Two large government conference organizers suffer data breach

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  • At least two large government conference organizers are warning past attendees that their information may have been stolen in a recent data breach. AFCEA and the U.S. Geospatial Intelligence Foundation both sent email notifications saying the third party vendor they use for conference registration was the victim of a ransomware attack. That company, SPARGO, Inc., appears to have had data like names, addresses and phone numbers taken from its database. The breach doesn’t appear to have involved more sensitive data like credit card numbers or passwords.
  • The top two leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee are calling on President Biden to prioritize vaccines for employees at the National Personnel Records Center. Senators Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) say veterans are struggling to get the personnel and military records they need to access the health and burial benefits. That’s because the National Personnel Records Center has been closed for much of the pandemic. NARA employees are working remotely and processing some records requests on an emergency basis. But senators say this isn’t enough to keep up with a growing backlog of records requests. They say VA Secretary Denis McDonough has promised to set aside vaccines for NARA employees from the department’s allotment.
  • Congress is concerned about vaccine refusal at the Federal Bureau of Prisons. BOP says it offered the COVID-19 vaccine to all of its employees. But 49% took the agency up on its offer. Maryland Congressman Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.). “It seems to me there’s got to be a way to change that number, because if the guards aren’t being protected then the inmates aren’t being protected.” BOP says it can’t require employees to take the vaccine since the Food and Drug Administration hasn’t formally approved them yet. (Federal News Network)
  • There’s Congressional concern about the loss of federal scientists. Chairman of the House Science, Space, and Technology Oversight and Investigations subcommittee Bill Foster (D-Ill.) points out that the Environmental Protection Agency workforce has declined by 16% since 2009. Staffing levels also declined or stagnated at other federal science agencies as well, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention lost 187 scientific staff before the pandemic. (Federal News Network)
  • A reintroduced bicameral bill would allow federal firefighters to trade shifts without it affecting their pay or using annual leave. The Federal Firefighter Flexibility and Fairness Act would fix what supporters say is a longstanding disparity between federal firefighters and other local fire departments. Right now, federal firefighters can trade shifts, but if they trade into a different pay period, it can affect how much they’ll be compensated.
  • The IRS is asking for industry feedback on its plans to have one vendor manage more than a dozen of its IT systems. The agency estimates its Enterprise Development Operation Services proposal could take up to seven years, and the contract award will have a ceiling of $2.6 billion. The vendor would also be tasked with operating and upgrading IRS systems such as its Integrated Financial System and its Return Review Program.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is one step closer to having more threat visibility. Acting CISA Director Brandon Wales said the agency is finalizing the procedures and training behind its new administrative subpoena authority. Congress granted this authority in the latest National Defense Authorization Act. He says CISA will begin using this capability starting in about two months. The subpoena authority allows CISA to reach out to internet service providers and make contact with the system owners whose internet-facing systems are at risk. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is giving female soldiers more time to get in shape after they give birth. Until now, moms were expected to meet the Army’s weight and physical fitness standards within six months of having a baby. Under the new policy, they’ll have a full year. Women who’ve already had their records flagged for being out of compliance with those standards will have them removed, as long as they’re still within the new one-year timeframe. The changes apply to both the active duty force and the Army Reserve.
  • The Army is coming out with the third iteration of its fitness test in recent years. It’s hoping this one sticks. Starting in April, soldiers will be taking a new fitness test to prove their readiness for service. The test allows soldiers to perform planks or leg tucks to test core strength. Leg tucks involve hanging from a chin-up bar and bringing knees to elbows. The baseline score of the test is gender neutral, however, the tiered model takes into account differences between the two genders.
  • Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) and Mark Warner (D-Va.) are calling on the Defense Department to develop concrete steps to tackle military family hunger. The two senators sent a letter to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asking DoD to consider engagement strategies with organizations addressing hunger and service member issues. They also asked that DoD look into reasons why servicemembers might be ineligible for nutrition assistance programs. Congress is still waiting on a report from DoD on military hunger.
  • The Census Bureau gave an early peek at the one data set that can change the course of the nation. Voters and politicians can both preview what the Bureau calls an interactive apportionment map that shows how the congressional districts might be divided up according to the results of the 2020 national nose-count. But you won’t be able to see them just yet. Census, partly because of the pandemic, hasn’t delivered the results of the 2020 count. That’s supposed to occur April 30. Meantime, the map shows districts in the century leading up to the 2010 count.

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