Bill designed to standardize federal-election mail-in ballots heads to the House floor

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A bill meant to standardize mail-in ballots for federal elections is heading to the House floor. The Vote-by-Mail Tracking Act would help the Postal Service manage a rise in mail-in voting by requiring all mail-in ballots to include a scannable barcode. The bill made it out of the House Oversight and Reform Committee with a bipartisan...

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Best listening experience is on Chrome, Firefox or Safari. Subscribe to Federal Drive’s daily audio interviews on Apple Podcasts or PodcastOne.

  • A bill meant to standardize mail-in ballots for federal elections is heading to the House floor. The Vote-by-Mail Tracking Act would help the Postal Service manage a rise in mail-in voting by requiring all mail-in ballots to include a scannable barcode. The bill made it out of the House Oversight and Reform Committee with a bipartisan majority vote. An earlier version of the bill has a provision to reimburse state and local governments for the cost of implementing barcodes on mail-in ballots, but lawmakers stripped that from the bill that passed. Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) said the bill would make ballots easier to track. “It is important to ensure that elected election officials and voters can track ballots once they’re in the custody of the Postal Service,” Maloney said.
  • The Energy Department is teaming up with NASA, the Commerce Department and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to review cybersecurity best practices when working across different agencies. Amy Hamilton, DOE’s senior cybersecurity adviser for policy and programs, said she will meet with the partner agencies in an innovation committee hosted by the FDIC starting in January. She said that in four to six months, the group will produce two guides: one about zero trust and one about best cloud practices when working across multiple agencies.
  • A congressional report indicates an IRS contractor inflated fraud numbers and overpromised on capabilities to earn more business. ID.me provided identity verification services to the IRS during the pandemic. A House investigation found wait times for video chats reached as high as four hours, instead of the promised 30 minutes. It also found the Labor Department’s Office of Inspector General identified $45.7 billion dollars in pandemic unemployment fraud, rather than the $400 billion that ID.me’s CEO claimed. (IRS contractor gets more scrutiny in congressional report – Federal News Network)
  • More than 1,600 offshore facilities produce a large portion of domestic oil and gas and they are at a high risk for disruption from a cyber attack, according to the Government Accountability Office. The Interior Department bears responsibility for the safety of these facilities, GAO said, but so far has not taken the necessary steps to provide the needed security.
  • The Army’s PEO-EIS is bringing back a key technology leadership position. Four years after changing the role and title of its chief information officer, the Army’s Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems is bringing back the position. PEO-EIS is creating a new CIO’s office led by this senior executive as well as a technical integration lead and three existing sub-directorates. PEO-EIS said the new CIO will support the organization’s digital transformation efforts to better integrate networks and software. Applications to be the PEO-EIS CIO are due by November 21. The organization has a goal of having a new CIO on board in early 2023.
  • A long running dispute between employees and the Education Department has reached a settlement. The American Federation of Government Employees said the agreement covers 14 disputes, including restoration of union dues payroll deductions ended without the employees’ consent and enactment of a new bargaining agreement, at least until May 2023. The union gets back the office space and computers the Education Department had taken away. And it gets $200,000 in attorneys fees.
  • The Megabyte Act part 2 has some additional legs on Capitol Hill. A bi-partisan group of House lawmakers introduced a companion bill to the Senate’s follow-on to the 2016 Megabyte Act. The Strengthening Agency Management and Oversight of Software Assets Act would require agencies to conduct an independent, comprehensive assessment of their current software titles and adopt enterprise licensing agreements to reduce costs. OMB would also have to publish a governmentwide strategy for software modernization based on the findings from agency audits.
  • A proposed personnel demonstration project has run into a union buzzsaw. The Defense Department proposes a new way of dealing with civilian employees at the Army Futures Command and Technology Reinvention Laboratory. Some 30% of would-be affected employees are in unions. The goal is greater ability to attract and retain what the Army calls a top-performing science, technology and modernization workforce. The American Federation of Government Employees called the Army’s rationale sketchy and incoherent and urged the Pentagon to kill off the experiment before it starts.
  • The National Security Agency endorsed a key software security concept. The NSA and other lead cyber agencies said Software Bills of Material are a crucial factor in secure software purchases. A new advisory released by the NSA this week warned software purchasers, including agencies, to be wary of buying critical software that does not come with an SBOM. The Biden administration and Congress are considering secure software requirements. While not yet widely adopted, the SBOM is intended to give customers a way to verify the code and contents in a software product. (NSA backs SBOM requirements in latest secure software advisoryFederal News Network)
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency hired its first-ever Chief People Officer. CISA announced this week that Elizabeth Kolmstetter will take up that new position. Kolmstetter has experience at multiple agencies, most recently at NASA as director of the workforce engagement division. At CISA, she will be in charge of a growing workforce.  Just last year, the agency launched a Cyber Talent Management System to help bring in more technical talent.
  • The Postal Service is building up its capacity to handle packages ahead of the holiday season. USPS installed 137 new package sorting machines across its delivery network this year, for a grand total of 249. These machines will help USPS process up to 60 million packages a day. The package sorting machines are part of a $40 billion investment in USPS infrastructure, as part of its 10-year reform plan.

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