A new law will help schools battle cybersecurity risks

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  • A new law aims to shed light on the cybersecurity risks faced by schools across the nation. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will spend the next several months studying the cyber risks faced by schools across the country after President Biden signed the “K-12 Cybersecurity Act” late last week. CISA will need to identify challenges schools large and small face in securing both information systems they use, as well as sensitive student and employee records. Schools have been targets for ransomware and other cyber attacks, particularly with the advent of widespread remote learning during the pandemic.
  • A Navy nuclear engineer accused of trying to sell secrets to a foreign government is set to make his first court appearance today. At a separate hearing, expected later this week, federal prosecutors will ask that Jonathan Toebbe be held without bail until his trial. He and his wife are accused of violating a secrecy provision of Atomic Energy Act, which carries a sentence of up to life in prison. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army said the delay of its new IT system for talent management will not cause too much disruption. The nation’s largest military branch said it has the fiscal and intellectual resources it needs to keep future phases of its massive human resources overhaul on track. The Army announced it would delay its Integrated Pay and Personnel System by nine months. The program will give soldiers 24/7 access to pay and benefits information. The Army said the early decision to delay the program will allow it to put mitigation efforts in effect to keep the program on schedule.
  • The Army is responding to budget pressure with a new series of studies on what its future force might look like. Army Secretary Christine Warmuth said the service is in the middle of analyses on its force structure, acquisition plans, and readiness. Warmuth warned the audience at the annual AUSA meeting in Washington that the analyses will probably prompt the Army to take some risks – likely meaning targeted budget cuts – in the near term. But she said those risks are needed to “transform” the Army for the future.
  • The government has a new early warning system for computer chips. The Commerce Department’s International Trade Administration launched a Microelectronics Early Alert System this month. The goal is to get ahead of supply chain bottlenecks and other issues that have roiled the global microelectronics sector over the last 18 months. Commerce is now asking companies and manufacturers to submit information about any new or ongoing disruptions to their operations, whether it is COVID-related or otherwise.
  • Fewer Postal Service employees recommended taking a job with the agency in recent years. USPS employees cite good pay and benefits as reasons to stay, but long hours and poor work-life balance as reasons to leave. That’s according to an analysis of ratings from the websites Glassdoor and Indeed conducted by its inspector general. The IG found ratings as an employer have declined every year since 2016. USPS said the IG overstates its findings,  which are based on responses from 1,400 employees reviews. The agency also said that data from Indeed and Glassdoor do not compare to findings from its internal data taken from employees surveys. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service is holding off plans to set slower delivery standards for its First Class Package Service. USPS planned to introduce the new standards as early as Oct. 1,  but because of the COVID-19 pandemic, USPS said it will introduce the new standard after the year-end holiday season. USPS expects the new standard would save the agency $42 million a year and would allow it to provide more reliable and consistent package delivery.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs found more than $100 million in savings by getting rid of old technologies. Facing a staggering amount of technical debt, the VA is starting to chip away at this challenge. The agency told House lawmakers that it reduced its technical debt by 10% among its common core technologies, including end-user devices, internet bandwidth and communication capabilities, since 2019. VA said its infrastructure readiness program determined it had $1.3 billion of systems and infrastructure components that needed updating. Some of the progress can be attributed to moving applications to the cloud. VA said it now has 133 applications in the cloud and 82 others in progress.
  • The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is codifying a change that the Small Business Administration finalized in 2020. A proposed rule details the requirements for small women-owned businesses to gain certification from the SBA to be eligible for set-aside contracts. Among the proposed changes is for contracting officers to verify eligibility through SBA’s database or through the SAM.gov platform. SBA made these changes to its internal regulations in October 2020. Congress required more rigor to the women-owned small-business program in the 2015 Defense authorization bill. Comments on the proposed rule are due by Dec. 6.
  • A missing soldier at Ft. Hood in Texas has been found and is safe. The Army put out a missing soldier alert after Pfc. Jennifer Sewell did not show up for duty. This is one of the first high-profile incidents since the Army changed its policy on missing soldiers. Previously, soldiers who did not show up for duty were considered in violation of the law. Now, the service prioritizes soldier safety over enforcement. Ft. Hood has been the scene of numerous violent crimes over the past year.

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