Pentagon creating new group to investigate UFOs

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  • The Defense Department is standing up a new organization to track and study what most people would call UFOs, and what the Pentagon calls Unexplained Aerial Phenomena. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks ordered the creation of the Airborne Object Identification and Management Synchronization Group on Tuesday. DoD says the new group will work closely with the intelligence community. New guidance on how the organization will be funded and structured is expected in the next few weeks.
  • A small bipartisan group of House members have new legislation intended to bolster and empower the Office of Personnel Management. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and two of his colleagues introduced the Strengthen OPM Act. The bill would implement a few of the recommendations the National Academy of Public Administration made to Congress about the agency earlier this year. The legislation would redefine OPM’s mission and responsibilities and codify the roles of the OPM director and career chief management officer. It would also create a new advisory council of human capital experts. (Federal News Network)
  • The federal government has a new diversity and inclusion strategic plan, its first in 10 years. The Biden administration says agencies will work to better understand federal employees’ experiences. It will elevate the role of chief diversity officers within each agency, collect more demographic data from federal employees and ramp up diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility training. Each agency will publish their own DEIA strategic plans by mid-March. The administration says agencies should set up dedicated teams to focus on meeting these new goals.
  • The State Department is honoring the volunteer work of Foreign Service families overseas. The department joined the Associates of the American Foreign Service Worldwide in recognizing winners of this year’s Secretary of State’s Award for Outstanding Volunteerism Abroad. This year’s honorees donated reusable hygiene kits to young women in India and Kenya, combatted human trafficking in the Middle East and fast-tracked the vaccination of U.S. diplomatic personnel in Jordan. The SOSA Awards typically recognize the spouses or children of those who work in the Foreign Service and accompany them on official travel. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies have more details about how to apply and process Made in America waivers. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy released sample language agencies can add to their acquisition regulations to further implement its memo from late October. The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council created the deviation that tells contracting officers how they can improve the transparency of Made in America waivers. Agencies also can develop their own language to be part of their internal procurement regulations based on the FAR Council’s sample.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has multiple reviews of its supply chain management modernization initiative underway. VA is trying to implement the Defense Logistics Agency’s Defense Medical Logistics Standard Support, as its new supply chain system. But the effort to deploy the system to an initial site this year uncovered some problems. VA’s inspector general says DMLSS failed to satisfy almost half of the department’s business needs. VA says it’s developing a new supply chain strategy that should inform the path forward. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is cracking down on toddlers. The service is requiring that all air passengers two years or older traveling through Air Mobility Command terminals have a negative COVID test. The test must be administered 72 hours before travel. Children who have not been vaccinated must present a COVID test taken within one day of traveling.
  • Another record year for the FedRAMP cloud security program. Agencies reused more cloud authorization packages in fiscal 2020 than ever before. The Federal Risk Authorization Management Program or FedRAMP says agencies took advantage of almost nine hundred existing cloud security packages, which is a 22% increase over 2020. FedRAMP says it set new records in nearly ever statistical category last year. 45 new products entered the marketplace as well, bringing the total number of approved cloud services to 240. In 2022, FedRAMP says it plans to increase the use of automation and continue to improve its business processes.
  • Another stumbling block for DoD’s effort to restructure the military’s household goods moving system. One of the losing bidders in the multibillion dollar Global Household Goods contract filed a bid protest with the Government Accountability Office yesterday. American Roll-on Roll-off Carrier Group says it still thinks its bid should have won the multibillion dollar contract. DoD initially awarded the GHC contract to that same company a year and a half ago, but changed its mind after an earlier bid protest. The latest contract award, to HomeSafe Alliance, is worth up to $20 billion over nine years. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is bringing cyber and space capabilities down to its lowest levels. It’s using new experiments to see how soldiers can operate non-lethal cyber and electromagnetic weapons. The Army’s Battle Maneuver Lab is bringing simulations that were once made for senior leaders down as far as the squad level. That’s because the Army may have to rely on those smaller groups in a fight against a near peer competitor like China or Russia. The Army conducted two experiments this summer using groups as small as 21 soldiers. The goal is to see how injecting cyber and space operations into regular units will affect those groups. (Federal News Network)
  • A watchdog says the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency needs to refresh its plan for securing the communications sector. The Government Accountability Office reports that CISA hasn’t updated the plan since 2015. That means the plan likely lacks information on new dangers to communications infrastructure, such as security risks in the supply chain. CISA agreed with GAO’s recommendations. The agency is now updating the sector plan, but it likely won’t be finished until next September.
  • Some good news for cybersecurity at the National Science Foundation. The National Science Foundation had an effective information security program over the past year. That’s according to a performance audit detailed by the NSF Inspector General’s office. Auditors also determined the NSF implemented corrective actions to fully or partially address eight findings from last year’s evaluation. The research agency has received high scores on its compliance with the Federal Information Security Modernization Act in recent years after some initial struggles six years ago.
  • Yet another COVID relief program is the victim of waste, fraud and abuse. This time one for extending broadband access to low-income households. A new report from the Federal Communications Commission inspector general says providers and their sales reps wrongly enrolled households in the $3.2 billion Emergency Broadband Benefit program. The providers enrolled households in the program regardless of whether they had a child who attended a qualifying high-poverty school or school district. In fact, the FCC IG finds the number of enrolled students vastly outnumbered the students actually enrolled in those schools.
  • The Postal Service is signing another licensing deal for sneakers. USPS is partnering with Vans to sell a line of apparel and sneakers that features its logo. USPS themed merchandise will become available starting next week. Earlier this year USPS also reached a deal with Nike to sell Air Force 1 sneakers inspired by the agency. A USPS spokeswoman says the Postal Service ensures licensing deals protect its intellectual property, promotes its brand and brings in revenue.
  • The Postal Regulatory Commission is going through a temporary reshuffle of its top executives. PRC Vice Chairwoman Ashley Poling is now assuming administrative responsibilities for the agency. That’s because Chairman Michael Kubayanda’s tenure expired Monday. President Joe Biden renominated Kubayanda for a full term. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held its hearing for Kubayanda’s nomination last week.

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