New GSA contract will make sure some federal buildings are always buzzing

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  • The backlog of immigration cases waiting at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services reached nearly 5.2 million, that is cases waiting longer than the target processing time. And about 8.5 million cases are pending. The USCIS Ombudsman says cutting that backlog is the core of their annual report to Congress, due next week. USCIS struggles to hire and train employees fast enough to process cases, but the agency hopes to hire as many as 4,000 employees by the end of the year. The ombudsman recommends more online options for applicants to check their immigration status. (Federal News Network)
  • GAO has some recommendations for Immigration and Customs Enforcement to improve how it assesses contractor performance. The Government Accountability Office’s latest report finds ICE isn’t fully assessing the impact of its $2.2 billion contract to administer the Alternatives to Detention program. The program uses options like home visits and GPS minoring instead of detaining those awaiting their day in immigration court. GAO also says ICE doesn’t ensure its contractor meets standards. Recommendations to fix this include measurable performance targets and more information on absconsion.
  • A contracting officer at the General Services Administration pled guilty to accepting bribes and now faces up to 15 years in prison. The Justice Department says Charles W. Jones of Staunton, Virginia, took more than $411,000 in return for awarding more than $1.3 million in contracts. Jones was a contracting officer overseeing construction and renovation projects at certain federal buildings throughout Norfolk, Richmond and Alexandria, Virginia, including federal courthouses. He will be sentenced on Nov. 9. The presidents of the companies Jones took money from, Contractors USA, Inc., and SDC Contracting LLC, previously plead guilty on related charges.
  • One agency dropped the ball in securing its national security systems. End of life software, no multi-factor authentication and poorly managed authorities to operate have plagued the Commerce Department’s national security systems for the better part of the last two decades. The Commerce inspector general found these systems were at risk, and were deprived of resources to be managed effectively. Auditors also found Commerce spent $380,000 on a investigations and threat management system that it didn’t use. Commerce decided to turn off the system in 2021. The IG made five recommendations that Commerce’s CIO agreed with.
  • The National Security Agency is trying to make its cybersecurity guidance more accessible. Bailey Bickley, a chief strategy officer at NSA, says she’s meeting people where they are, on social media like Twitter, rather than only posting information at The agency also publishes cyber information that’s easier to understand by using infographics and clear language. NSA regularly incorporates feedback loops to update and release multiple rounds of guidance based on users’ input. Bickley says as a result, the agency sees more actions taken based on NSA’s cyber guidance.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is looking at ways to improve talent management. CISA is hiring a chief people officer within the next few months. The individual will help establish workforce development priorities and lead a unified approach to talent management. CISA’s Cybersecurity Advisory Committee is also recommending the agency move with greater speed and urgency when it comes to talent management. The committee says CISA should aim to go from job offer to onboarding within 90 days — less than half the time it takes today. (Federal News Network)
  • New supply chain security training for feds is on the horizon. President Joe Biden signed the Supply Chain Security Training Act into law last week. The General Services Administration will set up a supply chain security training program to educate federal employees on issues like cyber supply chain threats. The Office of Management and Budget is responsible for developing guidance that helps agencies understand how to use the program and who should participate.
  • Federal employees with young kids can now take a little time off from work. The Office of Personnel Management’s leave policy for COVID-19 vaccinations now applies to more feds. The policy adds employees who need to accompany their kids ages six months to five years old in getting the vaccine. The Food and Drug Administration previously approved Pfizer and Moderna vaccines for the younger age group. The leave policy from the Safer Federal Workforce task force applies to feds with all kids eligible for the vaccine. Federal workers can use administrative leave for the appointments.
  • Federal firefighters across the country are celebrating their recent pay raises, but many fear it won’t be enough. Advocacy groups say even with the raises, firefighters can make significantly more money in municipal departments, or even at grocery stores. They’re calling for the creation of a new job classification, making them year-round employees. They also warned that without permanent raises, attrition will likely continue. Currently the raises would expire in September of next year. (Federal News Network)
  • The U.S. Mint has its first African American director. Ventris Gibson was sworn into the role Wednesday after being confirmed by the Senate on June 15. Gibson is the 40th director of the Mint and is the seventh woman to serve in this role. Gibson’s career in federal service includes several senior human resources roles at the Federal Aviation Administration and at the Department of Veterans Affairs. She brings over 40 years of human resources experience to the Mint.
  • The Defense Advisory Committee on Women in the Services meets today for the first time since it was disbanded in January of 2021. It will have 14 new members appointed by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, among them retired Col. Nancy Anderson of the Marine Corps, and retired Brig. Gen. Allyson Solomon of the Air National Guard. The committee is made up of civilian men and women who are charged with offering advise and recommendations on issues related to the service and retention of women in the military.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking into patient safety concerns following the rollout of its new Electronic Health Record. VA Secretary Denis McDonough says VA’s patient safety expert team is looking into cases of patient harm at a VA hospital in Spokane, Washington and that the team at this point can’t rule out whether the new electronic health record there contributed to the harm caused. “I do now know that there are instances of patient harm” he says. The Spokesman-Review newspaper over the weekend first reported that a draft inspector general report found 148 cases of patient harm following the EHR go-live at the Spokane hospital. (Federal News Network)
  • The federal government’s landlord is getting a new tenant, bees! The General Services Administration is installing honeybee hives at 11 federal buildings as part of a yearlong pilot. GSA awarded a contract to a beekeeping serving to maintain the hives, analyze honey production and identify plants and environments that are hospitable to the bees. GSA is collecting data throughout the pilot so that federal buildings and other facilities can serve as a habit for bees and other pollinators that play a role in agriculture and food production.

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