GAO: More urgency is needed to fix cybersecurity issues in agencies

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  • The Government Accountability Office says agencies need to move with more urgency on cybersecurity. GAO says the SolarWinds hack demonstrates the vulnerabilities that keep cybersecurity on the high risk list. One step GAO recommends toward resolving this is filling the new National Cyber Director position created in January. But existing risks go far beyond that. GAO made 145 recommendations to agencies around supply chain management alone.
  • More than 25 transparency-focused organizations sent Congress a list of Defense programs that they deem wasteful. Eliminating or downsizing the programs could save the Pentagon $80 billion, according to groups like the Project on Government Oversight and the Center for International Policy. The list includes canceling future F-35 purchases. The groups say the F-35 is flawed and has been a sinkhole for Defense funds. Another option is to cancel the B-1 Bomber, which would save nearly $2 billion.
  • The Defense Department has failed to address its sexual assault problem for decades. A new commission thinks it will actually create some change. Lynn Rosenthal, who is leading the Pentagon’s commission on sexual assault, says she wants this to be the last commission on sexual assault. The military has been given hundreds of recommendations over the years, but the sexual assault epidemic continues to worsen. Rosenthal says this commission brings something new. Rosenthal said, “We’ll be asking is what hasn’t been tried. What happens in civilian society that is a best practice that we could try on the military side?” The commission’s 13 members will submit their report in the coming months. (Federal News Network)
  • An investigation found the Navy’s former top auditor spent more than two decades sexually harassing female subordinates. The Pentagon’s inspector general found Ronnie Booth, the Navy’s former auditor general, engaged in what the IG called a “pervasive and egregious pattern” of harassment. Investigators concluded he targeted at least a dozen female subordinates, and asked for sexual favors from at least four of them in exchange for helping their careers. Booth denies the charges. He retired in late 2019, shortly after the investigation began.
  • A bill to reform GSA’s leasing and purchasing guidelines returned to the Senate. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) reintroduced a bill which he says will save the federal government money on leasing and which encourages the General Services Administration to shift from leased to owned properties when it’s cheaper. Lankford says GSA is currently not allowed to include a purchase agreement as part of a long-term lease, which could give the option to buy the building if it costs less than to keep renting. The bill is just over a page long and amends federal leasing code to give GSA that option.
  • Justice Department Inspector General Michael Horowitz has some suggestions for how the Bureau of Prisons can address its staffing challenges. He told the House Appropriations Committee that BOP should start by determining the needs at each institution, rather than across the enterprise. He said BOP should then tell appropriators how much funding each institution needs to address these shortages. Finally, he said BOP should proactively plan for future vacancies, rather than waiting for them to occur.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs officially has the legal authority it needs to vaccinate all veterans and their spouses and caregivers. President Biden signed the SAVE Lives Act into law. VA gets about 200,000 COVID-19 doses each week today. But it’ll need about 600,000 weekly doses to vaccinate about 33-million people covered under the new law. Secretary Denis McDonough says select VA medical centers will serve as pilot sites for implementing the SAVE Lives Act. These VA hospitals will test communication plans, staffing models and registration models over the next month.
  • Agencies hope to make some pandemic workforce policies permanent. And the Office of Personnel Management wants to help. OPM is developing new guidance on telework, remote work and other workforce flexibilities. The agency says it’s reviewing current laws and regulations and best practices from agencies over the last year. OPM didn’t give a timeline for the guidance, but it acknowledged the COVID-19 vaccine supply is expanding and more federal employees may receive it and look for their offices to reopen. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Management and Budget is rescinding an 11th-hour memo from former President Donald Trump that suspended requirements for agencies to set strategic planning goals as part of the annual budget process. OMB sets June 4 as the deadline for agencies to submit strategic plans and agency priority goals. OMB Acting Director Robert Fairweather says the Biden administration will fold those priorities into its 2023 budget request and President’s Management Agenda. (Federal News Network)
  • A billion dollars for the Technology Modernization Fund opens the door to multi-agency IT projects. “This is really the put-up-or-shut-up moment,” said Matthew Cornelius, executive director of the Alliance for Digital Innovation, who added that’s how the Biden administration should look at the new pot of money for IT modernization. It’s leading nine other industry associations calling on the TMF board to fund projects that fix IT problems made more urgent during the COVID-19 pandemic. Those include identity management projects to support long-term telework and secure data sharing between agencies. The associations also call on the General Services Administration to staff up the board that manages the TMF and include more input from industry. (Federal News Network)
  • The Federal Labor Relations Authority at last has someone who can prosecute unfair labor practice charges, at least on an acting basis. President Biden named Charlotte Dye as the authority’s acting general counsel. She’s worked for the FLRA for nearly 30 years and most recently served as deputy general counsel. The FLRA hasn’t had a permanent general counsel for over four years. The two largest federal employee unions both praised the president’s decision. It means the FLRA can begin to address a long backlog of pending unfair labor practice appeals and complaint recommendations. (Federal News Network)

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