Pentagon inches closer to clean financial audit

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  • The Pentagon is still years away from being able to pass a financial audit. But this year’s results show some glimmers of progress. So far, auditors looking at DoD’s 2021 financial statements have identified 371 new problems – called notices of findings and recommendations. It’s a big number, but it’s also down dramatically from the nearly 1,000 new issues they found the year before. DoD says it’s also resolved 466 separate audit findings from past years, but another 2,600 are still open. Meanwhile, auditors identified 28 overarching issues that were serious enough to be deemed “material weaknesses” in the department’s financial management – two more than last year.
  • The Biden administration has a new task force to implement the provisions of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act across government. The task force will focus on dispersing new funds efficiently. The Agriculture, Commerce, Interior, Energy, Labor and Transportation secretaries will serve on the infrastructure task force. The directors of the Office of Personnel Management and Office of Management and Budget also have roles. President Biden appointed former New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu as task force leader and the point-person for implementing the new infrastructure law.
  • The Coast Guard has received nearly $2 billion in infrastructure funding in the last three years. Vice Admiral Paul Thomas told Congress in a hearing that much of that is going to climate change resiliency and the workforce. But the Government Accountability Office is worried it won’t be enough. GAO found that almost half the Coast Guard’s shore infrastructure is beyond its service life. GAO also said that as of 2019, the Coast Guard had a maintenance and construction backlog of more than $2.6 billion. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is getting a new chief financial officer. Doug Glenn will soon move to OPM from the Pentagon, where he currently serves as deputy CFO. Glenn joined DoD a year ago, in part, to help the department get its financial statements in shape to eventually pass an audit. He’s previously served in top financial management jobs at the Interior Department, NASA, and GSA.
  • Agency evaluation offices are reviewing pandemic spending and recovery with equity in mind. The Biden administration is looking to better understand whether trillions in COVID-19 spending has effectively helped underserved communities recover from the pandemic. The Small Business Administration is studying inequities in how businesses received pandemic aid, and how they can win more federal contracts. Meanwhile the General Services Administration’s Office of Evaluation Sciences is launching a series of reviews to study the effectiveness of programs under the American Rescue Plan. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management will give some same-sex spouses another chance to apply for federal survivor benefits. The decision applies to same-sex spouses of deceased federal employees and annuitants. Widows and widowers must be married to their spouse for at least nine months before the employee or retiree’s death. But now-unconstitutional state laws banning same-sex marriage made that requirement difficult for some in the past. OPM says it will now allow spouses a chance to apply for benefits they were previously eligible for, and in some cases, denied. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies have new playbooks for dealing with cyber attacks. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released the cyber incident and vulnerability response playbooks yesterday. They lay out how civilian agencies should respond to malicious cyber attacks and other risks on their networks. The guidance calls on agencies to notify CISA within one hour of confirming a cyber incident. CISA is also encouraging the private sector, as well as state and local governments, to review the playbooks. Congress is currently considering legislation that would require some private companies in the critical infrastructure sector to notify CISA in the event of a cyber attack.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is taking its own approach to contractor cybersecurity. DHS is running a pathfinder program to figure out the best way to ensure its contractors are following cybersecurity standards. The department is also following the development of the Pentagon’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. But DHS chief information security officer Ken Bible says it might not be the best approach for Homeland Security. He says third-party assessments could be too costly for small businesses. And he thinks the Pentagon’s new plan to let most companies submit self-assessments might not improve industry security. So DHS is figuring out its own plan in the meantime. (Federal News Network)
  • President Joe Biden is looking to fill one of the longest inspector general vacancies in government. Biden expects to nominate the National Security Agency’s IG Robert Storch to serve as the permanent top watchdog for the Defense Department. DoD hasn’t had a permanent IG in nearly six years. Former President Donald Trump named Sean O’Donnell as DoD’s acting IG, but he juggles that responsibility with his other job as the permanent IG at the Environmental Protection Agency.
  • The Justice Department inspector general’s office found that implementation of certain policies at the Bureau of Prisons have been delayed more than 20 months. The report said BOP officials refused to meet with representatives of its national union in person. BOP management proposed video meetings for the negotiations instead. But union representatives insisted on in-person meetings. The union said in-person meetings were required by the contract, and noted that BOP employees have been required to report to work in-person throughout the pandemic.

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