IG: Pentagon may not really know how big a problem extremism is in the military

In today's Federal Newscast, the military has some big blind spots when it comes to figuring out how big a problem it has with extremism in the ranks.

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  • The Agriculture Department has a new telework policy. USDA employees can telework up to eight days every two weeks. Each USDA subcomponent can set their own remote work policies. USDA will allow employees to work from home if they have children or older dependents at home too. Employees who have their telework or remote work requests denied will receive a written business case explaining the reasons for the decision. The department said the new policy will allow it to recruit and retain a talented workforce.
  • The Government Accountability Office is issuing a renewed call for a comprehensive national cyber strategy. In congressional testimony submitted last week, GAO acknowledged some key steps have been taken, including the establishment of the White House Office of the National Cyber Director this past summer. But GAO said Washington still lacks a clear roadmap for addressing cyber challenges facing the nation, especially threats to critical infrastructure.
  • OMB retools its annual cybersecurity guidance to reflect the president’s executive order. Agencies have until September 30, 2024 to implement key features of a zero trust environment. The Office of Management and Budget is mandating agencies use phishing resistant multi-factor authentication, encryption across their internet facing networks and an inventory of every device authorized on its network. OMB detailed these and other updated cybersecurity requirements in its annual Federal Information Security Management Act guidance to agencies that is coming out today. OMB said it hopes these and the other changes help agencies focus less on compliance-based activities, and spend more time measuring information that is closely tied to observable and practical security outcomes. (Federal News Network)
  • President Biden has a clear message for agencies: Respect the role of your inspector general. The Office of Management and Budget is out with new guidance for agencies about cooperating with and strengthening relationships with their IGs. OMB recommends agencies more regularly tell employees about the role of the IG and how they can preserve their independence. OMB said feedback from the Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency informed the new guidance.
  • The military has some big blind spots when it comes to figuring out how big a problem it has with extremism in the ranks. That’s despite the issue being a top priority for Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. DoD’s inspector general said the Pentagon still hasn’t set guidelines to gather data on military justice cases involving gang activity, supremacy or extremism. The IG was able to find 281 investigations involving those issues last year. But that may be an undercount, since the military services have widely-varying policies for tracking extremism cases.
  • The fight over the Pentagon’s vaccine requirement and Oklahoma’s National Guard continues. The state’s governor and attorney general have now filed a lawsuit against the Defense Department to challenge the policy. They filed it on behalf of 16 Oklahoma Air National Guard members, saying Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin overstepped his constitutional authority mandating the National Guard to get the vaccine.
  • Hill Air Force Base officially deployed a 5G cellular network. The program will evaluate the technical feasibility and utility of spectrum sharing with 5G bands. Twelve different vendors will work on 5G testbeds, applications and network enhancements over the next 39 months. The Defense Department is investing heavily in 5G as future weapons systems will be dependent on the network for fast data sharing and situational awareness.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs for a third time received a poor report for its ability to comply with the DATA Act. Now two powerful House lawmakers want to know why and what VA is going to do about it. VA’s inspector general issued its third report since 2017 saying the agency still cannot submit comprehensive spending data to USASpending.gov. Congressmen Chris Pappas (D-N.H.) and Tracey Mann (R-Kan.), the chairman and ranking member of the Veterans Affairs Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, wrote a letter to VA Chief Financial Officer Jon Rychalski seeking a briefing on VA’s plans to comply with the 2014 DATA Act.
  • Agency management and contracting officials have roles to play in a new anti- human trafficking initiative. The White House’s new action plan to combat human trafficking directs agencies like the departments of Defense and Homeland Security to designate a senior management official with the responsibility to enforce anti-trafficking acquisition rules. And it calls on agencies to engage with industry to provide information about forced labor in supply chains. The plan also directs DHS and the departments of Justice and Health and Human Services to work with social media and technology companies to make it easier to report suspected human trafficking on their platforms. The White House also wants those agencies to work with tech companies to develop new tools to stop trafficking.

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