For the next pandemic, new report spells out plan for federal agencies to work together

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  • The General Services Administration has been given a roadmap to further improve its schedule contract. Vendors told the GSA that three changes to how it manages the offer process under the schedule contract would make a big difference. Companies said clear process flows, easy-to-follow, plain-language instructions and having a seamless user experience to guide offerors would ease the burden of getting a schedule contract or make changes to a current one. These were the major trends that emerged from a recent request for information GSA sent to schedule holders in June. GSA received 89 completed responses, most of which were from small businesses.
  • It’s Insider Threat Awareness Month and officials are reminding the cleared workforce to be wary of their online activities. This September’s national insider threat awareness campaign is focused on the importance of critical thinking in digital spaces. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center wants government and industry employees to be aware of how they can be targeted in virtual work environments. Officials said workers need the ability to spot online manipulation like social engineering, misinformation and phishing.
  • Democratic senators are seeking a federal review of the role artificial intelligence is playing in hiring decisions. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) is leading six of her colleagues in seeking an interagency review to determine if AI-led hiring decisions discriminate against people with disabilities. The senators are directing the Labor Department, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and the Federal Trade Commission to investigate instances of bias from employers or the AI tools they use. Earlier this year, EEOC and the Justice Department issued guidance outlining ways AI and automated hiring tools can violate the Americans with Disabilities Act.
  • Four companies are getting money to build out their artificial intelligence tools to improve federal services. The General Services Administration awarded $12,500 per company as part of their AI Challenge, aimed at new or emerging companies. Winners included FRAYM’s proposal for AI-driven population data, Microsoft on using AI for precision agriculture, PRENAV with a plan for 3D virtual inspections of bridges, dams and roads, and Eirene AI on early fire detection with a computer-controlled camera. Out of 122 submissions, 15 finalists had the opportunity to give lightning talks, before GSA selected the winners.
  • Soldiers and their families are less satisfied with military housing, according to a new Army survey. The Army saw a drop in satisfaction with residents of its government-owned and government-leased housing this year. Privatized military housing satisfaction scores dropped nearly two points compared to last year, with an overall rating of 74 out of 100. Army-owned housing dropped about half a satisfaction point with an overall score of 72. The Army is currently investing billions of dollars to improve its barracks and on-base housing. The military as a whole is still reckoning with privatized housing scandals that left service members in substandard living conditions.
  • Thrift Savings Plan returns fell almost across the board in August. All lifecycle funds dropped in price, and all but one of the individual funds fell. Only the government securities G Fund saw an increase of .25% over the course of the month. (Federal News Network)
  • After 11 years of service, David Jones is stepping down as a member of the board that oversees the Thrift Savings Plan. His term actually expired in October 2018, but Jones stayed on to maintain a quorum. The Senate confirmed four of President Biden’s nominees to the board in June, ensuring that quorum.
  • Agencies are focusing on the critical role of the software developer in securing IT systems. The National Security Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, and the Director of National Intelligence released joint guidance for developers this week. They said the SolarWinds hack showed a vital need to strengthen secure-software development practices. The new guidance homes in on best practices like securing code, verifying third-party components and hardening the software-build environment. It comes as agencies consider how to best secure their software supply chains.
  • Naval Facilities Engineering Systems Command Mid-Atlantic is looking for employees. The command will hold a career fair next Friday, September 9, to immediately fill positions in the Hampton Roads, Virginia area. The Navy is looking for a variety of professionals including crane operators, contract specialists and construction managers. Applicants are encouraged to bring multiple copies of their resume and must be U.S. citizens to apply.

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