To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
Two House lawmakers want to close what they call are loop holes for senior government officials when they leave federal service for the private sector. Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), the chairwoman of the Oversight and Reform Committee, and Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) introduced the Executive Branch Conflict of Interest Act and included it in a major reform bill called the For the People Act. The conflict of interest bill would address four areas of concern, including strengthening restrictions prohibiting former federal contracting officials from joining a private sector firm after participating in a contract award to that company. It also would prohibit senior government officials from lobbying the agencies they worked at for two years after they leave federal employment, instead of the current one year.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is beginning to administer COVID-19 vaccines to employees at the Department of Homeland Security. VA said it’s part of an inter-agency agreement that allows the department to provide reimbursable services to DHS. DHS employees near one of eight approved VA medical centers began visiting the hospitals last week to receive the vaccine. VA said it plans to eventually expand the number of vaccination sites for DHS employees.
IT systems used for the 2020 Census lacked fundamental security safeguards before March 2020, when the Census Bureau started collecting household responses. That’s according to an audit from the Commerce Department’s inspector general. The IG didn’t determine whether or not census data was compromised, but did find that the vulnerability put the bureau at greater risk of a cyberattack. The bureau is still processing 2020 census data, but a separate IG report found that two recent political appointees have made a data report on noncitizens in the U.S. a top priority for employees.
The White House stood up a new office focused on governmentwide policy for artificial intelligence. Deputy U.S. Chief Technology Officer Lynne Parker will lead the National AI Initiative Office. The office will oversee work on a national AI strategy and serve as a research and policy hub between federal agencies, industry and academia. This office stems from the National AI Intelligence Initiative Act, which passed as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. This new office also builds off an executive order President Donald Trump signed last month promoting the use of trustworthy AI algorithms at federal agencies.
When it comes to technology innovation, the government isn’t trailing the private sector like it used to. Whether it’s robotics process automation or advanced data analytics, the innovation gap between agencies and commercial companies has closed substantially. A new survey of agency chief information officers by the Professional Services Council and Attain found respondents believe they are getting better at adopting new technologies, especially those that help the workforce delivery on mission and citizen services. The CIOs said part of the reason is the use of innovative procurement approaches like OTAs and contests. Another reason CIOs pointed to is the relationship with industry is as good or better than ever.
The Office of Personnel Management has a new searchable collection of all agency guidance on its website. The index is part of an effort to comply with a 2019 executive order that required all agencies to create searchable lists of guidance documents and post them to their websites. Many other agencies are already in compliance with the executive order. The Defense, Justice, Labor, and State Departments have online collections of guidance documents. The Department of Health and Human Services, and Environmental Protection Agency also have guidance repositories.
The Trump administration explained what’s guiding some upcoming changes to an outdated security clearance process. The Office of Personnel Management is out with a new personnel vetting doctrine. It explains the philosophies behind a series of changes the administration is making to the suitability, credentialing, and security clearance process. Changes include allowing clearance holders to more easily go back and forth between government and the private sector, and communicating more regularly with employees and contractors about the status of their background investigations. (Federal News Network)
The office in charge of managing the Pentagon’s budget gets a big, new role in overseeing its business reforms. It’s the Pentagon’s response to a congressional decision to eliminate the Defense Department’s chief management officer. The CMO functions dealing with business process improvement will mostly be reallocated to the DoD comptroller — the office in charge of building and managing the Pentagon’s more than $700 billion budget. The law that disestablished the CMO gave DoD a full year to decide on how to reallocate that office’s previous responsibilities, but the outgoing administration decided to act within 11 days of the law’s passage. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department is launching a limited program that is aimed at decreasing stress across the military community. The My MilLife Guide will send text messages to those who sign up. The text messages will help users set small goals and complete them. Topics covered over the eight-week program will include self-care, getting support, strengthening relationships, and sleeping more soundly. Members of the military community can sign up for the program by texting “MilLife SM” or “MilLife Spouse” to GOV311.
Senators will have a tough decision to make regarding President-elect Joe Biden’s pick for Defense secretary. Three senators on the Senate Armed Services Committee already say they will not vote for a waiver to allow a recently retired general to lead the Pentagon. Federal law states a service member must be seven years removed from the military before serving as defense secretary. Biden’s pick, Lloyd Austin, left the military in 2016 and needs a waiver to hold the position. Experts told the senate committee that lawmakers may be setting a dangerous precedent by granting a waiver to a second general in five years. Lawmakers were told that another military leader will further erode civilian authority in the Pentagon. (Federal News Network)