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President Joe Biden has a new message for federal employees during Public Service Recognition Week. Biden says his administration will shed light on public servants’ accomplishments this week and beyond. He says it’s the policy of his administration to protect, empower and rebuild the career federal workforce. And he described it as an honor of a lifetime to serve alongside dedicated public servants. Public Service Recognition Week started yesterday and runs through Saturday.
Senators are growing frustrated with the workarounds the Social Security Administration implemented for the pandemic. SSA field offices are mostly closed to the public. It’s moved some services online. But Democrats and Republicans say vulnerable populations are having a tough time accessing SSA during the pandemic. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) says “I know this has been a hard, hard time for you and your workforce. But I am getting inundated with constituents who’ve got really heartbreaking stories.” SSA says it’ll slowly start to bring more employees back to work in-person. (Federal News Network)
Both Democrats and Republicans want to know how the Department of Veterans Affairs is using the extra funds it got through the American Rescue Plan. Congress gave VA $17 billion through the last COVID-19 relief package. The top two Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate VA committees say they want a better account of how VA is spending it. They’ve introduced the VA Transparency and Trust Act. The bill would require VA to regularly inform Congress about its expenses. It would also require the VA inspector general and Government Accountability Office to audit VA spending under the American Rescue Plan.
The National Science Foundation is leading a public-private partnership to figure out what comes next after 5G. NSF, the Defense Department, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and leading private sector technology firms are investing $40 million into the Resilient and Intelligent Next-Generation Systems program, or RINGS. RINGS seeks to accelerate research in areas with potentially significant impact on Next-Generation networking and computing systems. NextG systems are future versions of today’s cellular, Wi-Fi and satellite networks.
Some new advice for how federal agencies on dealing with a persistent and potent cybersecurity threat. A private ransomware task force, convened by the Institute for Security and Technology, recommends a federal interagency working group under the National Security Council, and a federal joint ransomware task force. As well as what it calls a ransomware threat focus hub to combine industry and government. The group says the government should tighten cryptocurrency regulations. Task force members included former State Department cyber coordinator Chris Painter and former White House cyber official Michael Daniel.
The Department of Homeland Security is naming longtime IT official Mike Horton as its next chief data officer. He’ll take over the job from acting CDO Carlene Ileto. Horton has worked for DHS since 2005, and has served as its chief information officer and as a senior adviser for the department. The Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act passed in 2019 requires all agencies to name a chief data officer.
Six cabinet level agencies still must fill their top technology leadership roles. When the Biden administration names new chief information officers at the departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, HUD, Transportation, Energy and OPM, the new executives will get some immediate help from the CIO Council. The council released a new handbook for CIOs, deputy CIOs and any other senior technology manager no matter if they are new to the government or have worked in the federal sector for 20 years. The handbook is a collection of resources ranging from legal and policy responsibilities around IT management, workforce and security to oversight and reporting requirements to Congress and OMB.
The State Department’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer outlines her priorities for the job. “We’ve got to restore trust, and that means making visible progress.” The State Department’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer, former ambassador Gina Abercrombie-Winstanley, says that’s her top priority in this new role. In an interview, she says she’ll also identify choke points in the Foreign Service that prevent a diverse pool of talent from moving up the ranks. The Government Accountability Office has flagged a lack of diversity in State’s leadership positions in multiple reports over the past 30 years. (Federal News Network)
The Coast Guard is working to increase diversity within its ranks and wants a quarter of the service to be women. The Coast Guard also wants 35% of its employees to be minorities. Coast Guard Commandant Admiral Karl Schultz says the service is implementing recommendations from the RAND Corporation on women and from a diversity and inclusion report. The service has commissioned a report on recruiting and retaining minorities, which will be finished in July. (Federal News Network)
An investigation into a female Army soldier who was sexually harassed and murdered last year shows major issues with leadership. The Army report on Specialist Vanessa Guillén’s harassment and death paints a picture of an absent leadership within the Army’s Third Cavalry Regiment. The investigators found that Guillén’s leaders failed to take appropriate action regarding the sexual harassment and that she was operating in an intimidating and hostile environment. The report says Army leaders failed to take corrective actions as well. The investigation is more fodder for those who advocate taking the prosecution of sex crimes out of the chain of command. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department is still the only agency keeping the U.S. government from having a fully-audited balance sheet. The soonest that could change: 2028. Even though it’s a long time from now, the new projection is the first time the Pentagon has been willing to hazard a guess as to when it will get a clean opinion on its sprawling financial statements. Defense officials tell Congress it’s not a guarantee, but the 2028 timeframe lines up with the schedule for financial managers to fix their audit weaknesses. And after three years of full-scale financial audits, they feel confident that auditors have found all of the biggest problems that need to be corrected. (Federal News Network)