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The National Security Agency is urging government contractors and other organizations to watch out for a new Russian cyber attack. The NSA released a cyber advisory yesterday detailing how the hackers have been targeting a range of organizations primarily in the United States and Europe. Targets include government and military offices, defense contractors, energy companies, logistics firms and think tanks, among others. The NSA said the hackers are using brute force techniques to access network credentials. The campaign is believed to date back to 2019.
Giving contracting officers and other acquisition workers counterintelligence training is an idea two lawmakers are pushing. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the chairman and ranking member of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said acquisition employees need to recognize and mitigate supply chain risks. The lawmakers said this is an essential step to prevent bad actors from compromising national security. For a second time, Peters and Portman introduced the Supply Chain Security Training Act. The bill would create a standardized training program for acquisition workers around supply chain risk management.
The Department of Homeland Security has hired more cybersecurity professionals than ever before. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas says DHS onboarded 300 cybersecurity experts and has another 500 offers that are pending. The initiative is part of the agency’s 60-day Cybersecurity Workforce Sprint to build a more diverse cybersecurity workforce. DHS surpassed its goal of 200 new employees set back in May. The agency will also launch a program this month to recruit recent graduates with degrees in cybersecurity-related fields.
A new effort is in the works to protect the dot-gov domain from cyber attacks. Now that the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is in charge of the dot gov domain, it wants to bring an added level of security to thousands of online services from agencies. CISA released a request for information seeking industry feedback on registry services and a registrar. The services would include authoritative DNS hosting managed by a service provider at a high impact level. The registrar would enable dot gov registrants to manage their domain’s registration lifecycle, DNS settings and useful supporting services. Congress shifted the responsibility of the dot gov domain to CISA from GSA in the DOTGOV Act of 2020. Feedback on the RFI is due July 21st.
The Department of Homeland Security is moving ahead with plans to build a new headquarters for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The National Capital Planning Commission approved final building plans for the 600,000 square foot CISA headquarters on the Saint Elizabeths West campus in southeast DC. The construction will require the demolition of three historic buildings on the campus, but will retain two historic smokestacks and power plant building as part of the design. CISA’s headquarters is the first building on the campus to move forward since the commission approved a campus master plan amendment last October. Under the current plan construction on the campus will be completed by 2026. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees would be able to choose from a menu of insurance benefits under a bill in Congress. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) introduced the Inspire to Serve Act, which proposes a new cafeteria plan where federal employees can select certain benefits tailored to their needs. Benefits include life insurance, disability-income insurance, flexible spending arrangements for healthcare and dependent care and a health savings account. The cafeteria plan would not affect eligibility for other insurance and benefits offered by agencies.
Federal employees will have new protections against surprise medical billing next year. The Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Personnel Management will implement a ban on surprise billing for emergency services and other out-of-network charges without advance notice. Surprise billing happens when people unknowingly get health care from a doctor that’s outside of their insurance network. The protections take effect for participants in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program January 1.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) wants agencies to permanently eliminate unnecessary educational requirements from federal jobs. He introduced the Federal Skills Act. It would essentially codify an executive order from the Trump administration into law by removing educational requirements for positions where they’re not legally necessary. It encourages agencies and the Office of Personnel Management to use skills-based assessment to vet candidates’ qualifications. And it requires OPM to update job classification and qualification standards. OPM began that process during the end of the last year.
The Space Force continues to build its personnel by selecting fifty active duty soldiers to transfer into the agency beginning this month. Selections come from a pool of more than 3700 transfer applications from the Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The soldiers selected will beta test the integration process to pave the way for more transfers in fiscal 2022. New members will be placed in specific Space Force specialties, including space operations, intelligence, cyber, engineering and acquisition.
The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency is attempting to right the ship on a key software program. The National Background Investigation Services program is delivering capabilities on time for the first time since the program was conceived five years ago. But DCSA still has a lot of work to do on the software that officials say is critical to modernizing the security clearance process. The system will be used to continuously monitor a population of at least 4 million in the national security workforce, as well as potentially more in other government agencies. (Federal News Network)
The Environmental Protection Agency promises to educate its employees about the rights and roles of whistleblowers. In responding to a letter from the National Whistleblower Center, EPA said it will acknowledge National Whistleblower Day on July 30th through agencywide emails and web pages that include information about legal protections. EPA is the second agency behind the Department of Health and Human Services to take action in response to NWC’s letter.
The Department of Veterans Affairs will conduct an enterprisewide review of the IT and physical infrastructure needed to support the new electronic health record. This comes after VA’s inspector general found wide discrepancies in the department’s physical infrastructure cost estimates. VA said it’s using its IT investment board to manage decisions on the EHR modernization effort. The department is standing up the board now. VA’s chief financial officer, chief acquisition officer and chief information officer all lead the board together. (Federal News Network)
Two departments add new approaches to dealing with human gender issues. Veterans Affairs affirms it will offer gender change surgery among its benefits. But Secretary Denis McDonough said that will come only after conclusion of required rulemaking. He notes the VA Board of Advisors unanimously endorsed the idea. McDonough says it has been clinically shown to reduce depression and suicidal ideation. And the State Department will add a so-called non-binary option to passports. But Secretary Tony Blinken said the change will require extensive updates to passport systems.
The Postal Service celebrates 50 years as an independent agency. Before the 1970 Postal Reorganization Act, it was known as the Post Office Department and was a part of the president’s cabinet. President Richard Nixon signed the legislation after nearly 200,000 postal workers participated in strikes in 30 cities. It was the first and largest walkout of federal employees. To commemorate the anniversary, the Postal Service is releasing an oral history from employees who oversaw the agency’s transition.