A $28 billion SBA pandemic relief program for restaurants looks to have served up some fraud and sloppy oversight

In today's Federal Newscast: A $28 billion SBA pandemic relief program for restaurants looks to have served up some fraud and sloppy oversight. House Republican...

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  • Another Small Business Administration pandemic relief program is facing criticism over how it managed fraud. Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-Mo.), the ranking member of the Small Business Committee, wrote to the SBA about a recent audit of its Restaurant Revitalization Fund program. The Government Accountability Office and SBA disagreed over auditor’s findings that oversight controls were deficient. Luetkemeyer wants the SBA to explain why it disagreed with GAO’s recommendations to manually review any flagged award for possible fraud. SBA handed out over $28 billion to small restaurants suffering during the COVID pandemic. Out of the 100,000 small businesses which received funding, GAO said there were at least 4,000 that were flagged for suspected fraud or ineligibility.
  • Some federal unions are offering advice to participants in the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program. The National Treasury Employees Union said participants should use the upcoming open season to evaluate options and decide which plan is best. FEHBP enrollees’ share of healthcare premiums will increase, on average, 8.7% in 2023. It’s the highest increase for premium rates since 2011. But it’s not the only thing causing concern for some groups. NTEU added that an even higher pay raise of 5.1% would help more federal workers keep up with the rising costs. The upcoming open season runs November 14 to December 12. (Federal News Network)
  • House Republicans have introduced a bill to roll back an $80 billion investment in the IRS. Rep. Michelle Steel (R-Calif.) and Rep. Adrian Smith (R-Neb.) introduced a bill that would eliminate spending in the Inflation Reduction Act for the IRS to rebuild its workforce and modernize its legacy IT over the next decade. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) vows he will make this a top legislative priority if Republicans win a majority in the House this November. GOP lawmakers say they’re against large-scale hiring at the IRS. The agency meanwhile expects to lose more than 50,000 current employees to retirement or attrition over the next six years.
  • The State Department is looking to assess more Foreign Service candidates virtually. The department is taking steps to allow virtual structured interviews for Foreign Service candidates, as well as exercises meant to simulate real-time critical thinking skills needed in diplomacy work. The department, as part of its barrier analysis work, finds the Foreign Service wasn’t drawing many candidates from the West Coast for in-person assessments. This is just the latest in a series of changes. Starting in July, the department has no longer been using  a candidate’s score on the Foreign Service Officer Test as the sole criterion for who moves on to the next steps of the selection process. (Federal News Network)
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has kicked off cybersecurity awareness month with a new mandate for agencies. Agencies have six months to start scanning their networks every seven days for new devices, and every 14 days for potential cyber vulnerabilities. CISA’s new binding operational directive also tells agencies to report the results of those scans to the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation dashboard. CISA Director Jen Easterly said the new directive is driven by lessons learned from cyber attacks like SolarWinds. “If you’ve heard us talk at all about this, we have said consistently that we are on an urgent path to gain visibility into risks facing federal civilian networks,” Easterly said. “This was obviously a gap illuminated by SolarWinds.” (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force is out with its $5 billion contract for cyber services. The Air Force ended fiscal 2022 with a bang by releasing the solicitation for an all-encompassing multiple award contract for cybersecurity services. The Enterprise Cyber Capabilities or EC2 acquisition is a 10-year contract with a ceiling of $5.3 billion. The Air Force wants vendors to provide services across seven task areas, ranging from cyber defense analysis to incident response to threat analysis to digital forensics. EC2 will make awards to two pools of vendors: small businesses and other than small. Proposals for EC2 are due October 23.
  • House Republicans are pressing Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin for answers on why he’s kept the COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place for military members. In a letter sent yesterday, more than two dozen GOP members of the House Armed Services Committee sought answers to several questions about the vaccine, including when Austin intends to end the mandate and how he is dealing with court cases challenging the COVID vaccination requirement.
  • Agencies have a new deadline to share more information about military spouse recruitment at their offices. The Office of Personnel Management said agencies must share how many positions, applications and appointments they made using the military spouse hiring authority. Although not a requirement, OPM recommended that agencies also give details about the outreach, training and recruitment strategies they used to hire more military spouses. The deadline for agencies to submit their reports to OPM is December 30.
  • The White House is looking for some ideas on how to address the cyber talent shortage. The Office of the National Cyber Director released a request for information this week to solicit feedback for a forthcoming workforce and education strategy. The effort aims to address shortfalls that have led to an estimated 700,000 unfilled cybersecurity positions nationwide. The national cyber director’s office will accept comments on the forthcoming strategy through November 3.
  • TSP returns fell last month for all but one fund. The biggest loser was the small cap index S Fund, which lost 9.91% in September. The only fund that saw gains was the government securities investment G Fund, which gained 0.28%. All of the Lifecycle funds saw drops in September, losing 2.33% to 9.29% over the course of the month. (Federal News Network)

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