Is the government classifying too much information?

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  • The U.S. spy chief said the government is classifying too much information. In a letter to lawmakers, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines conceded that deficiencies in the classification system are making it difficult to share information with U.S. partners and undermining national security. Haines provided lawmakers with several examples of work the intelligence community is doing to improve the classification process, but the details were marked “For Official Use Only.”
  • The General Services Administration is broadening its criteria for art commissioned for federal buildings. GSA, in a final rule,  is removing language that prioritizes art portraying historically significant Americans, or significant events in American history in a realistic style. GSA said the rule will be more inclusive of different artistic styles, and meets the goals of President Joe Biden’s executive order to promote racial equity through the federal government. GSA reserves about 0.5% of construction costs for new federal buildings for commissioned art.
  • Acquisition.gov lost the beta designation with new features. The final site, operated by GSA, has lots of upgrades. Some relate to accessibility, i.e. you can enlarge fonts and switch to high-contrast display. Others enhance information such as FAR definitions that pop up when you hover over a word. It also has better search functions. Some features have to do with speed and administration since GSA has rebuilt the plumbing with a new version of Drupal content management and enhanced caching for faster speeds.
  • The Postal Service saw lower scores on customer satisfaction and on-time delivery. The Postal Regulatory Commission found USPS fell short on targets to improve or maintain customer satisfaction in fiscal 2021, and didn’t meet on-time delivery targets for many of its monopoly mail products. The commission found USPS didn’t meet any of its service targets for first-class mail, even after lowering the targets in light of the pandemic’s expected impact on service. The agency also saw a more than 4% drop in its overall customer satisfaction scores between 2020 and 2021. (Federal News Network)
  • The Pentagon plans to fight the State of Hawaii’s order telling it to empty a massive fuel storage facility that’s contaminated local drinking water, at least for now. Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks said DoD is still exploring its options including the possibility of defueling the Red Hill fuel complex near Honolulu at some point. But the department doesn’t intend to comply with an early February deadline Hawaii health officials imposed. Hicks said DoD will file court appeals challenging that order this week. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is narrowing down some of the best ideas in the service to bring into reality. Every year, the Air Force asks airmen for their best ideas in improving the service or a specific weapons system. The Spark Tank event works similarly to the TV show Shark Tank, where airmen pitch ideas to a panel of judges. This year’s final ideas include a drone that can deliver blood products to injured troops in the field; there’s also a pitch that would help service members learn better through gaming. Other finalists include 3D imagining for custom oxygen masks and a way to tow aircraft while in flight.
  • The Army is working with four companies to explore how it can give soldiers lightweight ways to use power in the field for days at a time. Army Futures Command’s Applications Lab is giving the four companies $100,000 each to develop conceptual designs to give soldiers the energy to power weapons remotely. The service will eventually pare down the companies for a $250,000 proof of technology and demonstration agreement.
  • The IRS hopes a new contract for its Return Review Program brings in innovative technologies that makes the program even more successful. The tax agency awarded Accenture Federal Services a five-year $73 million contract to provide automated identity theft and fraud detection services. The RPP is an automated system used to enhance the IRS’ capabilities to detect, resolve and prevent criminal and civil noncompliance and identity theft. All with an end goal of reducing the issuance of fraudulent tax refunds. Accenture won the deal from IBM, which held the contract for the past six-plus years.
  • The White House’s new cybersecurity metrics ask agencies some tough questions. Do you know how many of your systems use multifactor authentication and encryption? The Office of Management and Budget wants agencies to answer that question and many more as part of new federal cyber metrics. Agencies report on the metrics to OMB under the Federal Information Security Modernization Act. Members of Congress are looking to update that law this year. But the latest metrics already look a lot different, with a big focus on zero trust security principles. (Federal News Network)
  • An unexpected change is underway for the Small Business Administration’s technology leadership. Keith Bluestein has taken a leave of absence as the CIO at SBA. Federal News Network confirmed Bluestein left the agency as of yesterday. Luis Campudoni, the deputy CIO, is now acting until Bluestein returns or a new one is named. Bluestein returned to SBA in June 2020 after serving as NASA’s associate CIO for the previous four years. He was acting CIO at SBA in 2015. Campudoni has been with SBA for just over a year, coming to the agency from the Department of Homeland Security. (Federal News Network)
  • Federal prisons across the country have been placed on lockdown after a violent altercation at a facility in Texas left two inmates dead and two others injured yesterday. The incident happened at USP Beaumont, and involved members of the MS-13 street gang. The attack is just the latest example of serious violence within the federal Bureau of Prisons. The agency in recent years has faced widespread staffing shortages, serious employee misconduct, a series of escapes and deaths. (Associated Press)

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