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The Defense Department Inspector General said the Pentagon’s bureaucracy is getting in the way of hiring the cyber employees the military needs. In a recent report, the DoD IG found that filled and unfilled positions were not coded properly. Because of that, DoD was not able to understand where its greatest workforce needs were, and therefore could not properly target its recruitment and retention efforts.
A new Senate report made the case for reforms to the law governing federal cybersecurity standards. Leaders of the Homeland Security Committee found multiple federal agencies made minimal progress in complying with federal cyber standards since they last issued a report in 2019. Their new report recommended a more centrally coordinated approach to federal cybersecurity. They also laid out potential changes to the Federal Information Security Modernization Act, including a more powerful role for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Lawmakers plan to introduce legislation aimed at implementing the report’s recommendations in the coming months. (Federal News Network)
New temporary leadership is in place at the Pentagon’s acquisition shop. Stacy Cummings, who had been performing the duties of under secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, stepped down last week. Gregory Kausner, a career member of the senior executive service, has taken her place. The Biden administration has yet to pick a new nominee for Pentagon acquisition chief since Michael Brown, director of the Defense Innovation Unit, withdrew from consideration due to an ongoing Inspector General investigation.
The Air Force is trying something new to battle training fatigue in its ranks. Airmen sometimes look at their phones or zone out during training. That’s not ideal for retaining information, especially when it comes to information about sexual assault and harassment prevention and response. The Air Force has piloted a program that uses virtual reality where airmen talk to actors in a virtual setting. Carmen Schott, a program manager at Air Mobility Command, said the experience really takes airmen in, “It’s very realistic. If you look around you can see everything behind you and on the floor. It’s just very real.” (Federal News Network)
The Air Force will soon introduce a hybrid work model at some of its offices. Telework is the new default at the Air Force’s Installation and Mission Support Center, but employees will be able to reserve in-person work spaces through a mobile app. The Installation and Mission Support Center will also replace nearly one hundred cubicles with open, café-style seating to foster more collaboration. The Air Force will collect data on this new model, called “the Office of the Future,” to see how it can save time, money and resources, as well as improve the overall employee experience.
The Government Employees Health Association has extended its vaccine incentive program through early September. Participants in GEHA’s health insurance program can show proof of vaccination and receive a $75 credit. That program will now run through September 6. GEHA members can use that credit toward office visits, co-pays, prescription drugs, glasses, X-rays and other medical expenses. GEHA said tens of thousands of federal employees have used the vaccine incentive program since it launched last month. Members must have received at least their first dose of the COVID-19 vaccine before September 6 to be eligible for the incentives.
Whistleblower advocates said federal employees have some of the worst protections in the U.S. labor force. There’s a bill pending in the House that could help. The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act would give federal employees access to a jury trial in the event the Merit Systems Protection Board can’t hear their case. Advocates are pushing Congress hard to pass the bill into law. Tom Devine is the legal director for the Government Accountability Project. “If they’re worried about trillions of dollars of new government spending, then how about protecting those who can expose the fraud, waste and abuse?” (Federal News Network)
The Department of Veterans Affairs will start processing disability claims for three presumptive conditions associated with toxic exposure. VA started a new internal process to review scientific evidence associated with respiratory conditions. Veterans who served in Southwest Asia between 1990 and today or Afghanistan between 2001 and today are potentially eligible. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the department will use this kind of process to review presumptive conditions going forward.
One of the longest service agency CIOs has left federal service. Eric Olson, who has been the Treasury Department’s chief information officer since June 2017, left the agency on July 31. Olson has worked for the government since 2003 and been with Treasury since 2015. Tony Arcadia, the associate CIO for infrastructure and operations, will be the acting CIO until the department hires a new technology executive. Olson started his federal career with the Justice Department, serving in several leadership roles. He didn’t say what his plans are for the future. Arcadia has been with Treasury for 12 years and before that also worked at DoJ.
Agencies have a new tool to track the costs of their IT modernization spending through the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions program. The Federal CIO Council’s Federal Technology Investment Management community of practice and agency experts created a crosswalk to help enable traceability on the costs associated with EIS-related products and services. It also creates a consistent categorization of technology spending. CIOs and CFOs can now see how the EIS program maps to Product Service Codes, to TBM taxonomy Towers and Sub-towers and to TBM taxonomy Service Categories and Service Names.
Small businesses would receive new cybersecurity assistance and protections under a bill in Congress. Congressman Byron Donalds (R-Fla.) introduced the Small Business Advanced Cybersecurity Enhancements Act, which would establish a cybersecurity unit in the Small Business Administration to work with DHS and NIST. Each small business development center would also have regional cybersecurity assistance units, through which small businesses would receive cyber threat indicators. Congressman Steve Chabot (R-Ohio) introduced a similar bill in 2018 but it never passed the House.
The White House’s National Cyber Director said federal agencies need more authoritative data on the threats they face. National Cyber Director Chris Inglis told Congress to stand up a Bureau of Cyber Statistics within the Department of Homeland Security to get a big picture look at cyber threats, “To properly address risk, we have to first understand it. We have to understand where it’s concentrated.” The bipartisan Cyberspace Solarium Commission first recommended creating this bureau, and the Defense of U.S. Infrastructure Act introduced last week by Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) would mandate DHS stand up this bureau. (Federal News Network)
The White House’s Scientific Integrity Task Force wrapped a month-long series of listening sessions on how federal scientists conduct their work. The task force held four discussions last month with agency scientific integrity experts and reviewed challenges that stem from emerging technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning. President Joe Biden ordered the task force to publish a report with recommendations on how to strengthen trust and transparency in federal research.