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Can the government safely and equitably use facial recognition for identity proofing? That is the question the General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service is asking. In a new request for information, TTS is seeking a vendor to conduct an “equity study” to gather data through primary research to determine if identity verification capabilities including facial verification meet equity standards across various demographics. GSA will publish this peer-reviewed study in 2023 and it will assist GSA to make better informed decisions regarding identity verification capabilities. Responses to the RFI are due by May 2.
GSA’s new one-stop shop for customer agencies is open for business. Buy.GSA.gov is the General Services Administration’s latest attempt to make federal procurement easier. GSA launched the new site as part of its summer 2022 update to its federal marketplace strategy. The Federal Acquisition Service said it’s a plain language, multi-functional website built using human centered design. The website’s goal, GSA said, is to address pain points in the acquisition process like market research, pricing determinations and contract templates. Agencies, vendors and GSA helped with the development of the new portal.
The Small Business Administration embarked on another revision of small business size standards. In a new proposed rule, SBA named nine sectors for the revisions. The agency just this month made final new size limits for small manufacturing businesses in 16 other sectors. This new rule would let mid-size businesses get back to small status in mining, utilities, transportation and warehousing, and professional and scientific services, among others. Comments are due June 27. SBA said it wants to keep the 500-employee rule for distributors and retail businesses.
Some services for Thrift Savings Plan participants will become temporarily unavailable next month. That’s part of the final stages to roll out the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board’s Converge program. The new system will provide TSP participants with a mobile app, as well as enhance investment security. FRTIB announced that between May 26 and the first week of June, participants won’t be able to change their investment choices. The options will open back up after Converge goes live in June.
The Justice and Labor departments will team up to help incarcerated individuals develop job skills. The agencies will invest $145 million between fiscal 2022 and 2023 for that effort. Additionally, the Department of Veterans’ Affairs is supporting incarcerated individuals by automating information sharing among the Social Security Administration and the Bureau of Prisons. Through that collaboration, the VA hopes to more quickly restore benefits for previously incarcerated veterans. These efforts are part of the White House’s goal to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated Americans.
The State Department is making the first big change in decades in how it screens Foreign Service applicants. The agency said it will no longer use Foreign Service Officer Test scores as the sole criteria for who moves on to the next steps of the selection process. The agency will now also consider an applicant’s education, experience and personal narratives, in addition to the test scores. The agency says this change will start for applicants taking the test this June, and will provide a more holistic view of candidates. The agency said this is the most significant change to its Foreign Service selection process since 1930.
The Space Force is looking for tech savvy people and it’s willing to pay to find them. The new service said it will offer $12,000 to $20,000 in bonuses next year for recruits with certain technological certifications. The service will grow by about 200 guardians in 2023. The service joins the other military branches in offering new bonuses as they compete for talent in a constrained labor market.
A key Pentagon AI initiative is on the move. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is preparing to take over Project Maven. The program has been run out of the Office of the Secretary of Defense since 2017. The effort has focused on developing artificial intelligence and machine learning software to analyze images and videos taken by unmanned aerial vehicles and satellites. NGA Deputy Director for Data and Digital Innovation Mark Munsell said NGA is the right place for the AI initiative. “It made a lot of sense to take what they’ve learned, and take the infrastructure that they’ve built, and the experience they’ve learned from the companies and find a genuine home for it, if you will, right with the agency.” (Federal News Network)
The National Reconnaissance Office is moving forward with its commercial outreach efforts. This summer, the NRO will ask for proposals from satellite companies that track radio-frequency data. The agency will release the solicitation through the “Commercial Strategic Enhancements” Broad Agency Announcement. The BAA process allows the NRO to more quickly award study contracts to commercial firms. The agency has already used that process to award contracts to five commercial satellite radar companies.
A high-ranking Air Force general is being punished for abusive sexual contact. Air Force Maj. Gen. William Cooley is convicted of forcibly kissing a civilian woman after being court martialed. Cooley is the first general in Air Force history to be brought up on charges. Cooley will forfeit give months of pay nearing $55,000. The incident happened between the general and his sister-in-law after a cookout in New Mexico. Cooley faced a maximum of dismissal from office, seven years of confinement and forfeiture of all pay and allowances. He is currently the special assistant for digital transformation at Air Force Materiel Command.
House lawmakers are telling the Department of Veterans Affairs to pause the rollout of its new Electronic Health Record. VA officials tell lawmakers that the VA medical center in Walla Walla Washington experienced EHR outages Monday and Tuesday this week. In light of these and other recent outages, Patrick Sargent, senior vice president and general manager for Cerner Government Services, says company is considering a technical review of the EHR to ensure the system is stable and reliable for future rollouts. “We have made a determination that we need to do likely an independent look at our system.” Top members of the House VA subcommittee on technology modernization says the agency should put future go-lives on until these issues are resolved. (Federal News Network)