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Small businesses have received some relief from inflation from the Small Business Administration. For the first time in eight years, the SBA raised the small business monetary size standards and added more to address ongoing inflation challenges. In both a final rule and an interim rule, SBA said it is updating the 496-size standards from a 2019 proposed rule and adding almost 14% more to account for the current state of inflation. These changes also restore the eligibility of businesses that may have lost their small business status due solely to price-level increases, rather than from increases in business activity.
The Justice Department’s Procurement Collusion Strike Force added four new agency inspectors general as partners, to target federal procurement, grants and program funding at all levels of government to stop fraud. The strike force now includes 34 partners. The new members of the strike force include the offices of inspectors general for the departments of Energy, Interior and Transportation, as well as the Environmental Protection Agency. Justice launched the strike force in 2019. Its mission is to prosecute individuals and organizations that engage in procurement-related crimes, as well as to train procurement officials and government contractors on antitrust risks in the procurement process.
The honeymoon for the Biden administration’s Made in America Office’s new Director, Livia Shmavonian, may be over. Ten industry associations brought their their concerns to Shmavonian in a new letter about the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act’s Build America, Buy America requirements. The associations, led by the IT Industry Council, said there is a lack of certainty that exists as to which agencies and which funding streams are subject to the buy American requirements. Additionally, they said, more training and communication are needed from the Made in America Office to help companies meet the requirements.
Federal prosecutors have filed charges against three men alleged to be involved in a gun battle that killed a Customs and Border Protection agent and wounded two others late last week. The FBI said the CBP agents were on a routine patrol off the coast of Puerto Rico when they exchanged gunfire with alleged drug smugglers. Two of the agents are hospitalized and are in stable condition. (3 men charged after deadly shootout off Puerto Rico coast – Federal News Network)
The agency in charge of the Thrift Savings Plan reported continued improvements, after a tumultuous update to the TSP earlier this year. Participant calls to TSP’s customer service center have dropped 10% and call volume is down to roughly half of what it was in August. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board also said that participants are continuing to use new communication channels that were added during the update. Email inquiries rose 13%, and the use of the live chat window jumped 29%.
Federal first responders, with on-the-job injuries, may soon get better retirement benefits. The Senate unanimously passed the First Responder Fair RETIRE Act. It will now move to the president’s desk for signing. The legislation equalizes retirement benefits for federal first responders — like firefighters and law enforcement officers — who get injured on the job. The House unanimously passed companion legislation earlier this year. The National Federation of Federal Employees and the Federal Law Enforcement Officers Association applauded the Senate’s passage of the bill.
The White House is telling agencies to prepare for a post-quantum computing world. Agencies have until next May to inventory their high-priority IT systems that could be susceptible to a quantum computer capable of breaking current encryption techniques. While such a computer is not yet a reality, there are concerns that U.S. adversaries could get there over the next decade. The White House’s new guidance also encourages agencies to participate in the testing of new quantum-resistant algorithms. The National Institute of Standards and Technology is leading the work on a quantum encryption standard. (White House tells agencies to participate in post-quantum cryptography tests – Federal News Network)
Agencies are making progress putting data and evidence to work in day-to-day decisions. Results for America gave top marks to three federal agencies leading the way in implementing the Evidence Act: the Education Department, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the U.S. Agency for International Development. Its study found, for example, that five of Education’s largest competitive grant programs define and prioritize evidence. Results for America’s research found all nine federal agencies it studied were meeting the first phase of Evidence Act guidance focused on learning agendas, personnel and planning.
A new counterintelligence effort is aiming to help U.S. research institutions protect their crown jewels. The National Counterintelligence and Security Center announced the “Safeguarding Science” initiative last week. NCSC said it is not a new government compliance program or prosecution effort. Instead, the center is making free online resources available to help universities and others with security best practices. The National Science Foundation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology and the Federal Aviation Administration are among the agencies that contributed to the online toolkit.
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration or TIGTA is redesigning its website to better serve its users, adding new features like an updated hotline-form making it easier for users to report fraud, waste and abuse. The new site also includes a page dedicated to IRS scam resources, as well as a hiring resources page to advertise open positions at TIGTA.