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House and Senate Armed Services Committee leaders reached an agreement on the National Defense Authorization Act. The committees announced last night the fiscal 2023 NDAA will move forward to the full Senate and House for a vote. The bill includes a 4.6% pay raise for service members and the Defense Department civilian workforce. Money allocated for research and development includes higher-than-requested funding for research activities at Historically Black Colleges and Universities. This would be the 62nd consecutive year the NDAA would be signed into law.
To help advance its diplomatic mission, the State Department is sending top U.S. scientists overseas. The State Department is putting its latest cohort of U.S. Science Envoys to work starting in 2023. They will travel abroad to meet with their counterparts from other nations, as well as civil society groups, to build up cooperation in emerging fields of science and technology. The department selected this cohort to lead in areas that include ocean conservation, plastic pollution, quantum information science and climate change. Secretary of State Antony Blinken signed off on the department’s selection of these envoys.
The Defense Department will have to realign its plans for next year if Congress extends the continuing resolution (CR) beyond its current expiration of Dec. 16. Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said a full year CR would hamstring a large number of programs. Spending for ongoing projects would be limited to last year’s levels, and DoD would be unable to start 192 new programs. Ryder said maintenance, readiness and recruiting would be affected, and 97 construction projects would be put on hold.
The Social Security Administration unveiled its new website. Part of the agency’s major update to SSA.gov includes an improved self-service feature. That is to help out those looking for SSA services online. It is meant to reduce the need to call the agency or visit a field office. SSA Acting Commissioner Kilolo Kijakazi said she hopes the feature will let SSA staff better focus on those who need in-person assistance. The new website also adds an eligibility screener for benefits and online applications for most benefit options.
To improve customer experience, agencies need to focus on four key actions, according to a new report from the Partnership for Public Service. At the top of the list is hiring and fully authorizing federal employees, who can focus specifically on enhancing customer experience. Fully funding customer experience initiatives and sharing data will also help agencies, the report says. And, agencies should collaborate with the Office of Management and Budget and Congress to both find and eliminate any administrative burdens in federal regulations around customer experience.
The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS) is committing some resources to deal with a burgeoning risk. CMS is putting some muscle behind its efforts to reduce and mitigate supply chain risks. The agency has an open job announcement for a full-time person, at the GS-13 level, to lead its IT supply chain risk management efforts. The person will identify vulnerabilities and threats to CMS’ cyber supply chains, as well as assess, analyze and propose mitigation strategies from those threats. The expert also will serve as the contracting officers representative for all cyber supply chain risk projects and contract support actions. Applications for the position are due by Dec. 15.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is using the power of the cloud to better predict climate, weather and ocean changes. NOAA signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement or CRADA with Microsoft to advanced five major goals. These include NOAA’s Earth Prediction Innovation Center launching pilot projects to enable earth-system modeling and research, and using machine learning to improve NOAA’s climate models and forecast models for air quality, wildfire smoke and particulate pollution. NOAA has signed more than 50 CRADA’s with companies and research institutions to improve access to technologies for research and development.
Agencies are being urged to help secure critical pieces in the Internet of Things. Agencies should evaluate the risks of internet-connected devices being used throughout critical infrastructure sectors. That is one recommendation in the Government Accountability Office’s new report on the Internet of Things and critical infrastructure. Sectors, like electricity and healthcare, increasingly rely on IoT devices. GAO said sector-risk management agencies should establish cyber metrics to help evaluate the security of IoT and operational technology.
The Army has a new lead special trial counsel. The Senate confirmed Col. Warren Wells last week and he will report directly to the Secretary of the Army. The appointment spearheads a restructuring of the way the Army prosecutes suspects for offenses such as murder, rape and sexual assault. The Office of the Special Trial Counsel should be fully operational by December 2023, with a staff of over 150 military and civilian personnel. The office will have independent authority to prosecute a variety of violent offenses as part of an effort to promote cultural change and reduce harmful behaviors in the Army.
The Department of Homeland Security wants to know whether your latest selfie can be used to apply for government services. The DHS Science and Technology Directorate is launching a Remote Identity Validation demonstration. The project will test whether different technologies can combat identity fraud by successfully verifying documents, photos and other images. The demonstration comes as more and more people seek to confirm their identity online, rather than going to a physical location such as a government office. DHS will start accepting applications to participate in the tests in January.
Federal employees can now obtain or update their Personal Identity Verification cards or PIV cards at post offices outside the Washington, D.C. metro area. The General Services Administration and the Postal Service are opening a USAccess credentialing site at a post office in the Dallas/Fort Worth suburbs. It is the first post office beyond the Beltway to offer this service to federal employees. GSA and USPS plan on rolling out the service to additional post offices in New York, Sacramento, Lakeland, Florida and Fredericksburg, Virginia. The agencies made these services permanently available at seven D.C.-area post offices last year, after a successful pilot program.