CISA looking to use new personnel system to hire more cyber workers

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  • The much-anticipated Cyber Talent Management System at the Department of Homeland Security may finally be ready. After receiving congressional authorization in 2014, DHS is expected to roll out the new personnel system for hiring cybersecurity workers this fall. Brandon Wales, the acting director of Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, told Senate lawmakers that his organization will be first in line to use it. CISA already has hired more people in the first six months of 2021 than it did in the last two years combined.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs made hiring gains during the pandemic. But it lost plenty of employees too. The Veterans Health Administration hired over 45,000 new employees in 2020, but lost over 31,000 people last year. VHA has long struggled to fill vacancies over the years but found some success during the pandemic. COVID-19 also created two spikes in employee absenteeism, one in mid-July and another in December. Over 6,000 employees, or 1.6% of the VHA workforce, were unavailable to work late last December because of staff illnesses.
  • The House Oversight and Reform Committee moves on its latest postal reform legislation. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member James Comer (R-Ky.) introduced the 2021 Postal Service Reform Act ahead of a markup meeting this Thursday. A discussion draft of the bill has been floating around since February. The bill eliminates a 2006 mandate for USPS to prefund retiree health benefits well into the future. It would require Medicare Part B enrollment for future postal retirees, and would require USPS to stand up an online, publicly available dashboard to track service performance. (Federal News Network)
  • A federal appeals court overturned a ruling from a Merit Systems Protection Board administrative judge. The court agreed with the Office of Special Counsel and ultimately the MSPB that one of the board’s administrative judges improperly ignored pieces of federal whistleblower law when ruling on a case from a Veterans Affairs employee. The appeals court remanded pieces of the ruling back to the board and asked the MSPB to assign a new judge to the case. OSC says the original MSPB ruling could have had precedential consequences for federal employees had it stayed. (Federal News Network)
  • A former VA nursing assistant got seven life sentences for murdering patients at a West Virginia hospital. Reta Mays plead guilty last year to intentionally administering fatal overdoses of insulin to seven elderly veterans. She’d previously told VA investigators she had no involvement in the patients’ deaths. Prosecutors have said there were as many as 20 suspicious deaths at the facility during the time Mays worked there, but weren’t sure they could prove her involvement in the other cases. A VA inspector general report released just after her sentencing blamed serious administrative failures for not detecting Mays’ actions sooner. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department may face new pressure to eliminate the long waiting lists for child care on military bases. 30 members of Congress are backing new legislation that would tell the military services to set up new public-private partnerships to increase staffing in their child development centers. It would also expand financial aid for service members who need in-home childcare. The Military Child Care Expansion Act would also set aside up to $25-million to build new facilities.
  • The Army is investing in a technology that could help slow the leading cause of combat deaths. Blood loss is the number one cause of combat deaths for soldiers. Now the Army Research Laboratory is investing in a new technology called StatBond, which it hopes will stop bleeding in hard-to-reach and hard-to-treat areas like the neck and groin. The experimental product is a gel that seeps into a wound to stop bleeding. It stays in a gel form, instead of hardening, in order to make it easier for surgeons to wipe it away and get to work. The Army thinks StatBond will be available for Army and civilian physicians by 2022 and in the hands of soldiers by 2025. (Federal News Network)
  • Starting in June, about a quarter of a million Navy personnel will gain access to a single Microsoft Office 365 collaboration and productivity environment called Flank Speed. The environment will provide new tools and improve security. Users will have access to Microsoft Teams and one terabyte of OneDrive cloud storage. The Navy plans to transition nearly half a million employees by the end of 2021.
  • The IRS needs more than just money to shrink a growing tax gap. Former IRS Commissioner Charles Rossotti says the agency needs better data, in addition to staffing up its enforcement operations. A study he led last year shows giving the IRS more third-party data from banks and financial institutions would significantly increase the compliance rate. Former National Taxpayer Nina Olson says the agency also needs to staff up to answer questions from taxpayers looking to pay what they owe. (Federal News Network)
  • It took 231 years for the U.S. to grant 10 million patents, and just three years for the next million. Yesterday the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted patent number 11 million, after granting number 10 million in 2018. USPTO celebrated that milestone with ceremonies and a redesigned patent cover. Acting director Drew Hirshfeld called the latest total an incredible achievement for the agency, the nation and the world. Number 11 million went to inventors of an innovative heart valve implant.
  • The governmentwide telecommunications and network modernization effort is picking up steam. The Departments of Transportation and Homeland Security, as well as the Navy Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, are on to the next stage of their IT modernization efforts. All three now have awarded a task order under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) program run by the General Services Administration. Transportation awarded a $175 million task order to AT&T. The vendor will provide DoT an IP-based platform for all communications. The Navy JAG awarded Lumen a $12 million EIS task order for software-defined network services. Finally, the Government Accountability Office upheld DHS’s $300 million EIS award to AT&T after a Verizon protest.
  • Andrea Palm was confirmed as the Department of Health and Human Services next deputy secretary. Palm previously headed Wisconsin’s Department of Health Services. She was also HHS Chief of Staff during the Obama Administration. The Senate voted 61-to-37 to confirm her, with Wisconsin’s two senators split on the vote.

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