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The National Border Patrol Council continues to search for a legal avenue to challenge the president’s vaccine mandate for federal employees. It hasn’t found one yet. The union says its own attorneys have determined the president’s executive order is legal. But it sought out other practices for their advice. So far the NBPC says it hasn’t found a legal opinion or reputable law firm that gives them a legitimate path forward to sue the administration. The union says it’ll continue to pursue the issue until it’s completely sure no legal remedies are available.
Federal agencies are dusting off those government shutdown contingency plans. A little over 32,000 IRS employees would be excepted from furlough if the government shuts down at some point this year. That number rises sharply if a lapse occurs during the tax filing season. The Smithsonian Institution says it would retain just 22% of its workforce in a government shutdown. 888 employees would work without pay to secure closed museum buildings and take care of the animals at the National Zoo. The Justice Department says 85% of its employees are considered essential. (Federal News Network)
The House has finished its work on next year’s Defense authorization bill. The $778 billion measure authorizes spending that’s well above what the Biden administration requested, including a more than $15 billion plus-up in DoD’s procurement accounts. The House NDAA also includes a 2.7% pay raise for uniformed service members, in line with the administration’s request.
After seven months of reviewing its sexual assault policies, the Defense Department is ready to take action. Over the next eight years, the military will implement dozens of recommendations to clamp down on sexual assault and harassment in the military. The suggestions come from an independent review panel tapped to survey solutions to the epidemic. The four-tiered system will create special victims units, professionalize victim response workers and give leave to those who have been attacked. Later tasks include research on military culture and keeping solid data on different types of harassment. The Defense Department estimates the initiative will cost about $4.6 billion.
The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence will sunset next month after three years of work. The panel released a handful of reports that helped inform Congress about the Defense Department and other agencies’ needs in the AI and machine learning realm. Nearly 20 of the commission’s recommendations were included in the 2021 defense authorization act and more are being considered for the 2022 version of the bill.
Senators introduced a bill to incentivize agencies to lease space they don’t need. The Saving Money and Accelerating Repairs Through (SMART) Leasing Act would create a pilot program that would allow agencies to sublease their underutilized real estate. That includes another federal, state or local government agency, or any private sector organization. The bill allows agencies to use rent payments to help fund capital projects and facilities maintenance. The General Services Administration would oversee that pilot and would advise Congress whether to extend the program beyond 2024. (Federal News Network)
Whistleblower groups warn that language in the 2022 Intelligence Authorization Act could have a chilling effect of FBI whistleblowers disclosing tips to Congress. They tell the Senate Intelligence and Judiciary Committees that provision rolls back protections in a 2016 law that grants whistleblower protections to FBI employees who disclose concerns to any member of Congress. Judiciary Committee ranking member Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) says the legislation would require FBI whistleblowers to only disclose to the House and Senate intelligence committees.
Biden administration officials are endorsing new cybersecurity legislation in Congress. During a Senate Homeland Security Committee hearing, senior administration officials suggested imposing fines on companies that don’t comply with cyber incident reporting requirements currently being considered by lawmakers. The legislation would require critical infrastructure operators to report significant cyber incidents, like a successful ransomware attack, to the government. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly said, “the timely and relevant reporting of cyber incidents is absolutely critical to help us raise the baseline and protect the cyber ecosystem.” (Federal News Network)
Agencies have submitted more than 100 project proposals worth a collective $2.3 billion to the Technology Modernization Fund board, with 75% of the proposals focused specifically on cybersecurity improvements. That’s according to Federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha. Congress flushed the TMF with $1 billion as part of the American Rescue Plan earlier this year. DeRusha said agencies will likely need more funding in the coming years, whether through the TMF or elsewhere, to implement new cybersecurity mandates under President Joe Biden’s cyber executive order. (Federal News Network)
The State Department launched a worldwide competition aimed at reducing illegal trafficking in wildlife. Zoohackathon 21 will consist of nine online and in-person sessions in October and November. They’ll occur in Bolivia, both Congos, Gabon, Saudia Arabia, Uganda and Vietnam. The two-and-a-half day events will bring together wildlife and technology experts to compete for prizes for solutions to practices that are bringing some species to extinction. The State Department rates traffic in animals as organized crime, threatening not only the animals but also national security and health.
New interagency efforts are underway to weave environmentally friendly and sustainable products throughout the federal supply chain. The White House announced a new set of initiatives to phase down super-polluting hydrofluorocarbons, like those used in refrigerators, air conditioners and foams. The General Services Administration is charged with reviewing all of its “Best in Class” contracts to ensure the Federal Acquisition Regulation clauses that support the use of HFC alternatives and reclaimed HFCs have been correctly incorporated. This is one of a dozen initiatives GSA is leading to “green” the federal supply chain.
Another piece to the IPv6 puzzle comes into focus. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is trying to make it easier for agencies to see the connections between two cybersecurity initiatives. CISA released a new draft crosswalk showing how internet protocol version 6 or IPv6 and the Trusted Internet Connections or TIC 3.0 fit together. In the draft guidance, CISA outlined how IPv6 characteristics and security considerations relate to TIC 3.O objectives and capabilities. CISA says the guidance aims to be architecture-agnostic and facilitate decision-making in determining the appropriate level of security in IPv6 environments. CISA is accepting comments on the draft guidance through Oct. 15.