Pandemic Response Accountability Committee flags gaps in federal data sources

In today's Federal Newscast, a report by the MITRE Corporation found 16 key concerns with the quality and accuracy of data available to the PRAC.

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  • The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee flagged gaps in federal data sources that are critical for spending oversight. A report by the MITRE Corporation found 16 key concerns with the quality and accuracy of data available to the PRAC. The report, for example, found mismatched ZIP codes in awards data between and the Small Business Administration. The report also found no award-level source of data on estimated the number of jobs created or saved through stimulus funds. The report found that these data gaps could impair the PRAC’s ability to oversee all pandemic spending.
  • The number of military bases without travel restrictions shrinks by 8% as the nation sees record numbers of coronavirus cases. About 20 installations reinstated restrictions, which reduce access to bases and keep service members who live on base from moving to other areas. In total, 47% of bases currently have restrictions. Last week, Pentagon spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said he expected the number of bases adding sanctions to rise in the coming weeks due to the increased number of COVID cases.
  • The Trump administration said it’s about to appoint new members to the Defense Policy Board after firing most the panel. Foreign Policy broke the news last week that the White House had abruptly ousted 11 of the 13 members of the federal advisory committee. The reasons and timing still aren’t clear. The board had been made up of numerous longtime foreign and defense policy experts. Among the ones dismissed were former Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and Henry Kissinger, former Deputy Defense Secretary Rudy de Leon and retired Adm. Gary Roughead, a former chief of Naval operations. In a follow up statement to news outlets, the Pentagon said new members of the board will be named “soon.”
  • The Defense Department is taking extra steps to inject artificial intelligence into everything it does. Over the past year and a half, the Pentagon’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center has been embarking on projects to introduce the military to AI. The organization’s director said the center will find ways to put AI into every aspect of the Defense Department. JAIC is creating teams that will embed with different DoD agencies and areas to teach AI or get nascent AI programs off the ground. The center also plans to have a common foundation to test new AI programs up and running by early 2021. (Federal News Network)
  • Census Bureau officials recently discovered data anomalies while processing the 2020 count. This week they’ll explain the impact of those anomalies before the House Oversight and Reform Committee. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) announced the hearing over the weekend, after the bureau failed to turn over documents that lawmakers had requested. Top Census officials told the committee they couldn’t turn over the documents because of concerns about ongoing litigation. The bureau has until Dec. 31 to submit apportionment data, but officials said they won’t meet the deadline if doing so would jeopardize data quality.
  • In five months, the site will lose its “beta” designation. The General Services Administration plans to integrate the current functionalities of the old site into the new version and retire the “beta” term on April 26. GSA said the core data and functionality of the systems aren’t changing, but there will be a new look and feel for much of that functionality. The new designation also aligns with GSA’s effort to modernize the integrated acquisition environment that includes more than six different systems.
  • A busy border crossing with Canada is about to get a new face. A lot of new faces, including possibly yours. Customs and Border Protection introduced facial recognition technology for people walking across the Peace Bridge connecting Buffalo, New York and Erie, Ontario. The program is voluntary for U.S. citizens. Pictures are taken and compared with existing passport photos. CBP says the process takes only a few seconds. Photos are discarded within 12 hours. CBP has been rolling out facial technology at ports and borders for several years.
  • The NewPay program delivered the first major innovation to the governmentwide payroll shared services in almost 20 years. Just before the end of fiscal 2020, the NewPay federal shared services effort delivered its first minimally viable product. In a blog post, Amy Haseltine, the director of the civilian HR transactions and NewPay project management office under the Quality Service Management Office, said the new capabilities can handle payroll operations for 87%-89% of the federal workforce. The NewPay team used masked data from the General Services Administration to test 12 pay plans including the general schedule. The MVP can support the payroll needs of approximately 1.6 million federal civilian employees.
  • Despite a petition for reconsideration, the Federal Communications Commission affirmed designating ZTE as a company posing a national security threat to the integrity of communications networks or the communications supply chain. The commission declared Huawei and ZTE threats to national security in late June. This decision prohibits the Universal Service Fund from being used for purchases of ZTE products and services.

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