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Chris Inglis is in, Jen Easterly is on hold, leaving the government with a hole in its cyber leadership. The Senate approved Inglis as the new White House Cyber Director yesterday, filling a position created by Congress in late 2020. But Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) placed a hold on Easterly’s nomination to be the director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency in DHS. Scott said the hold has nothing to do with Easterly’s qualifications. The Florida Republican will hold all DHS nominees until the President visits the border.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is looking at how it can better defend critical infrastructure in the wake of the Colonial Pipeline ransomware event. Lawmakers are questioning whether CISA is doing enough to work with critical infrastructure operators after the Colonial attack. But CISA officials said more organizations are coming to them for their cyber expertise. For instance, they saw a 400 percent jump in the views on their online ransomware guide in the week after the Colonial intrusion. Still, CISA officials admit they could always do more to bolster their outreach to the private sector. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Homeland Security is building a new IT infrastructure to manage information about domestic terrorism. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the system will be used to share information with state, local, tribal and territorial entities. DHS has also established a Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships to combat domestic violent extremism, as well as a new domestic terrorism branch within the Office of Intelligence and Analysis. The Biden administration recently launched a first-of-its-kind National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism.
The Navy has a retention problem when it comes to the officers who help lead its surface ships. The Government Accountability Office said members of the surface warfare officer community are unusually likely to leave the Navy early in their careers. The problem is especially acute for female sailors. GAO said the Navy needs to do more to create specialized career and training pathways. In surveys, nearly two-thirds of surface warfare officers said they’d be better prepared for Navy careers if the surface fleet had more specialization.
Military service members will soon be able to hold the Pentagon accountable for medical malpractice. Starting in mid-July, service members will be able to file claims against the military for mishandled medical treatment. The policy change stems from a law passed by Congress about a year and a half ago. At last check, about 227 troops had filed malpractice claims against the military, totaling a potential $2.2 billion. There is no judicial review for the claims; the policy states that all determinations by the Defense Department are final.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says it will restart examining lenders that may be taking advantage of military service members. The CFPB said it will continue enforcing the Military Lending Act, which limits interest rates on service member loans to 36%. The Trump administration stopped monitoring for violations in 20-18.
The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said he’s considering systematic changes to make sure the military keeps closer tabs on its firearms. The interest in small arms accountability follows an Associated Press investigation that found at least 1,900 weapons were lost or stolen from the military services over the past decade. Gen. Mark Milley said the Pentagon is taking the report seriously. “I was frankly shocked by the numbers that were in there. The reports I have from the services are significantly less than are reported in the media. So I need to square the balance here, and I owe you a firm answer,” Milley said while testifying before Congress yesterday. DoD used to send lawmakers regular reports on missing and stolen weapons, but that practice appears to have stopped sometime in the 1990s. (Federal News Network)
Category management policies are slashing the number of small business vendors receiving government contracts. A report from the Women’s Chamber of Commerce finds that small business vendors dropped by 24% since 2017, with women-owned and veteran-owned small businesses suffering the most. Contract awards instead are falling into the hands of larger firms that rank higher in the best-in-class tiers. The federal government is still meeting its statutory goal of having small businesses make up 23% of all contracts awarded. (Federal News Network)
GSA chose hundreds of vendors for its first set of awards under its latest small business governmentwide acquisition contract. The first cohort of awards under the 8(a) STARS 3 program included 426 vendors in the 8(a) program that made the cut. The General Services Administration announced the first set of awards yesterday. Under the 8(a) STARS vehicle, small firms will provide an assortment of IT services including emerging technologies like AI and RPA. GSA said this is just the first set of awards under this governmentwide acquisition contract that has a ceiling of $50 billion dollars. GSA said it will make awards in phases with more coming later this summer.
In an effort to promote racial justice and equity, the Agriculture Department is opening the door for public input. A request for information will help the agency identify barriers that exist in the USDA’s staff and programs for people of color and other underrepresented communities. Public input is available until July 15. USDA will provide the information to a racial equity commission within the agency, which will launch later this year.