Biden picks agency to lead federal response during Russia-Ukraine crisis

In today's Federal Newscast, President Biden designated the Department of Homeland Security as the lead agency for the federal response to the Russia-Ukraine cr...

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  • President Joe Biden designated the Department of Homeland Security as the lead agency for the federal response to the Russia-Ukraine crisis. DHS said there are no specific threats to the homeland at this time but the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency warned of the potential for Russian cyber actions against U.S. critical infrastructure and other organizations. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has been accompanied by cyber attacks on the Ukrainian government and critical infrastructure. DHS set up a Unified Coordination Group to prepare for potential threats.
  • Federal employees are generally more engaged working at agencies run by career civil servants, rather than political appointees. That’s according to the latest research from the Partnership for Public Service and Boston Consulting Group. The study pulled data from the Partnership’s Best Places to Work in the Federal Government rankings and its political appointee tracker. The study found that career leadership doesn’t always lead to higher employee engagement in all cases, but is just one of several variables that may set an agency up for success.
  • The General Services Administration outlined its plan to upgrade infrastructure upgrades along the U.S. borders. GSA plans to spend $3.4 billion to modernize 26 land ports of entry along the U.S. borders with Canada and Mexico. The agency received this funding as part of nearly $1 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal Biden signed into law last November. GSA Administrator Robin Carnahan said the land ports selected for modernization are, on average, 40 years old, and haven’t kept up with an increase in trade in recent years.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency risks mismanaging over $20 billion in grant funds by failing to track grants modified throughout the pandemic. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. The IG found that EPA did not track grants that received COVID-related flexibilities from program offices. The report also found that EPA lacks a centralized electronic system for storing grant information. The IG recommended EPA develop a standard operating procedure for tracking modified grants, and that the agency create a record-keeping system for grants by December.
  • Academic and research contractors are not properly protecting important unclassified data tied to Defense Department programs. A report from the DoD Inspector General found that organizations are not using multifactor authentication, failing to mitigate network vulnerabilities and not implementing physical security controls. The IG recommended DoD use its authority to ensure contractors are in compliance with cybersecurity standards.
  • The Defense Department is prioritizing some research and connecting training programs to better access critical supply chains. Microelectronics, batteries, castings and more are threatened supply chains that the Defense Department counts on. The Pentagon has been thinking about how it can strengthen those markets and is now out with some ideas. DoD said it will start collaborating with industry to favor domestic manufacturers and safeguard markets. DoD will also update its procurement and budget policies to smooth cycles and encourage expansion of certain business areas.
  • The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification program could get off the ground soon on a voluntary basis. The Pentagon still has to go through a lengthy rulemaking process to make CMMC a requirement in contracts. But the CMMC Accreditation Body is gearing up for voluntary assessments to begin later this spring. Accreditation Body chief executive Matthew Travis said the body is also looking to recruit more assessors. “You’re going to be seeing promotional campaigns from us here this spring, to really encourage Americans to think about becoming assessors. It’s a great way to enter the cybersecurity field and we’re really trying to get the word out,” he said. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department said it’s directing the military service academies to better their sexual assault and harassment prevention programs. The announcement comes after recent numbers found sharp increases in assault and harassment at the schools. DoD said each academy needs an individual on staff to oversee prevention efforts. DoD is also hiring outside contractors to look at the schools’ prevention efforts.

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