Nearly $3 million in possible COVID fraud tied to DHS employees

In today's Federal Newscast: Nearly $3 million in possible COVID fraud is tied to DHS employees. A government shutdown is off the table, probably. And one of th...

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  • The Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general has flagged another case of potentially fraudulent COVID spending. But the payments in question this time are linked to DHS employees. The IG’s office found $2.6 million of potentially fraudulent Lost Wages Assistance payments are linked to the identities of DHS personnel. The report highlighted more than 2,000 potentially improper claims linked to DHS employees, with the majority of them being ineligible for payments.
  • Democratic senators take another step in their attempt to close the books on Schedule F for good. Sens. Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) filed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act, attempting to prevent future Schedule F-related policies. The now-revoked executive order from the Trump administration sought to reclassify about 50,000 federal employees, making them easier to remove from their positions. Though the policy was never actually implemented, members of the House and Senate are pushing to ensure no future administration can create new federal job classifications. The senators’ amendment follows their introduction of the Preventing a Patronage System Act last month.
  • A government shutdown is not completely off the table, but it’s teetering on the edge. The Senate passed a continuing resolution yesterday 72-25. The House will take up the CR today and it is expected to pass before the midnight deadline. The CR keeps the government open through December 16. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department will have to wait until at least November to get its annual authorization. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said the Senate won’t hold its next votes until November 14. That means the must-pass defense authorization bill and other high-priority items are on hold until after the midterm elections. The House already passed the NDAA in July.
  • As they help with the Hurricane Ian response, Federal Emergency Management Agency reservists got some important job protections. FEMA reservists who take a break from their day jobs to help respond to natural disasters now have the same job security as reservists in the military, who deploy to active duty. President Biden signed the Civilian Reservist Emergency Workforce Act on Thursday. The CREW Act grants FEMA reservists employment protections under the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. The Biden administration has sent more than 1,300 federal employees to help Florida and other states respond to Hurricane Ian.
  • Federal employees affected by Hurricane Ian are eligible for cash grants through the Federal Employee Education and Assistance Disaster Fund. Employees who qualify are eligible for a grant of up to $500. Feds can apply on the FFEA website.
  • The Small Business Innovation Research program will live on. The House joined the Senate yesterday in approving a five-year reauthorization, ending any concern it would expire on October 1. The Senate passed the bill last week. The SBIR reauthorization bill was one of several the House approved before the end of the fiscal year. These also included the FedRAMP Authorization Act to codify the cloud security program, and one to ensure the health and safety of federal workers is prioritized during nationwide public health emergencies declared for infectious disease.
  • One of the longest serving agency chief information officers is retiring at the end of the year. Andrea Norris, the National Institutes of Health’s CIO, will call it a career after more than 30 years of federal service, including the last 11 as the agency’s top technology executive. Norris, who also is the director of NIH’s Center for Information Technology, will retire on December 31. She joined the NIH in 2011, coming over from the National Science Foundation. During her tenure, Norris developed the first NIH-wide IT strategic plan, bolstered cyber protections and implemented a 100-gigabit high-speed networking infrastructure. NIH said it will begin a nationwide search for her replacement.
  • Understaffing at the Bureau of Prisons is leading to an employee exodus. The bureau went from more than 43,000 employees in January 2016 to about 35,000 employees today. The American Federation of Government Employees’ Council of Prison Locals said understaffing led to a record 3,000 employees retiring last year. Council president Shane Fausey said correctional officers face mandatory overtime and that non-correctional staff are being trained up to handle those shifts. “It is no secret that the Bureau of Prisons is in the midst of a staffing crisis of epic proportions,” Fausey said. (Federal News Network)
  • The National Reconnaissance Office has made a new round of awards to commercial satellite firms. This week, it’s six study contracts to companies working on radio frequency remote sensing. That means their satellites can pick up radio wave transmissions to detect things like illegal fishing operations. The NRO is increasingly partnering with commercial-satellite operators under its Strategic Commercial Enhancement contract vehicle. Spy agencies have also relied on private satellite companies to track developments in the war in Ukraine.
  • White hat hackers found 648 potential security vulnerabilities on DoD systems in the department’s latest bug bounty challenge. HackerOne, the company that ran the challenge for DoD, said the reports all came in the span of just a week, and DoD officials determined at least 349 of them were actionable. The 267 researchers who participated collected a total of $75,000 in bounties.
  • Agencies may soon get more specific guidance on how to implement the White House’s sweeping executive order on diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. The Office of Personnel Management has led the first-ever meeting of the Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council. The panel, comprising CDOs across many agencies, seeks to develop a national DEIA strategy, and then help agencies carry it out. The council is also tasked with collaborating on strategies and operations, as well as projects and programs for agencies to execute. (Federal News Network)


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