NASA finds itself on the hunt for more astronauts

In today's Federal Newscast, NASA’s Office of Inspector General has identified a staffing shortage in the agency’s astronaut corps.

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  • Congress looks to update the federal cybersecurity playbook. A draft House bill would overhaul cybersecurity standards under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act. It would relax FISMA reporting requirements, but shift oversight of agencies to a continuous monitoring model. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency would play a bigger role in assessing agency cyber risks. And the new National Cyber Director’s office would have a key role in developing big-picture strategy. Lawmakers said recent cyber incidents show the need for new approaches like zero trust architecture, shared services, and software bills of material. (Federal News Network)
  • Contractors vying for a spot on the $40 billion CIO-SP4 vehicle have updated requirements as they plan to resubmit their bids. NITAAC issued a 13th amendment yesterday explaining how vendors can start logging onto a portal to submit their self-scoring sheet and revised bids. NITAAC had to take corrective action after a successful protest by a contractor over the mentor-protégé requirements in the solicitation. Revised bids are due January 21. NITAAC expects to have the CIO-SP4 government-wide acquisition contract in place by November instead of May as originally intended.
  • Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) is demanding more information from the Pentagon’s Inspector General about its audit of DoD’s JEDI Cloud contract. The IG concluded almost two years ago that the contract wasn’t affected by conflicts of interest, but in a new letter, Grassley claimed OIG staff “misrepresented” some of the evidence behind those findings. Among other things, he’s asking for the names of former IG staff members and another briefing on the now-cancelled contract.
  • The Defense Department’s budget could hit $787 billion by the year 2031. The Congressional Budget Office found that DOD’s plans to increase spending on new, advanced weapons will account for the largest part of the growth. Operations and maintenance will account for a third take of the growth. CBO says payroll will account for a fourth of the increase.
  • The Navy is facing big questions about fuel contaminating drinking water in Hawaii. It has started to empty 16,000 gallons of jet fuel into the water supply and sickened military families on the island of Oahu. However, after testifying before Congress, Navy officials still don’t have solid answers on the crisis. Officials don’t know the extent of the problem, the long term effects on service members or if fuel leakage is a systemic issue. The Navy said its conducting studies now. Meanwhile, thousands of families are still displaced and suffering from health issues. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is launching a new round of surveys to help determine the state of its housing programs. The latest edition went to 110,000 soldiers and families living in both government-owned and contractor-owned homes. Responses are due at the end of February. Last year’s results showed slight improvements in tenant satisfaction rates, but only about a quarter of the people surveyed sent in responses.
  • NASA’s Office of Inspector General has identified a staffing shortage in the agency’s astronaut corps. In a recent audit, the OIG said that the corps is projected to fall below its targeted size in fiscal 2022. The report contains several recommendations, including expanding diversity among astronauts and for NASA offices to centralize their astronaut data. This comes as NASA’s need for astronauts increases as it plans to return to the moon by 2024.
  • Agencies have a new deadline from the Safer Workforce Task Force. By February 15, agencies have to set up a testing program for employees who are not fully vaccinated, including those who are waiting on a request for exception or extension from the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. In new and updated FAQs from the Safer Federal Workforce task force, agencies must test unvaccinated employees who work on-site or with the public at least once a week. The task force tells agencies to work with employee unions to develop specific testing plans as part of meeting collective bargaining obligations. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is creating a Chief Diversity Officer Council. OPM said the council will help elevate the role of agency chief diversity officers and make sure they report to senior leadership. Rita Sampson, the director of OPM’s Office of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility, said the steering committee responsible for standing up the council will hold its first meeting next Tuesday and will meet weekly for the near future. Sampson said chief diversity officers must also rely on support on other officials, such as chief human capital officers and chief data officers. (Federal News Network)
  • President Biden has picked a nominee for the next director of the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. If confirmed, Vice Admiral Frank Whitworth III would become the eighth director to serve at NGA. Whitworth is currently director of intelligence on the Joint Staff at the Pentagon. He would replace Vice Admiral Robert Sharp, who has helmed NGA since 2019.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is one step closer to modernizing its financial management system. DHS helped the Coast Guard transition to a new system called the Financial System Modernization Solution. The new platform will help the service better manage its $12 billion budget. The Coast Guard is the third DHS component to adopt the change. DHS Chief Financial Officer Stacy Marcott said moving away from legacy financial systems is one of the department’s top priorities. The new tool will help DHS components achieve more reliable results when paying bills, procuring services and managing budgets.
  • The task force with the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy finds cases where agencies violate federal scientific integrity policies are rare, but can still undermine public trust. Now that task force is working on a plan for agencies to periodically assess and improve their scientific integrity policies. OSTP is also calling for greater collaboration between agencies on best practices. President Joe Biden created the task force as part of a presidential memorandum he signed last year.

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