Pentagon trying to stay ahead of issues from climate change

In today's Federal Newscast, the Defense Department is continuing to prepare for climate change related problems.

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  • The Biden administration launched its first-ever federal employee pulse survey this week. The Office of Management and Budget said employees received an email with a short survey. The survey had three or four questions on engagement, inclusion and reentering government. OMB said it plans to send three quick surveys to the federal workforce every two months. The administration said the feedback will inform their future actions for the workforce.
  • OMB is upping its targets for category management in 2022. Agencies are finalizing new category management plans that detail how they will meet a new series of governmentwide goals. Lesley Field, the deputy administrator of the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, said these plans are due in November. “These plans will bring 70% of spend under management, increase spend on best-in-class solutions by 1%, or 11.5% of total spend, resulting in a cumulative cost avoidance of $65 billion.” Field said that is a $10 billion increase over 2021.
  • A handful of Senate Democrats are looking for more racial and gender diversity within the Thrift Savings Plan. New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez said the TSP should give participants more opportunities to invest in funds managed by diverse asset managers. The TSP is planning to offer a mutual fund window for participants next summer. Menendez said the plan should offer funds managed by diverse asset managers during that time. The window will give participants a chance to invest a portion of their accounts in an array of mutual funds outside the main five. (Federal News Network)
  • Congress said it really has no idea how much the massive electronic health record modernization project at the Department of Veterans Affairs will cost. The project was supposed to cost $16 billion over 10 years. But Congress has already set aside $6 billion for the electronic health record. VA deployed the new record at one site, and has about 150 more to go. The department is developing a new independent cost estimate. But it will take a year to complete. (Federal News Network)
  • A bipartisan group of House members has new legislation that would raise pay for federal wildland firefighters and provide other mental health and housing benefits. Representatives Joe Neguse (D-Colo.), Katie Porter (D-Cal.) and Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) introduced the Wildland Firefighter Classification and Pay Parity Act. The bill would raise pay for federal firefighters to at least $20 an hour. It would create a new pay and classification series unique to wildland firefighters. It would ensure temporary firefighters earn credit toward their retirement annuities. And it would allow firefighters to take one week of paid mental health leave in the middle of fire season.
  • A handful of Pentagon nominees are on their way to being confirmed. The Senate Armed Services Committee voted out six top officials for final approval by the Senate. Those include Gabriel Camarillo, who is set to be the undersecretary of the Army and Alex Wagner, who was nominated as Air Force assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs. Others getting approval include Rachel Jacobson as Army assistant secretary for energy installations and environment and Andrew Hunter as Air Force assistant secretary for acquisition, technology and logistics.
  • The Defense Department is continuing to prepare for climate change related problems. The Pentagon is looking at the primary, secondary and tertiary effects of climate change and extreme weather on national security. A new risk analysis coming out of the Defense Department explains how the military plans on considering climate change risks in everything it does in the future. DoD will now incorporate climate change effects into strategy, modeling, analysis and intelligence. It’s taking into account how it will handle things like melting ice caps, longer hurricane seasons, droughts and wildfires. It’s also thinking about the geopolitical implications of those disasters.
  • Agencies have new guidance for securing mobile devices when their employees travel abroad. The Federal Mobility Group released a new report this week on risks to government-furnished devices when employees travel internationally. The group recommends using a range of security measures, including simple tips like turning off lock-screen notifications and keeping all software up to date. The interagency group is looking to update federal reporting requirements for mobile device security as employees increasingly use smart phones and tablets to work remotely. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Homeland Security could see new software requirements under a bill that just passed the House. The DHS Software Supply Chain Risk Management Act, passed by a 412-2 margin this week, would create a software bill of materials requirement for DHS contracts. Lawmakers want to make sure the agency is not buying software with known security vulnerabilities and defects. The Senate has yet to consider a companion bill. But the Biden administration is already working on a software bill of materials mechanism for agencies, though it isn’t a requirement of doing business with the government yet.
  • It won’t be in the Olympics anytime soon but HHS ‘s artificial intelligence lead calls it “a team sport.” The Department of Health and Human Services has a strategy for wider AI implementation, and it hinges on some major cultural shifts. HHS Chief AI Officer Oki Mek said the three core pieces of the strategy are: bringing the entire department up to speed on the language of AI, scaling best practices, and accelerated AI adoption. Mek said it’s important to protect health data privacy but also explain that, if categorized properly, it can make all the difference in successful AI which benefits HHS mission activities. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service is asking a federal court to throw out a lawsuit challenging its use of facial recognition and social media monitoring tools. USPS and the Justice Department argue the plaintiff, the Electronic Privacy Information Center, isn’t directly harmed by tools used by the USPS Internet Covert Operations Program. EPIC argues USPS is violating the E-Government Act by not publishing a privacy impact assessment for its use of these federal law enforcement tools.
  • Inspectors general may soon gain the authority to question former federal employees as part of their investigations. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee is set to mark-up IG legislation next week. That includes a bill that would allow IGs to subpoena former federal employees and contractors. IGs would have to vet subpoena requests through a three-member panel, and would rely on the Justice Department to enforce the subpoenas. Justice Department IG Michael Horowitz said watchdogs would benefit from this new administrative subpoena authority. “We’ve had occasions where people have resigned a few hours before a compelled interview, precisely because they want to avoid speaking to us.” (Federal News Network)
  • The Commodity Futures Trading Commission awards its biggest whistleblower payout ever. The commission said $200 million went to what it called a credible and timely whistleblower with original data. The person’s tipoff led to enforcement actions by both the CFTC and British regulators, in a case involving Deutche Bank. The whistleblower had sought more because of a state action, but didn’t share the information with the state. The award brings the total program payout since 2014 to $3 billion.

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