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A new proposal from the Education Department aims to expand student loan relief programs for federal workers. The proposed regulations would alleviate student loan debt for public service workers who have met their commitments under the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. It would also ensure current debt doesn’t grow due to interest. Finally, the proposal would allow borrowers to have their day in court if they have disputes with their colleges over loans. The department aims to finalize these rules by Nov. 1 and have them take effect no later than July 1, 2023.
Addressing employee misconduct and improving employee performance management are top of the list for the Government Accountability Office’s recommendations to the Office of Personnel Management. GAO added a few more priorities earlier this year for the agency, including improving payroll data, strengthening cybersecurity and making hiring authorities more effective. GAO’s open recommendations report shows that OPM has implemented two recommendations, out of 15 total, since this time last year. The recommendations ultimately center on lowering costs and improving government operations.
Issues with the Thrift Savings Plan update are getting more attention on Capitol Hill. Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.) said she is considering a House hearing to look into issues following a major update to the TSP. The executive director for the TSP board has agreed to update Norton weekly on the board’s progress for resolving common issues for participants. Norton said, “I’m also hearing that retirees don’t have access to their retirement savings. This is very serious. That’s why the weekly updates are so important. This affects federal employees nationwide.” (Federal News Network)
Congress is urging the Federal Trade Commission to investigate TikTok. The app is one of the most popular social media platforms and is owned by ByteDance, Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said members of the Chinese government are using the app to collect data on U.S. citizens. Those claims have a particular impact on military service members who may be stationed in sensitive areas.
Service members may notice some differences with their work computers after the Roe v. Wade decision. The Defense Department has lifted years-long restrictions on accessing abortion care websites on military computers. The Pentagon said it decided to lift bans on abortion content because it is related to health care. DoD is currently going through its systems to ensure the restriction is uniformly lifted. The Pentagon is also updating its broader policy to ensure consistency and access to information. The decision comes just weeks after the Supreme Court’s decision to strike down Roe v Wade. That decision restricted access to abortion for some service members.
The Department of Defense is working on ways to improve finding temporary caregivers easier for the military families who have dependents with special needs. DoD is working to increase access to temporary caregivers by doubling the number of hours their benefits provide. Covering 32 hours a month by 2025 will hopefully provide the family’s primary caregivers with a break. A recent Government Accountability Office study found the Defense Health Agency miscommunicated requirements for accessing this respite care and is recommending each military branch to specifically write down that there is no requirement that another adult remain in the home in order to access the temporary care.
The Pentagon is trying to streamline its cybersecurity requirements for contractors. The Defense Department’s Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification requirements have significant overlap with the FedRAMP standards for cloud services. That’s why DoD is now working on a plan to allow some level of reciprocity between CMMC and FedRAMP authorizations. The Pentagon is still writing the interim rules for CMMC, and it’s not expected to show up as a requirement in contracts until next May at the earliest. (Federal News Network)
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is launching a post-quantum cryptography initiative. The announcement comes just after the National Institute of Standards and Technology selected its first quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms. Quantum computing is expected to break current encryption methods, putting sensitive data at risk. CISA’s new program will support both critical infrastructure and government entities as they prepare for a post-quantum world.
The Federal Communications Commission hired a familiar face to be its new CIO. Allen Hill, who has led the governmentwide initiatives around network modernization and the expansion of the Defense Enterprise Office Solution or DEOS initiative, will be the new chief information officer at the FCC. Federal News Network confirmed Hill, who is the deputy assistant commissioner for the IT category at GSA, will start Aug. 1. He will replace Francisco Salguero, who left in October to join Salesforce as a digital acceleration architect. Hill also has held senior positions with the Education Department and in industry. Larry Hale will take over for Hill on an interim basis at GSA. (Federal News Network)
An independent agency meant to fast-track the sale of federal real estate may get a new leader. President Joe Biden expects to nominate New York real estate developer Jeffrey Gural as chairman of the Public Buildings Reform Board. The 2016 Federal Assets Sale and Transfer Act directs the board to identify underused federal properties and expedite their sale or disposal. The board currently has three members, and needs five to create a quorum. The General Services Administration made at least three property sales so far, based on the board’s recommendations.
Another airline settled with the Justice Department over claims it falsified international mail delivery times in a contract with the Postal Service. Air France and KLM Airlines agreed to pay nearly $4 million after DOJ said they falsely reported delivery times for U.S. mail travelling internationally. Delta Airlines agreed to a more than $10 million settlement over the same issue last week. DOJ said there have been seven civil settlement stemming from this contract, and that $84 million have been recovered from these investigations.
The Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force got a big win from a federal jury in Texas. One man was convicted of defrauding the government of more than $240 million in construction contracts meant for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses. The jury found Michael Angelo Padron, along with co-conspirators Michael Wibracht and Ruben Villarreal, guilty of wire fraud and defrauding the United States. The jury found Pardon and Wilbracht exercised disqualifying financial and operational control over the construction company despite saying Villarreal, a service-disabled veteran, was the owner. Pardon will be sentenced in October and could face both tens of thousands of dollars in fines and lengthy jail time.