State Dept. says it’s back to sending passports out at pre-pandemic levels

In today's Federal Newscast, the State Department says it can now get passports out to customers in a matter of weeks.

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  • The State Department said it can now process routine passport applications in 8 to 11 weeks. Customers who opt for expedited processing can expect to receive their passports in five to seven weeks. The department said these new processing times reflect how it handled its caseload before the pandemic. It started counting processing times the day it receives an application at a passport agency or center. The department warned mail delays could still interfere with processing times, however.
  • A presidential advisory group said the government should update federal acquisition rules to include a preference for securely developed software. The suggestion is one of many in a new report just approved by the president’s National Security Telecommunications Advisory Committee. The report also recommends setting up a public-private task force to develop economic incentives for improving software supply chain security. The committee’s work is likely to bolster the administration’s ongoing efforts to improve software security under the May cyber executive order.
  • This may be the year that the Federal Risk Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, becomes law. The Senate is primed to reverse course over codifying the cloud security program. After sitting on the bill last year for 10 months after the House approved it, and then pulling it out of the Defense bill at the last minute, Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee members introduced the Federal Secure Cloud Improvement and Jobs Act yesterday and plan to mark it up today. The bipartisan bill would, among other things, authorize $20 million to operate FedRAMP, require the creation of a federal secure cloud advisory group and establish metrics to measure the program’s implementation and impact. The House passed its version of the bill in January.
  • Starting on Nov. 16, CFO Act agencies must post any Buy American waiver to the portal and submit it to the Made in America Office at the Office of Management and Budget. New guidance from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy says agencies may not purchase the product until the Made in America Office has signed off on the waiver. All agencies will have to follow this process starting Jan. 1. OFPP says waivers, for the time being, are only needed for products that are on unavailable from American companies in reasonable quantities. Other waivers for procurement, financial assistance and maritime products will be phased in over time.
  • The General Services Administration sees a unique opportunity to reduce the federal government’s office footprint. About 40% of GSA-held leases will expire over the next four years, giving GSA an opportunity to shift tenant agencies to properties it owns. GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said it could save $2 billion annually by getting agencies out of expensive leases. But she’s asking Congress for help with a $9.5 billion maintenance backlog to help with this consolidation effort. “That’s only going to happen if the space is maintained well, and agencies want to go there, and it’s the type of space that meets their mission needs.” (Federal News Network)
  • Applications for the federal government’s new U.S. Digital Corps open Nov. 8. The Biden administration said it’ll hire digital corps fellows at the GS-9 level. They’ll also get a recruitment incentive. That means a fellow working in the Washington, D.C. area will start at around $80,000 a year. Agencies will hire 30 fellows to the first cohort. They’re looking for fellows with at least a year’s experience in software engineering, cybersecurity, data science, product management and design. Applications will close no later than Nov. 15. Fellows will start work in June after completing the background investigation process.
  • The Federal Deposit and Insurance Corporation got its latest cyber grade. It has a relatively strong cybersecurity program, but some shortcomings could be leaving sensitive financial information at risk. That’s according to the annual cybersecurity audit of the agency released late last month. The FDIC got high marks in areas like response and recovery, but its detection capabilities were among the weak spots. Auditors recommend the agency increase its oversight and monitoring of information systems, among other suggestions.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to deploy the new electronic health record to a second site in February. A recent VA survey showed employees at the first site are still struggling with the new electronic record. Eighty-three percent said their morale is worse since they got the new system last fall. Two-thirds of employees said they’re not confident in their ability to use the EHR to do their jobs. Mike Bost (R-Ill.), ranking member of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said, “If any of us had polls like what that survey was we’d quit these jobs, I’ll guarantee it, because those numbers are bad.” (Federal News Network)
  • The Navy is delaying the rollout of its new IT system for pay and personnel functions. Navy Personnel and Pay, or NP2, was planned to reach initial operating capability by early 2022, but officials said they need more time. Some of the challenges involve integrating NP2 with the Treasury Department’s payment systems and making sure the new system complies with DoD’s financial audit standards. The overall program is meant to replace dozens of different HR systems, some of which date back to the 1960s.
  • The Defense Department said it’s willing to look past some small infractions to ensure sexual assault victims can report crimes. The military services are instituting a Safe-to-Report policy that allows sexual assault victims to inform commanders of violent crimes without fear of jeopardizing their careers. The policy would make victims immune from minor violations that took place during an assault. Those include things like underage drinking and staying out past curfew. Many college campuses have instituted similar policies in hopes of creating a safe space for people to come forward to report assault. The policy gives military commanders the final say in what is considered a minor infraction. (Federal News Network)
  • Navy Admiral Christopher Grady is getting the nod to be the second highest-ranking person in the military. If confirmed, Grady would replace Air Force Gen. John Hyten as the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Grady currently serves as commander of the Navy’s U.S. Fleet Forces Command. He previously served as the deputy commander of U.S. Naval Forces Europe and Africa.

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