IG: VA may have to use data better to ensure resources go where they’re needed

In today's Federal Newscast, auditors for the Department of Veterans Affairs say the data Veterans Affairs is using to measure its capacity to provide specialty...

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  • Auditors for the Department of Veterans Affairs said the data VA is using to measure its capacity to provide specialty health care might not be accurate. The MISSION Act requires VA use data to measure its capacity and assess the demand for health care in 96 geographic markets. The Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission will then recommend ways to modernize or realign VA resources to fill health care gaps. The VA inspector general said the department overstated workloads for 12 specialty areas by 10%. The IG said VA risks not placing staff and resources in the places where veterans need them the most.
  • Multiple agencies said their senior leaders will return to the office after the new year. The Agriculture Department, Environmental Protection Agency and National Science Foundation have all asked their senior executives or managers to return to the office on Jan. 3 or 4. At least for a day or two a week. Planning for the rest of their employees to return is more complicated. The Social Security Administration said it will ask employees to return later than the original Jan. 3 date it proposed earlier this fall. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies at last have a formal occupational series for data scientists in government. The Office of Personnel Management finalized the key roles, skills and competencies for data scientists. It worked with the Census Bureau, the Chief Information Officers Council, Office of Management and Budget and others to create the new data scientist series. It covers professional positions that involve extracting and interpreting data sets and visualizing them to articulate the findings. Agencies should use this new occupational series to classify data science jobs moving forward.
  • A new wrinkle in two long-running programs to update federal electronic health records. A new commercial wrinkle that is. Oracle Corporation will acquire Cerner for $28.3 billion in cash, or $95 a share. Cerner is the company supplying the electronic health records to the Veterans Affairs and Defense departments as both struggle to replace legacy systems. VA’s contract is directly with Cerner. DoD uses Leidos as its prime for integration. Initial rollouts have run into technical and schedule problems. Oracle is among the government’s longest-running software suppliers, dating to 1977.
  • There’s new leadership at a key organization for the Pentagon’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification initiative. The CMMC Accreditation Body announced that Jeff Dalton was elected to serve as chairman of the board of directors in 2022. Dalton was previously vice chairman. He takes over for the departing Karlton Johnson. Dalton is president and CEO of the consulting firm Broadsword. He said his top priorities include ensuring companies understand recent changes the Pentagon made to the program, called “CMMC 2.0.”
  • As the Omicron variant bares down on the United States, the Defense Department is clarifying how to handle civilian employee vaccinations. The Pentagon is clarifying exactly how it will handle civilian workers who have not attested to getting fully vaccinated. The Defense Department required those employees to be inoculated by November 22. However, a new guidance is encouraging DoD components to continue robust education and counseling to civilian holdouts to take the shot. It states that department heads should hold off until January 2022 to send out letters of reprimand. Civilian employees can eventually be fired from their jobs if they do not get the vaccine.
  • Congress is getting concerned about the Army’s augmented reality goggle program and its taking action. The 2022 defense authorization bill withholds 25% of the Army’s funding for the Integrated Visual Augmented System until the service can provide a report on the procurement efforts. The Army announced in October that it was delaying the program by a year. (Federal News Network)
  • The Senate advances legislation to boost artificial intelligence training. Late last week, the Senate passed a bill to increase the federal workforce’s understanding of artificial intelligence technologies. The legislation is sponsored by Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Ranking Member Rob Portman (R-Ohio). It would require the Office of Management and Budget to set up a training program for feds who manage and purchase AI technology. Training would include lessons on the benefits and risks of AI, including the ethical and national security implications posed by the technologies.

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