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A report from a government watchdog overseeing operations says federal agencies have been failing Afghanistan for decades. During its 20 years in Afghanistan, no specific agency had the mindset, expertise or resources to develop Afghanistan, according to the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction. The watchdog says billions of U.S. dollars were wasted by the Defense and State Departments on projects that went unused or fell into disrepair. The office says counterproductive civilian and military personnel policies and practices made it hard to place the right people in the right jobs and that U.S. personnel were often unqualified or poorly trained.
Several federal agencies say they’re scrubbing their websites to remove information the Taliban could use to target Afghans who’ve worked with the U.S. government over the years. The State Department, USAID and USDA are among the agencies who’ve pulled posts from their websites and social media over the last several days. State Department spokesman Ned Price says the department’s policy is to only remove information in “exceptional circumstances,” but that this situation qualifies. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is encouraging veterans, their families and caregivers to seek out the agency’s services if they’re feeling angry, upset or depressed about the recent developments in Afghanistan. Secretary Denis McDonough says it’s natural for veterans to feel a range of emotions about the news. He says VA’s centers and mental health clinics are open and ready to hear out veterans’ concerns. The Veterans Crisis Line runs 24-hours a day, seven days a week.
The Defense Department says it’s rethinking how it approaches readiness. Currently, DoD is focused on short-term readiness goals for operational effectiveness. However, the Pentagon’s top force management official says the military needs to rebalance to strategic readiness. That means making data-driven, long-term goals and using models to help mitigate risk. The Pentagon says the approach will help counter near-peer competitors. (Federal News Network)
Federal firefighters are getting a pay raise. Some 3,500 firefighters at the Interior Department and over 11,000 at Agriculture’s Forest Service will now make at least $15 an hour. The raises will be retroactive to June 30th. Eligible firefighters should see the raise in their paychecks next week. Temporary firefighters will also get a $1,300 award. Permanent frontline firefighters will get an award equal to 10% of six months’ base pay. The pay incentives are part of a broader Biden administration initiative to recruit and retain more federal personnel during wildfire season.
Agencies will soon get a new tool for recruiting and hiring student interns. The Office of Personnel Management approved a new authority for agencies to recruit and eventually hire student interns. Students pursuing a bachelor’s or graduate degree are eligible to apply for a paid, temporary position. Agencies can convert students to permanent jobs once they finish school. The new hiring tool notably doesn’t require agencies to post these positions on USAJobs.gov. The Biden administration says the new authority should help agencies hire more interns more quickly. (Federal News Network)
Sen. Roger Marshall (R-Kan.) wants federal employees to return to their desks as soon as possible. Marshall is so insistent that a new bill he introduced would have the level of telework within agencies return to what it was on February 14, 2020. If it gets passed, many feds would have to return in-person by the last day of September. The General Services Administration, Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget would also have to submit to Congress a report on how agencies were impacted by telework and limited access to physical mail and data servers.
The Energy Department’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response, the NSA and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency collaborated on evaluation standards for industrial control systems. As part of the Biden administration’s Industrial Control Systems Cybersecurity Initiative launched in April, the three agencies recently released ICS monitoring technology evaluation criteria. Additionally, at least 150 electric utilities, serving almost 90 million Americans, have adopted or committed to adopting technologies to further improve the security of the operational technologies and industrial control systems that manage the Nation’s electric systems under this initiative.
The State Department is shifting to a utility-based model to develop new software capabilities. The State Department is revamping how it delivers software to its mission owners. In a new request for information, State is seeking industry feedback on how it can shift development activities closer to the bureau or post through the use of application platform-as-a-service (aPaaS) . State says the aPaaS model will let it only pay for IT services consumed instead of buying with a focus on final operational capacity. It also will let business owners evaluate the use of rapid prototyping, test and deployment tools to quickly assess the state of the market before deciding if full-scale implementation is necessary. Responses to the RFI are due August 23.
The Navy is getting ready to issue a solicitation for the next wave of I-T modernization aboard its ships. In a notice to vendors this week, the service said it expects to issue a request for proposals for the full deployment of the Consolidated Afloat Networks and Enterprise Services, or CANES, program by the end of this calendar year. The 10-year multiple award contract will be a follow-on to the initial $2.5 billion CANES contract the Navy awarded in 2014.
The Departments of Interior, Agriculture and Commerce are partnering to help increase internet access across Indian Country. The agencies will gather throughout September for the 2021 National Tribal Broadband Summit, where leaders across the broadband development community will share best practices and new ideas for bringing high-speed internet to Tribal businesses, governments and homes. A 2018 report from the FCC revealed that about thirty-five percent of those on Tribal lands have no broadband access. Service providers, regulators and anchor institutions are encouraged to submit projects to be presented at the summit.