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Most federal employees will have the day off tomorrow to observe the newest federal holiday Juneteenth. President Joe Biden has signed the legislation declaring it a holiday. The Office of Personnel Management says since the date falls on a Saturday this year, agencies will be observing it on Friday. This is the first federal holiday created since 1983, when Martin Luther King day was declared one. (Federal News Network)
Top House Republicans want to know why the administration granted ethics waivers to two political appointees at the Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget. Alethea Predeoux is OPM’s congressional and legislative affairs director. She previously worked for the American Federation of Government Employees. Celeste Drake is the new Made in America director at OMB. She was a policy specialist for the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations. Republicans say these appointees will have too much interaction with their former union employers.
An ongoing drama between the Social Security Administration and the union of its administrative law judges enters a new act. The agency gave in to a federal arbitrator’s order. It agreed to start over with new negotiations for a new labor contract with the judges. The union called the move a monumental victory. President Melissa McIntosh promised the union will bargain in good faith. One sticking point was what the judges call union-busting decisions by a Trump-era impasses panel, decisions which SSA can no longer enforce.
The Department of Veterans Affairs defended the largest proposed budget request ever for the agency. The Biden administration is asking for $270 billion for VA next year. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said that’s mostly due to pent up demand from veterans during the pandemic. Appointments at VA were up nearly 80% between March and May of this year, compared to the same period in 2020. The demand for community care is growing too. McDonough said high demand is also driving VA’s staffing request. VA recorded nearly 32,000 vacancies earlier this year. (Federal News Network)
The Space Force is undertaking a handful of pilots to ensure it becomes the nation’s first digital service. Service officials said the military branch is using artificial intelligence to work through resumes quickly. The Space Force is also holding its service members to a higher standard of cyber literacy and creating digital environments where government and industry can collaborate. (Federal News Network)
The Space Force hopes to advance its future technology by having lower level officers develop responsible artificial intelligence. The goal is to have O-3 officers eventually train algorithms instead of second lieutenants. Strategic advisor Reb Butler said each airman in the Space Force has access to courses on things like artificial intelligence, machine learning and digital product management. Over 30% of the force has already completed the initial coursework.
The Pentagon is finalizing a proposal for establishing a space-focused branch of the National Guard. General John Raymond, chief of space operations, said the report is complete, but awaiting a final review from the office of the secretary of defense. The Congressional Budget Office estimated creating a Space National Guard consisting of 1,500 personnel would cost about $100 million dollars annually.
NASA launches a new effort to review agency programs and see what barriers exist for historically underrepresented communities. The new initiative, called Mission Equity, will rely on public feedback to see how agency resources can help promote equity and environmental justice. NASA issued a request for information with a deadline of July 12th. The agency would like to receive comments about diversity in the STEM community, gaps to accessing NASA grants and outreach with marginalized communities.
Just in time for the upcoming deadline to modernize agency networks, NIST is releasing new security guidance. It’s been 12 years since the National Institute of Standards and Technology last updated its security guidance for Internet Protocol version 6 or IPv6. But with OMB’s 2025 deadline to move 80% of all IP based devices looming, NIST is publishing new guidance, developing test beds and a new best practices guide to help agencies successfully move to the network protocol. NIST’s Doug Montgomery said a lot has changed since 2009 and a security guide refresh will help agencies ask the right questions and map to the risk management framework.
Three key federal leaders are one step closer to sitting behind their desks at their respective agencies. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved by voice vote the nominations of Robin Carnahan to be the administrator of the General Services Administration; Chris Inglis to be the National Cyber Director at the White House and Jen Easterly to be the Director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS. The final step is for the full Senate to vote on these nominations.
The Transportation Security Administration is updating a cybersecurity directive for pipeline operators in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline hack. After the ransomware attack in May, TSA issued a requirement for pipelines to report cyber incidents to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Now TSA is working on a follow-up directive with more detailed measures to reduce the likelihood and impact of similar cyber attacks. TSA pipeline security inspectors also recently completed cybersecurity training at Idaho National Lab. The agency is facing pressure to improve its cybersecurity oversight following the Colonial hack.