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The Government Accountability Office has a tough assessment of the inspector general’s office at the Department of Homeland Security. GAO said the IG isn’t well-positioned to carry out its oversight duties. The OIG is taking longer to finish oversight reports in recent years. It also lacks clear procedures for working with DHS subcomponents to receive and respond to technical comments and accept feedback. DHS officials tell GAO they don’t have confidence in the IG to correct factual errors before publishing reports. The DHS IG said it’s finishing a new strategic plan that it believes will address these problems.
Trust in the Department of Veterans Affairs is up 24% in the last five years. 80% of men say they trust VA, compared to 74% of female veterans. And 92% of White, Asian and Hispanic or Latino veterans say they trust VA, compared with 90% of Black veterans. VA started a concerted effort to survey veterans about their experiences with the department back in 2016. VA now has 85 surveys and feedback from over 6 million veterans. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Commerce announced that $1 billion in grants will be used by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration to expand broadband access on Tribal land. The funding is part of the American Jobs Plan to make affordable high-speed internet available to all Americans. Native American, Alaska Native and Native Hawaiian entities will be eligible for the grants.
The Navy is launching a series of initiatives to increase student internship participation from Historically Black Colleges and Universities. The new programs include a Summer Bridget Boot Camp where incoming freshman can take a 5-week intensive course load of science and technology classes. Another initiative offers virtual internships with Naval Sea Systems Command and the Bureau of Medicine and Surgery. The Navy is also offering a distinguished fellows program that will provide six researchers with a salary for three years to work on Navy-relevant research.
The Pentagon has its first-ever comprehensive strategy for Joint All-Domain Command and Control. DoD officials said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s signature puts new teeth into the plan to connect the military weapons systems with machine learning and artificial intelligence in ways that use common standards. The JADC2 strategy is classified, for now, but officials say they’re preparing an unclassified version that should be ready for public release soon. (Federal News Network)
The Department of the Air Force is revisiting the idea of using rockets to deliver goods quickly around the globe. Imagine being able to send 100 tons of cargo or even human beings anywhere on the planet in under an hour. The Air and Space Forces think it might be possible with the current technologies and maturation of space industry. The services are planning on working with companies like SpaceX and others to find ways to send rockets into space and have them land safely at ports or even in austere environments. The idea has been around for a while, but the Air Force thinks the technology is advanced enough and that the cost point is low enough to actually make it work. (Federal News Network)
The Internal Revenue Service is sending nearly 3 million refunds to taxpayers who paid taxes on their unemployment benefits. The IRS is giving the refunds after the most recent COVID relief bill, the American Rescue Plan, excluded up to $10 thousand in these benefits from taxable income. That’s just the start of the refunds. The agency said it identified up to 13 million taxpayers eligible for a refund.
A bill in the Senate aims to make customer experience a full-time job within the federal government. The Trust in Public Service Act would create a first of its kind U.S. Chief Customer Experience Officer within the Office of Management and Budget. Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and James Lankford (R-Okla.) introduced the bill. The bill also sets standards for agencies communications with the public. The bill stands up a federal advisory commission to oversee this work, and requires regular reviews from the Government Accountability Office.
The Federal Communications Commission will work with the Australian Communications and Media Authority to deal with illegal robocalls, robotexts and “spoofing.” The agreement is part of a global approach to cracking down on unsolicited communications, especially where cross-border issues are involved. The FCC and ACMA will be exchanging information to help enforce anti-robocalling and spoofing laws.