Former Walter Reed department head pleads guilty to federal charges

A contractor and Walter Reed employee plead guilty to corruption. The Defense Department doubles-down on it skepticism of Chinese-made drones. And the nation’...

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  • A federal judge has sentenced a Maryland contractor to eight months in prison for bribing his way into preferential contracts at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center. According to a plea agreement, Bruce Thomas, among other things, gave cash and airline tickets to a Walter Reed employee in exchange for purchase orders for his prosthetics business. David Laufer, the former chief of the prosthetics and orthotics department who accepted those “gratuities” has also pleaded guilty. He’s currently awaiting sentencing.
  • The Defense Department is rethinking how it buys drones. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks updated the Pentagon’s drone policy by allowing the Defense Department to take advantage of rapid technological advancements in the commercial market. The policy makes it easier for DoD to buy drones that are created by industry partners. Pentagon Spokesman John Kirby said the policy reiterates a skepticism of Chinese-made vehicles as well. “The guidance also continues the practice of not allowing Chinese-made drones for our military use, thereby taking action to safeguard sensitive information that could be collected by a UAS,” he said.
  • The Army is the second service this month to cancel a charity race fearing rising COVID-19 cases. The service will conduct its Army Ten-Miler virtually this year. Runners will be able to run it between October 10 and November 29. The Air Force canceled the in-person portion of its annual marathon earlier in September. The delta variant has proven to be especially concerning for the military, with 11 service members dying from the disease in August.
  • The Pentagon’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program could be on the cusp of some big changes. The Pentagon is promising results from its highly anticipated CMMC review “very soon.” That’s the word from Christina Michienzi, a Pentagon acquisition official who spoke at this week’s Intelligence and National Security Summit. She declined to offer specific details on the review’s outcome, but said the Pentagon wants to strike a balance between security and cost concerns. Industry has been pressing the Defense Department for more details on the review, which has been ongoing since early spring.
  • The nation’s top spy office is setting up a new organization to counter disinformation campaigns. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines said ODNI is establishing a Foreign Malign Influence Center. One of its big jobs will be focusing on election security, but Haines said the center will look across a wide variety of disinformation issues to help separate fact from fiction. Intelligence officials said countries like China and Russia are attempting to sway Americans with false narratives and other types of misinformation.
  • The Office of Personnel Management has a new plan to rebuild. OPM said its new four-year strategic plan will include many of the recommendations the National Academy of Public Administration made earlier this year. The agency said it wants to leave behind its old “just say no” mentality and become more of a strategic partner for agencies. It agrees it should offer more services and policy advice to agencies for free. And it said it needs more funding from Congress to rebuild staff capacity and modernize old IT systems. (Federal News Network)
  • Immigration and Customs Enforcement is forced to extend its current cloud hosting contract. Two protests of the follow-on contract for cloud hosting services is leaving the Immigration and Customs Enforcement directorate at the Homeland Security Department with no choice but to extend its current vehicle for at least another year. ICE issued a sole source justification for the extension to Four Points Technology last week. The agency made its initial award to Four Points in 2016 and has paid more than $23 million for these services. ICE redacted the amount of the extension. ICE said it plans to issue a new solicitation in early fiscal 2022 for cloud hosting services and transition to the new contractor by next August.
  • A new interagency working group is tasked with increasing educational and economic opportunities for Hispanics and Latinos under a new executive order signed by President Biden yesterday. The working group includes at least 26 agencies and councils, each of which is to prepare a plan outlining measurable actions the agency will take to advance educational equity and economic opportunity for Hispanic and Latino communities. Among the things the plan should address is how the agency’s Office of Civil Rights will deal with discriminatory policies and practices that limit educational and economic opportunities and how to decrease barriers to federal employment.
  • A Federal appeals court is casting doubts on a lawsuit challenging higher rates at the Postal Service. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit is setting a high bar to challenge new mail rates at USPS. A three-judge panel said plaintiffs would have to convince the court that the Postal Regulatory Commission failed to balance nine statutory requirements, when it created a new formula for USPS mail prices. USPS attorneys said the commission’s decision doesn’t go far enough and that it should have even greater freedom to set is own prices. Under this new rate system, USPS last month raised the price of a first-class stamp to 58 cents. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal employees have until November 22 to comply with the Biden administration’s new vaccine mandate. Agencies must require vaccinations for employees as soon as possible unless they have a legal exemption. They no longer need to stand up testing programs for their employees and contractors, unless they want to. These details come on the heels of the president’s executive order last week. Most onsite unvaccinated contractors will continue to face testing requirements for the time being, until agencies can sort through the contractual paperwork. (Federal News Network)
  • A reconciliation package from House Democrats includes $18 billion for the Department of Veterans Affairs. The House VA Committee cleared its reconciliation proposals along party lines. Much of the funding would pay for infrastructure upgrades at VA facilities and would stay available through 2031. The Veterans Benefits Administration would also get $150 million to electronically scan and process more military records. Committee Republicans said reconciliation proposals are misguided since VA has not spent all of the emergency funding it received through the CARES Act and the American Rescue Plan.
  • Continuing resolutions have a lot of negative effects on government operations, and one of them is a slowdown in filling empty civilian positions. A new analysis by the Government Accountability Office finds the Defense Department hired about 200 civilians per day while it was running under CRs in recent years. That’s compared to about 250 per day during periods when it had a fully-approved budget. GAO said CRs have become so routine that DoD now spends a significant portion of its time each year developing alternative scenarios for how it will keep the department running, including by adjusting its planned spending on contracts.
  • The IRS is naming long-time federal acquisition expert Guy Torres as its deputy chief procurement officer. Torres previously served as director of IT contracting at Customs and Border Protection, the largest tech acquisition portfolio in the Department of Homeland Security. Before joining IRS, Torres led DHS contract portfolios for Northrop Grumman and Pacific Architects and Engineers. He will  work under Shanna Webbers, who serves as the IRS’s chief procurement officer

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