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The Defense Department’s head of cyber policy is warning that the Pentagon’s cyber force is still not enough to protect the U.S. and its allies. Deputy assistant secretary for cyber policy Thomas Wingfield said during the recent Aviation Cyber Initiative Summit that while the U.S., allies and partners are working diligently to defend against malicious and destabilizing activities in cyberspace, those defenses may not be robust enough. He says, “organizations need to move from a paradigm of cybersecurity, to one of cyber resilience,” and that the two terms are complementary and not synonymous.
Democrats on the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee are raising their concerns with VA’s apparent plans to privatize the compensation and pension program. The department told Congress it’s planning to replace the VA staff who perform C and P exams with contractors. VA developed a backlog of 350,000 pending C and P exams during the pandemic. Senators say they don’t understand why VA would cut its internal capacity to perform these exams when the backlog is so high. They also want to know how many VA employees might lose their jobs and how the department plans to properly oversee its contractors.
The legislative branch is getting more pressure to block Schedule F. A handful of House and Senate Democrats want the Government Accountability Office to give them regular briefings on how agencies are implementing the president’s Schedule F executive order. And a coalition of good government groups are also urging congressional appropriators to block the EO. They want Congress to include text nullifying the order in the next omnibus spending package. The Senior Executives Association, Partnership for Public Service and National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association are among those urging congressional action.
The Census Bureau went through a few hurdles this year with the 2020 count, but it’s on track to receive the funding needed for 2021. The Census Project, a group of more than 800 organizations from the public and private sectors, supports the nearly $1.8 billion budget the Senate Appropriations Committee has approved in its version of the fiscal 2021 spending bill. That’s about $120 million more than what the agency requested, and would go toward mitigating delays caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The annual defense policy bill may have an easier time making it into law now that some legislators are willing to slow the renaming of military bases. The Congressional Black Caucus says it will accept a three-year timeline in changing the names of military bases dedicated to Confederates. That could grease the wheels for the 2021 defense authorization bill, which OKs more than $740 billion for the military. Renaming the bases was a hang up for some lawmakers and changing the timeline from one year to three may sweeten the deal. President Donald Trump as still threatened to veto the bill if it has any language changing the names of the military installations.
The Pentagon says it will open its doors to President-Elect Biden’s transition team “immediately.” That’s after GSA Administrator Emily Murphy signed a long-awaited order yesterday evening authorizing the use of government resources for the incoming administration. DoD says it began talks with the Biden team last night, and will work with them through a new “transition task force.”
Two former federal employees got prison time for selling millions of dollars in sensitive military equipment on eBay. The Justice Department says the two former Texas National Guard employees stole more than $2.4 million worth of equipment from a military base in Austin over the course of three years. The gear included items like laser gunsights and night vision goggles. Each plead guilty to one count of theft of government property. A federal judge sentenced Joseph Mora, a former program analyst to three years in prison. Cristal Avila, a former guardsman, will get two years. Both are responsible for paying restitution to the government for the equipment they stole.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration produces all of the weather data, but now it’s buying commercial data. NOAA inked an indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity contract with two commercial space companies worth up to $23 million. GeoOptics and Spire Global will supply data derived from radio occultation, a way of measuring properties of the atmosphere by how it refracts radio signals. It’s part of a Congressionally mandated plan for NOAA to purchase more and more types of data from commercial sources.
The Air Force says it will sign off on a basic structure for the Space Force’s Space Systems Command in about a month. The service hopes the command will be up and running by next summer. Space Systems Command will act much like Air Force Materiel Command in that it will oversee assets during their whole life cycle. Space Systems Command will be one of three organizations within the Space Force. The others will oversee training and operations.
The State Department is recognizing members of the Foreign Service and their family members for volunteer work overseas. Recipients of this year’s Secretary of State Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad organized triathlons in Islamabad, raised money for refugees in Jordan, and rescued marine wildlife in Gabon. Another award recipient created a smartphone app designed to help consular personnel stay within the green zone in Mexico City. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo says the awardees went above and beyond to give back to their communities.
Federal employees impacted by the recent wildfires in Oregon now have access to an emergency leave transfer program. Federal employees can donate unused annual leave to their colleagues affected by the wildfires. Impacted employees must apply through their agencies to receive donated leave. It’s up to each agency to figure out who needs additional leave and who has leave to donate. The Office of Personnel Management says it will help coordinate the transfer of leave among federal agencies.