Senate confirms permanent director for CISA

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  • The Senate confirms President Joe Biden’s permanent pick to lead the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Jen Easterly is a West Point grad, Rhodes Scholar and retired Army lieutenant colonel. She will lead CISA after helping to stand up the Army’s first cyber battalion and a cyber red team for the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. In this new role, Easterly said CISA will protect federal civilian networks and lead the federal response effort to major cyber attacks. Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) had placed a hold on Easterly’s nomination, until Vice President Kamala Harris completed a visit to the US-Mexico border.
  • Expensive housing markets are starting to hit military service members. As the nation emerges from the pandemic, housing prices are soaring. Service members moving to new orders are having trouble finding housing because the market is so competitive. Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass said she heard of some airmen paying as much as $70,000 over asking price for houses. The Air Force said it is looking for options to help its troops pay for homes in new areas. One possibility might be expediting the annual review of basic allowances for housing.
  • The Army is hurting for expertise and is looking to retired warrant officers for help. The service is developing a policy that allows retired warrant officers to serve in the Army Reserve or the National Guard, while still drawing on their pensions. Retired warrant officers will be able to continue their army careers at their last rank or appointment and can compete for promotions in the Reserve just as they would on active duty.
  • In a random sample of cases reviewed by its inspector general, nearly all Postal Service employees who took emergency COVID sick leave last year failed to complete necessary paperwork. As a result, auditors estimate USPS spent more than $12 million in unsupported COVID leave costs. The watchdog office also found nearly 12,000 employees exceeded the 80-hour COVID leave limit under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
  • The Postal Service is asking a federal court to dismiss a bid protest over its next-generation delivery vehicle contract. USPS and Justice Department attorneys say the electric vehicle company Workhorse failed to exhaust all of its administrative appeal options before filing the bid protest in June. Attorneys for the winning vendor, Oshkosh Defense, went one step further. Those attorneys said USPS scored Workhorse’s prototype last in terms of technical ranking and best value. USPS is looking to spend more than $3 billion for as many as 165,000 vehicles. (Federal News Network)
  • Transgender people would receive more protections in the armed forces under a new bill in Congress. Rep. Jimmy Panetta (D-Calif.) introduced the Armed Forces Transgender Dependent Protection Act, which would prevent transgender people from getting assigned to areas that restrict medical treatment for gender dysphoria. Any transgender person serving in an area with such medical restrictions could elect to be reassigned. The bill expands protections previously set out in DoD’s Exceptional Family Member Program.
  • A federal union said plans to expand hiring and pay for federal firefighters are not enough. The Biden administration said it will ensure all federal firefighters make at least $15 an hour this season. It is also planning to convert a small number of temporary workers into permanent firefighters. But the National Federation of Federal Employees wants the White House to do more. It said the administration should plan for 10,000 to 20,000 new hires over the next decade. It also wants to raise federal firefighter pay by 50%. (Federal News Network.)
  • The Government Accountability Office sees some progress from the Office of Personnel Management and its efforts to address longstanding federal workforce challenges. OPM developed a repository for agencies to share their best practices on engaging employees and holding them accountable. It also recently launched a new research effort on employee misconduct and accountability issues and plans to share findings with agencies. Other initiatives have a longer way to go. GAO recommends OPM find a way to improve the federal classification system. But OPM said it needs more funding from Congress so it can launch a commission to study the General Schedule.
  • The U.S. military has only two ocean cargo terminals that can handle large shipments of weapons and ammunition, and both of them have serious physical security weaknesses. That is according to the Defense Department’s inspector general. An unclassified summary of the IG’s findings said the terminals in Concord, California and Sunny Point, North Carolina have been plagued by staffing and funding shortages, and do not comply with DoD guidance for protecting the facilities.
  • The Air Force becomes the first agency to land a perfect compliance score in DoD’s information technology repository. The service finally reached 100% compliance for its billion dollar IT portfolio, after previously only being able to reach 99%. DoD’s IT repository contains over 200 questions about things like FISMA, records management and Section 508 compliance. The Air Force Material Command played a significant role in the achievement, handling one-third of the agency’s more than 700 IT investments.
  • The Interior Department will review how its law enforcement programs are doing. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland launched a new task force that will study how the law enforcement offices within the National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and others can improve. The task force will focus on ways Interior law enforcement organizations can build more trust with the public. Interior employees will work full time on the task force, for the next 18 months, developing new policy guidance and training for Interior law enforcement officers.

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