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The Defense Department is thinking about climate differently, as weather patterns continue to change. Top Pentagon officials said the military needs to better prepare itself to operate in extreme heat. Waves of hotter-than-usual weather have been cropping up across the world in recent years as a symptom of climate change. DoD’s chief climate official Richard Kidd said learning to be operational in high temperature atmospheres will be akin to having night vision. Kidd said DoD is investing and thinking about techniques and technologies focused on tactical cooling.
The Biden Administration said when public money is used for research, the findings ought to be freely available to the public. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy issued new guidance yesterday, telling federal agencies to make all federally-funded research publications available at no charge. Agencies have until the end of 2025 to implement the new policy.
State Farm Insurance has agreed to pay the government $100 million in restitution over claims that it defrauded FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. The settlement brings to an end a long string of court cases that started 16 years ago with Hurricane Katrina. Mississippi homeowners said State Farm mischarged the FEMA program by claiming some of the hurricane wind damage was caused by flooding. (Federal News Network)
Federal agencies may soon get some protection against cyber attacks from quantum computers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) said it selected four encryption algorithms that will become part of NIST’s post-quantum cryptographic standard. The announcement comes after six years of vetting different encryption methods designed to ward off such an attack. The agency’s post-quantum cryptography standardization project expects to finalize the standards in two years. The encryption algorithms could resist an attack from a future quantum computer that is more powerful than the comparatively limited machines available today.
Federal procurement spending dropped by $54 billion in 2021. Agencies spent $637 billion in fiscal 2021 on products and services. That was about 9% less than in 2020. New data from the Government Accountability Office show spending on services still outpaces spending on products, especially among civilian agencies. GAO said agencies also spent nearly $15 billion through other transaction authority, or OTA type of procurements. That is down from $17 billion in 2020. Of that $15 billion spent on OTAs last year, about 20% went to COVID-related buys. Overall, federal procurement spending on COVID products and services increased to $52 billion from $35 billion last year.
Acquisition enthusiasts unite: Now you can compare up to three regulations side-by-side using the Acquisition Regulation Comparator. The new tool is now live on acquisition.gov. Phase 1 lets users compare three types of acquisition regulations: Federal Acquisition Regulation, the General Services Administration and DoD. Phase 2 will eventually include all civilian agency regulations. The project is led by GSA and the Defense Acquisition University.
A waiver that expands eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program will soon expire. Feds looking to fill out an additional PSLF waiver for student loan forgiveness must apply by Oct. 31. But Democratic lawmakers called on the Biden administration to extend the deadline until more permanent program changes can take effect. Close to 120 members of Congress urged the Education Department to extend the waiver deadline until at least July 1, 2023. The deadline matches the date that the Education Department’s proposals to improve the program are set to take effect. (Federal News Network)
Spy agencies continue to deepen their relationships with commercial space and tech companies. The National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) plans to make multiple awards as soon as next month to radio-frequency-sensing satellite companies. The contracts are part of a broader push by NRO to take advantage of the growing commercial space sector. Meanwhile, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is planning to use artificial intelligence capabilities to analyze a growing amount of data. NGA is taking over the Pentagon’s AI pathfinder, Project Maven, and the agency is also seeking out commercial AI capabilities from tech companies. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force is partnering with NASA to experiment with new spacecraft materials on the International Space Station. Specifics about the materials are staying under wraps, but the service said they’re being tested for use on future air and spacecraft. The goal of the experiment is to provide real-time data on how certain resources degrade in a space environment. The materials will be installed on the space station for six months and then returned to Earth for analysis.
The Veterans Benefits Administration is thought to have incorrectly processed almost 21,000 claims related to exposure to contaminated drinking water at Camp Lejeune. For more than 30 years, it’s estimated that a million individuals were exposed to the contaminated drinking water at the military training facility, but an examination of claims found serious errors. The VA’s Office of Inspector General said veterans were underpaid nearly $14 million in benefits over four years because of errors made by VBA.
The Office of Personnel Management told agencies to submit both a progress report and an upcoming plan for their Disabled Veterans Affirmative Action Programs. OPM said agencies should detail their methods for monitoring, reviewing and evaluating the programs. OPM said, over the last few years, the reports have shown positive trends in the affirmative action programs.
Department of Homeland Security advisers said it’s imperative that DHS strengthen efforts to take on disinformation that undermines critical missions. The Homeland Security Advisory Council already recommended DHS do away with a controversial Disinformation Governance Board. But the council’s final recommendations stress DHS cannot ignore false narratives that affect operations like emergency response or cybersecurity. Specifically, the council recommends DHS bolster its Office of Intelligence and Analysis to serve as the focal point for tackling disinformation.
The chairman of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee said the Department of Veterans Affairs is facing challenges to reimburse veterans for travel to-and-from health care appointments. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) wrote a letter to VA Secretary Denis McDonough calling on the department to improve access to this travel benefit for people without consistent internet access or a smartphone. Right now, it’s only accessible online. VA implemented the Beneficiary Travel Self-Service System in 2020 to cover costs of traveling to appointments in some parts of the country, where such drives can be hundreds of miles.