Federal cyber leaders to meet with president today to talk ransomware

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  • Improper payments increased by $31 billion in fiscal 2020 as compared to 2019. New data from the Office of Management and Budget shows agencies improperly paid out $206 billion last year up from $175 billion in 2019. Of that $206 billion, OMB said agencies determined they could recapture almost $47 billion. In the end, agencies brought back about 47%, or about $22 billion to the Treasury after overpaying citizens or businesses. OMB gave agencies new guidance in March to further implement the Payment Integrity Information Act of 2019.
  • Watchdogs at the Department of Health and Human Services have received more than 2,400 complaints about purported COVID fraud. Christi Grimm, the principal deputy inspector general at HHS, said she has seen some bad actors attempt to take advantage of the more than $5 trillion in federal pandemic aid. Grimm said her office is working with the Justice Department’s COVID-19 Fraud Enforcement Task Force to catch and hold COVID scammers accountable.
  • The leaders of key agencies will meet today to discuss the government’s ransomware strategy. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said leaders from the departments of State, Homeland Security, Justice and the intelligence community will meet with President Biden today to debate the way forward on ransomware. Psaki said the interagency team has spent the last several weeks reviewing the government’s options for responding to such attacks. The gathering comes after a new ransomware attack exploited widely used software made by Florida-based Kaseya to impact potentially hundreds of companies late last week.
  • The Office of Government Ethics wants feedback on a new strategic plan for the executive branch program. OGE is soliciting feedback on its five-year plan from federal employees, non-profit organizations and the public. The agency said it wants to help executive branch officials resolve conflicts of interest and continuously respond to ethics questions that arise in government. OGE also wants to make ethics information more publicly available.
  • Agencies are hiring and recruiting fewer federal interns. The government offered 4,000 paid internships in 2020, compared to 60,000 a decade ago. They’re also hiring fewer interns into permanent positions. Agencies hired 35,000 interns back in 2010, compared to 4,000 in 2018. Congress is starting to take notice. House appropriators want the Office of Personnel Management to take a look at the federal internship program. They’ve also proposed dedicated funding for paid internships at the State Department and the White House in 2022. (Federal News Network)
  • The General Services Administration appointed Nina Albert to oversee GSA’s real estate portfolio, which includes more than 370 million square feet of workspace for 1.1 million federal employees. As the new commissioner of the Public Buildings Service, Albert will oversee the construction and maintenance of federal properties nationwide. She has over twenty years of experience in public real estate disposition, public-private partnership negotiations and sustainable development. She most recently served as vice president of real estate and parking at the Washington Metropolitan Transit Authority.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is losing a key senior leader at the end of the month. Soraya Correa, DHS’s chief procurement officer, is retiring after more than 40 years of federal service. DHS confirmed that Correa’s last day is July 31. She told her staff in late June that she had decided to complete her career which started in October 1980 as a GS-4 clerk typist in construction contracts. She has been the DHS CPO since 2015 and worked at the agency since 2003. It’s unclear what Correa will do next or who will replace her on an acting basis. Federal acquisition experts praised Correa for her responsiveness to industry, innovation, creativity and dedication to common sense procurement. (Federal News Network)
  • One senator wants to change the responsibilities for the board that manages the Thrift Savings Plan. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board by law must act in the sole fiduciary interests of TSP participants. New legislation from Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) would require the TSP to make investment decisions with national security interests in mind too. The TSP Fiduciary Security Act would specifically prohibit the plan from investing in Chinese companies or any other companies on the Commerce Department’s Entity List that harm national security. This is the latest in a series of bills from Rubio designed to block TSP investments in Chinese companies.
  • After years of litigation, the Pentagon is walking away from its multibillion dollar JEDI Cloud computing contract. Instead of continuing a protracted court fight with losing bidder Amazon Web Services, DoD said it’s decided to cancel the JEDI contract. John Sherman, the acting DoD chief information officer, said the single-award contract to Microsoft made sense back in 2018. But things have changed while litigation dragged on. Sometime this fall, the department will issue a solicitation for a new multibillion dollar cloud contract. Both Amazon and Microsoft are expected to get awards, but DoD said other companies could be invited to bid too. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department is asking Congress to shift a chunk of funds it was given in 2021. The Pentagon wants to move $4.4 billion of 2021 funds to cover a large range of expenses. The Defense Department needs the money to pay for some of the deployments to the southwest border and for expenses incurred during the pandemic. The military said if the funds aren’t shifted readiness and training could be jeopardized. DoD said it’s taking those funds from savings in contracts, programs it doesn’t need and initiatives that weren’t as popular as expected. (Federal News Network)
  • Those using military commissaries will not have to pay a service fee for internet shopping and curbside pickup. For the rest of the year, the military is waving the $5 service charge so that patrons can try out the new benefit. The Defense Department is rolling out internet shopping and curbside pickup to all commissaries in the United States by the end of the year. Overseas bases will soon follow.
  • Airmen can select new fitness test alternatives starting in early 2022. The Air Force modified its physical fitness assessment so that airmen can choose from a one mile walk, 1.5 mile run or twenty meter shuttle run to satisfy department requirements. Waist measurements will also no longer be scored, but a separate body composition assessment will take its place starting in the fall. The service said these alternatives will be equivalent in difficulty to traditional requirements. Scoring will be based on age, weight and heart rate.
  • An IRS watchdog said the agency’s HR office is too understaffed ahead of plans for hiring surge. The National Taxpayer Advocate is warning Congress that the IRS has fallen behind on hiring goals in recent years. The agency failed to hire 5,000 full-time employees it planned to bring onboard between fiscal 2017 and 2019, despite setting funding aside for this workforce increase. The report said the IRS Human Capital Office has lost staff over the years, and would need more resources to manage a hiring surge proposed by IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. The report warns nearly a third of IRS employees could retire or leave the agency next year.
  • The Census Bureau is on track to release redistricting data for the 2020 count by August 16, with a more user-friendly version of the data ready by the end of September. The bureau finished processing the redistricting data on June 23, but must now run the data through a new process called differential privacy to protect the anonymity of individual household responses. The bureau updated the public on data processing as part of a lawsuit led by the National Urban League over the data quality of the decennial count.
  • A small but powerful federal agency reorganizes itself with the goal of getting tougher on business. In a 3-2 vote along party lines, the Federal Trade Commission has updated what it calls its rules of practice, and reverses a bipartisan agreement earlier Commissioners had with the Obama administration. Among many changes, a career administrative law judge will no longer oversee rule-making. Instead, a politically-appointed commissioner will. Chairman and Biden appointee Lina Khan said the new procedures will enable the FTC to more easily levy fines, and that they “turn the page on decades of self-imposed red tape.” The Republican dissenters said the FTC will return to the overbearing nanny-agency of the 1970s.

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