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A bipartisan bill would make a one-stop shop for agency inspectors general permanent. The Oversight.gov Authorization Act would formally require the upkeep of the website where users can access all public reports released by agency IGs. Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) introduced the bill along with Rep. Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.). The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency created the website in 2017, and has received modest appropriations from Congress to expand its capabilities.
Three prominent House Democrats are mounting their own defense against the president’s Schedule F executive order. They introduced new legislation that would nullify the EO and block agencies from reclassifying career positions in the excepted service. House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and fellow committee member Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) are behind the bill. It would also reinstate any career federal employees who lose their jobs because their positions were reclassified under the new Schedule F, and grant them back pay. (Federal News Network)
The National Treasury Employees Union is suing the Trump administration over the president’s recent Schedule F executive order. NTEU isn’t disputing whether the president can move certain positions out of the competitive service and into the excepted service. Current law says the president can except some positions when it’s necessary. But the union said the administration hasn’t proved it is necessary in these circumstances. NTEU filed its lawsuit in federal district court. It’s looking for declaratory and injunctive relief from the Schedule F executive order. (Federal News Network)
The Office of Personnel Management is still hurting financially after it transferred the governmentwide security clearance business to the Pentagon last year. OPM’s acting inspector general said budget shortfalls are blocking needed improvements across the agency. Its chief information officer has a phased vision to bring OPM legacy IT into the 21st century. But OPM needs at least $200 million more for the next three years. The IG said funding gaps are also preventing OPM from improving the federal health insurance program and reducing waste, fraud and abuse. (Federal News Network)
The General Services Administration is reporting its highest ratings from agency and industry customers ever. Administrator Emily Murphy said that despite the coronavirus pandemic forcing contracting officers and other acquisition workers to telework, GSA’s agency customer satisfaction scores and vendor satisfaction scores in the Federal Acquisition Service were the best ever. She said the results of the annual survey proved the agency could take a different approach to meet its customers’ needs and still find success. GSA uses the results of the surveys to help improve its products and services.
Two Senators are calling for Congressional hearings on the Pentagon’s role in Operation Warp Speed. Democrats Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said the Senate Armed Services Committee has yet to do any public hearings on DoD’s role in the vaccine development effort. They said they’re especially concerned with the department’s use of other transaction authorities, which bypass the government’s usual acquisition regulations. Moreover, a reported $6 billion worth of that spending has been funneled through an OTA consortium, a process which hides the contract details from public view.
It’s now easier to file a Freedom of Information Act Request to the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. FMCS has launched new software called FOIA-Xpress to accelerate the process for users seeking federal government records. Filing, monitoring, and appealing FOIA requests can now be done electronically, in real time through FMCS’ website.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is untangling its data infrastructure to enable AI-powered fraud detection. Deputy Chief Information Officer Bobby Saxon said the agency has more than 30 data warehouses and three enterprise data lakes, making it harder to run automation tools. Saxon said, “We’re never unable to get to the answer, but we do believe we could get to the answer faster and more efficiently.” CMS is also looking to improve the data literacy of its entire workforce through several tiers of training.
The idea of artificial intelligence dates to 1950. But now the industry is turning out real inventions at a fast clip. Between 2002 and 2018, yearly artificial intelligence patent applications doubled to 60,000. Only 1% of inventors was concerned with AI back in 1976 — now 25% are. That’s according to analysis by the chief economist of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. USPTO casts a wide net for invention categories that incorporate AI ranging from hardware to knowledge processing.
The Defense Department awarded a $20 million contract to create a group of businesses focused on hypersonics. Texas A&M’s Engineering Experiment Station will create a consortium of companies to bring innovative solutions on hypersonics to the military. The consortium will allow DoD to enter into rapid procurement agreements with the businesses and to circumvent Federal Acquisition Regulations. The Pentagon is investing heavily in hypersonics as a weapon of the futures. The consortium is expected to start operations in the next few weeks.
Army’s Futures Command is in charge of keeping the service the most technologically advanced Army in the world. To do that it’s providing education on artificial intelligence for all of its employees. The military as a whole thinks AI will be one of the most important technologies of the future and it will be as widespread as the internet. Futures Command set up specific courses for senior leaders on how to use AI and data. It also worked with Carnegie Mellon University to create a two-year course for AI experts. Finally, it’s providing basic AI education for all ranks, so they will be prepared for AI’s implications. (Federal News Network)
The Army’s new IT management office reached initial operating capability. Nearly two months after splitting the CIO and G6 into two offices, the Army said the organizations’ focus areas are starting to take shape. Lt. Gen. John Morrison, the deputy chief of staff G6, said his office differs from the CIO’s in several ways. “It’s really about strategy, network architectures, implementation of command control, communications, cyber operations and networks.” Morrison said these are the four pillars of the mission of the G6, which he expects to reach full operational capability later in fiscal 2021. (Federal News Network)