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The newly-signed infrastructure bill includes new benefits for federal firefighters. The now-signed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act includes new funding to raise salaries and create mental health programs for federal wildland firefighters. It also authorizes the Biden administration to convert more temporary firefighting positions into permanent ones. The bill instructs the Office of Personnel Management to create a new pay and classification system for wildland firefighters. That new system would define specific annual salary increases for eligible firefighters. (Federal News Network)
The Defense authorization bill has been stalled amid infrastructure and reconciliation talks, but the must-pass legislation could see some movement soon. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y) told colleagues the Senate is likely to consider the NDAA this week. The House already passed its version of the defense bill in September. Schumer also said there is bipartisan support for adding the U.S. Innovation and Competition Act to the Senate NDAA . The innovation bill would authorize $110 billion in tech research over the next five years to help the U.S. compete with China.
A new report from the NASA Office of Inspector General praised the agency for its response to COVID-19 and adoption of alternative acquisition strategies. But the 2021 report on top management and performance challenges also noted the “the Agency’s long-standing challenge to temper its culture of optimism and develop more realistic cost and schedule estimates.” The report also focused on other persistent challenges at the agency, including cybersecurity, outdated infrastructure, and workforce age and skill gaps.
The General Services Administration allocated the money it received in the American Rescue Plan, signed into law last March. The agency got $150 million. Through its Technology Transformation Service, GSA will fund 14 projects that provide online services to citizens. They include automating how farmers obtain debt relief, establishing a coherent online search for the myriad of COVID-related programs, and building an identity verification application programming interface. GSA administrator Robin Carnahan said the projects show how the government can move at quote the speed of need. Several of the projects are already getting Technology Modernization Fund dollars.
A dollar spent on the Government Accountability Office goes a long way, according to the watchdog’s latest data. GAO found its work generated more than $66 billion in financial benefits for Congress and the public in fiscal 2021. More than half of that return on investment came from GAO’s work reviewing health care programs. Over the past five years, GAO estimates every dollar in its budget helped the government save $158.
The Biden administration announced its nominee to lead a federal surveillance watchdog. President Joe Biden nominated Sharon Bradford Franklin to serve as chairwoman of the Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board. Franklin is currently co-director of the security and surveillance project at the Center for Democracy & Technology. The board is an independent federal agency charged with ensuring federal counter-terrorism programs don’t violate Americans’ privacy and civil liberties. But the board has not had the minimum three out of five members necessary to reach a quorum since July. That means the board has been unable to issue reports and launch investigations. Along with Franklin, Biden also nominated former assistant attorney general Beth Ann Williams to also serve as a member of the board.
The Defense Information Systems Agency made it clear in the past that it wants to begin moving beyond the use of CAC cards for multi-factor authentication. That may become a reality with Thunderdome, DISA’s new zero trust construct. Executive Deputy Director Christopher Barnhurst said Thunderdome will incorporate alternate forms of multi-factor authentication. These may include cloud services or biometric authenticators that combine to create a risk score that determines a user’s access. Barnhurst said these new technologies will enhance security moving forward. (Federal News Network)
The Pentagon reiterated what it said is its legal authority to require troops to get vaccinated against COVID-19 – including National Guard members. The state of Oklahoma raised that question late last week when its top Guard official announced the state would not punish solders and airmen for failing to follow the military’s vaccine mandate. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the mandate is still a lawful order for anyone in uniform. He said DoD will respond to Oklahoma officials “appropriately.”
A Navy flight officer has been convicted of buying guns for a Chinese businessman convicted of export crimes. Lt. Fan Yang was found guilty in a Jacksonville federal court of conspiring to violate U.S. firearms laws and making false written statements to federally licensed firearms dealers and as part of a security clearance background investigation, according to court records. He faces up to 30 years in prison at a sentencing hearing scheduled for next year. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Homeland Security’s long-awaited cyber talent management system is now live. New employees hired through this new personnel system will join the DHS cybersecurity service. Candidates can initially apply to about 150 high-priority jobs at the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and with the DHS chief information officer. Positions range from entry-level jobs to leadership roles. DHS said it’s looking for candidates to work in cybersecurity engineering, analysis, research and development, and policy roles, among others. The department will open up cybersecurity service positions across more DHS subcomponents early next year.
The Postal Service is once again giving households an opportunity to help a child or family in need this holiday season. USPS through its Operation Santa program posts letters addressed to Santa Claus online, but redacts sensitive information like last names or addresses. Individuals who go through a short ID verification can select a letter and send a gift package through USPS. USPS will start uploading letters November 29, but those looking to fulfill a holiday wish this year can start the registration process now. The Postal Service has run the program for longer than a century.