoft says it’s cut off a botnet threatening government agencies and the upcoming election. Trickbot, which has infected a million devices and is a launchpad for phishing attacks and ransomware, is at least for now no longer a threat. Microsoft customer security VP Tom Burt says the U.S. District Court granted its request for an order to halt Trickbot operations. The company did so by disabling Trickbot’s IP addresses and locking up its server contents. It was aided by several companies including Symantec and Lumen.
The FAA needs to do more to make sure critical aviation systems on commercial airplanes are protected from cyberattack. In a new report, the Government Accountability Office says there hasn’t yet been a case of hackers attacking those flight-critical systems, but the FAA isn’t adequately tracking cybersecurity risks. Among other steps, GAO says the agency needs to assign inspectors who focus entirely on the cybersecurity of avionics.
GSA’s IT Modernization Centers of Excellence are offering a new playbook for agencies to improve how they meet customer needs. A recent update from the Customer Experience Center of Excellence outlines 13 ways for practitioners in all levels of government to improve citizen services. The authors say the playbook offers “small, quick wins to build up expertise and gain confidence.” Each play includes a checklist, tools and key questions for agencies to ask themselves as they try to improve customer experience.
Speeding up the federal acquisition process? Several agencies are showing how it can be done. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy’s goal of reducing the friction in the acquisition process is more than just a catch phrase. The IRS and the Army are using robotics process automation, or RPA, to turn manual compliance processes over to the bot. The IRS, for instance, is using RPA to review contract clauses, correcting more than 10,000 mistakes made by humans. The Army, meanwhile, is asking its bot to conduct contractor eligibility determinations, saving hundreds of hours a month by pre-populating a form through database queries. (Federal News Network)
NASA’s governmentwide acquisition contract completed another record-setting year, and now it’s giving back to its customers. The SEWP program office says its revenue increased by $9 billion or 40% in fiscal 2020 as compared to 2019. As a result, NASA announced it was lowering the fee to use SEWP to 0.34% from 0.36%. In 2020, 90 agencies used the GWAC. NASA also says it will pick up the 5-year option on 200 companies who are on the contract.
The Justice Department expanded its Immigration Judge Corps with 20 new judges, including three assistant chief immigration judges. The Executive Office for Immigration Review says the Immigration Judge Corps has increased by 70% since January 2017, from 306 to 520 adjudicators. In that time DOJ also opened 137 new courtrooms for immigration proceedings, which is more than a 40% increase in courtroom capacity.
Another federal court has blocked the Postal Service from enforcing policies that have led to mail delays. A D.C. District Court judge issued a preliminary injunction blocking USPS from reducing late and extra trips between mail processing plants and post offices. More than half of the dozen lawsuits the agency is currently facing have resulted in similar rulings or injunctions.
The Postal Service is seeking a modest price hike for some of its products next year. The price of a first-class stamp would stay at 55 cents, but mailing a postcard would go up from 35 cents to 36 cents. The Postal Service proposes a less than 2% increase for letters weighing more than one ounce, and for metered mail sent by businesses. The Postal Regulatory Commission must approve the new prices for them to go into effect.