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The General Services Administration is looking for artists to spruce up a new headquarters for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. GSA is allocating nearly $2 million for artwork for the CISA headquarters at the Department of Homeland Security’s St Elizabeth’s campus. Artists have until December 17 to submit their application materials to GSA. CISA is the latest DHS component to move to the St E’s campus. DHS and GSA expect to complete construction on the campus by 2026.
A deal has been reached in Congress that would allow it to raise the debt ceiling, sort of. The agreement reached will allow Democrats to lift the nation’s debt limit without any votes from Republicans, likely averting another last-minute rush to avoid a federal default. It would tuck a provision to fast-track the debt limit process into an unrelated Medicare bill that will prevent payment cuts to doctors and other health care providers. That measure narrowly passed the House. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees got a new benefit through the annual defense policy bill. They will now get up to two weeks of paid bereavement leave over a 12-month period. That’s thanks to a provision in the 2022 National Defense Authorization Act. The leave will apply to any federal employee who has lost a son or daughter. The House passed the 2022 NDAA earlier this week. The Senate is expected to consider the sweeping defense policy bill in the coming days. (Federal News Network)
The top defense policy bill is nearly law and there are important changes for members of the military in it. The 2022 defense authorization bill brings a slew of new personnel policies. Along with a 2.7% raise for service members, troops will see expanded care for eating disorders and mental health. The bill also gives the Defense Department the power to create a basic needs allowance for service members below the poverty line. That provision stemmed from studies reporting food insecurity in the ranks. The legislation also requires that when the military fires a service member for not getting the COVID vaccine, that person must get an honorable or general discharge. (Federal News Network)
Agnes Schaefer was nominated as the Army’s next assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs. If confirmed Schafer will be the top human resources official in the service. Schaefer is currently a senior political scientist at the RAND Corporation. Her studies focus on issues of military personnel and emerging threats. Schaefer has conducted more than 60 studies for senior defense officials and served as associate director of RAND’s International and Defense Policy Center. (White House)
The Justice Department will reverse course and recognize the National Association of Immigration Judges as the union representing some 500 employees at the department’s Executive Office for Immigration Review. DOJ decertified the union during the previous administration. Those decertification efforts continued into the Biden administration. The union filed an unfair labor practice complaint with the Federal Labor Relations Authority back in July. The authority dropped the complaint after DOJ agreed this week to settle with the union. The union has represented non-supervisory immigration judges at DOJ since 1979.
Jordan Burris, the former chief of staff for the federal chief information officer, has a new job in industry. Burris joined Socure as its senior director for product market strategy for the public sector. During his four years at the Office of Management and Budget, Burris helped lead the federal CIO’s effort to rescind outdated technology policies as well as the response to the SolarWinds cyber attack. At Socure, Burris will help lead the new public sector organization to assist agencies in verifying 100% of all identities in real time and to eliminate identity fraud.
What should contractors actually do now that a judge has stayed the vaccine mandate nationwide? Companies are still free to have their own corporate mandates, but many states have banned those too. Jenner and Block attorney Matthew Haws said companies should consider whether they make things and send them to the government, versus having people in government offices. Haws notes that for its part, the government at the ground level is likely to slow-walk the mandate. He said that after several state-level mandate bans, the Defense Department came out with guidance telling contract officers to keep clauses referring to the mandate out of contracts in those states. “And I expect to see that expanded nationwide.” (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration is setting zero-emission goals for federal buildings and vehicles. An executive order from President Joe Biden directs agencies to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions across all federal operations by 2050. That includes making federal buildings zero-emission by 2045, and requiring agencies to purchase 100% zero-emission vehicles by 2035. The executive order also gives the Office of Personnel Management 90 days to create a report that outlines ways to expand environmental sustainability and climate adaptation training for federal employees. The EO builds on the administration’s priorities in the Build Back Better Act, which the House passed in November, but has yet to move forward in the Senate. (Federal News Network)
A multibillion-dollar IT contract just dropped at the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. NGA awarded a potential 10-year, $4.5 billion contract to General Dynamics Information Technology for “User Facing and Data Center Services.” GDIT is tasked with providing a full suite of user-facing and data center IT services. The work will be performed at major NGA facilities in Virginia and Missouri, as well as more than 150 sites worldwide. The contract is split into a five-year ordering period and five, 12-month option periods.
It took a whistleblower to get the Department of Veterans Affairs to follow cloud security requirements. VA is using cloud applications that are not approved by the Federal Risk Authorization Management Program or FedRAMP, which is required by OMB policy. In fact, VA went even one step further when it was using software-as-a-service applications without an authority to operate or ATO. The VA inspector general reviewed the department’s cloud security efforts have receiving a tip on its hotline. The IG says these applications are putting VA’s data and systems at risk of cyber incidents. In response to the IG’s findings, VA’s CIO said it will ensure the SaaS applications have an ATO and expects to have at least one of the applications through FedRAMP by Dec. 31.
Senior Department of Homeland Security officials met with Silicon Valley giants. The U.S. government wants to forge a tighter relationship with industry to thwart cybersecurity threats. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas hammered that point home during a meeting with Google, Microsoft and other companies near Silicon Valley this week. Joining Mayorkas was Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly, National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, and DHS Under Secretary for Policy Rob Silvers. They discussed cyber threats facing the nation and CISA’s new Joint Cyber Defense Collaborative.