Two agencies launch 100-day effort to improve cyber protections for electrical infrastructure

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  • The Energy Department and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency are leading a new 100-day effort to improve the cybersecurity of the electric infrastructure. The White House said Energy and CISA will work with private sector providers and experts to develop aggressive but achievable milestones that will assist owners and operators in modernizing cyber defenses, including enhancing detection, mitigation and forensic capabilities. This new initiative is the latest of several over the last decade, including one in 2019 where Energy invested $28 million in research and development of next-generation technologies to improve the cyber resiliency of the electric grid.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is telling federal IT officials to fix yet another large-scale cyber vulnerability by the end of this week. CISA issued an emergency directive last night, telling agencies to find and patch any instances of Pulse Secure Connect they have running on their networks. Unpatched versions of that VPN product include security flaws that could let hackers get access to federal networks.
  • The House passed a bill that directs the State Department to stand up a new bureau focused on international norms for cybersecurity. The Cyber Diplomacy Act requires the department to create a Bureau of International Cyberspace Policy, led by an ambassador with the same rank and status as an assistant secretary of state. Rep. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), one of the bill’s sponsors, said the bill would give the department the tools needed to identify, attribute and respond to cyber incidents more quickly.
  • House Democrats are targeting long-term vacancies for agency inspector general jobs. The IG Independence and Empowerment Act would require the president to notify Congress if they haven’t nominated an IG within 210 days of a position becoming vacant. There are more than a dozen agency IG vacancies without a presidential nominee. The CIA hasn’t had a permanent inspector general in more than six years. The Defense Department and Office of Personnel Management haven’t had permanent watchdogs on the job in more than five years. (Federal News Network)
  • The Interior Department’s “Bob” is the latest in a growing move toward bots. NASA started with George Washington. GSA launched Truman. Now the Interior Department has Bob. Bob is Interior’s first robotics process automation effort to automate and relieve the burden of performing contract close out processes. Over the last year, Bob, the bot, went from a pilot project to full production after a quick success. Now Interior is looking to expand the use of bots across other business and mission lines. The agency also is starting to pilot different artificial intelligence tools and blockchain software to continue to move employees away from tedious, low value work.
  • The FBI is the latest agency to name a new chief diversity officer. Longtime FBI special agent Scott McMillion will lead the bureau’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion. The FBI created that office back in 2012. But it’s the first time the bureau has a designated chief diversity officer. McMillion started his career at the FBI back in 1998 and has had several roles since. He led the bureau’s Black Affairs Diversity Committee. The committee created programs to improve minority recruitment, retention and engagement at the FBI.
  • The FBI is also expanding its footprint in Huntsville, Alabama. The bureau said it’ll streamline training programs and consolidate some operations through two new campuses at the Redstone Arsenal. At least six buildings are in the design stage or are under construction today. They’ll eventually accommodate 3,400 FBI employees and will provide training to 2,000 more by 2025 or 2026. The FBI has almost 900 employees who work in Huntsville today. The bureau said the new campus will also bring in new talent from the region.  (Federal News Network)
  • Coronavirus is still taking a toll on military medicine. The Defense Health Program, which provides medical care for nearly 10 million people, is facing a $673 million deficit. The Defense Department’s top medical official said that number will balloon to more than $1.8 billion by the end of the year. It could be even bigger than that after DoD assesses how much it’s joint COVID responses with FEMA will cost. The shortfalls stemmed from extra cleaning and protective gear used during the pandemic. DoD said it’s looking internally to make up the deficit. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department is prepared to increase the number of COVID-19 vaccination doses overseas. The Pentagon said it expects to receive nearly 400,000 vaccines a week, more than double the current amount. The influx in shots will help DoD ship more vaccines to inoculation sites in 35 counties. The vaccines will go to lower priority DoD-related beneficiaries in about 90 military treatment facilities outside of the U.S.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs’ financial management system replacement project got its temperature taken, and it’s a bit under the weather. It might sound ironic, but the VA’s financial system project would benefit from better cost and schedule estimates. The work, to replace a 30-year-old core system, started in 2016. Limited implementation at the National Cemetery Administration started last November. But VA said the project won’t be finished until late 2027. Government Accountability Office auditors credit VA with some good IT management practices, but say that timeline, and the $3 billion cost estimate, are both suspect.

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