GAO audits another federal program with big fraud potential

In today's Federal Newscast: GAO audits another big federal program with big fraud potential. The Defense Department has a new plan to manage its satellite comm...

  • Another big federal program has major fraud potential. The Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, overseen by the Office of Personnel Management, has no way of knowing whether enrollees’ family members are actually eligible. The Government Accountability Office study was prompted by Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), who saw fraud in Florida’s employee program. OPM itself estimates fraud, which drives up the premiums for everyone, could be a billion dollars a year in claims payouts. It’s considering a list of recommendations from auditors. “We’ll definitely keep their feet to the fire,” GAO auditor Seto Begoyan said.
  • The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is upgrading both its people and its technology for the future. CMS already has more than 90 systems in the cloud and is deciding on what to do with more than 100 others. It is launching the Bat Cave, a DevSecOps platform to standardize and accelerate application development. But the one thing that CMS Chief Information Officer Rajiv Uppal is most excited about is raising the knowledge and skillsets of the workforce to understand these modern technologies. Uppal said more than 50% of his staff so far has taken courses under the workforce resilience program to upskill or reskill around areas like cloud, program management and artificial intelligence.
  • The Defense Department has a new plan to manage its satellite communications. An 83-page document published yesterday explains how the Pentagon will take an enterprisewide approach to its space-based communications assets. U.S. Space Command will take a leading role, but the implementation plan also creates a new governance board for DoD satellite communications, and lays out how the department hopes to converge around common standards for SATCOM.
  • Three agency watchdog offices are drawing up a plan for coordinated oversight of U.S. spending in Ukraine. The inspectors general for USAID, and the departments of State and Defense released a joint strategic plan for how they will review more than $113 billion in spending going to Ukraine. So far the IGs have completed 14 audits on Ukrainian aid and have another 64 reviews in the works.
  • Lawmakers have reintroduced legislation to equalize Social Security benefits for federal retirees. The Social Security Fairness Act would repeal two provisions that reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for federal retirees and their spouses. Similar bills have been introduced every year for decades, but last Congress it gained significant traction with a record number of cosponsors. Advocates of the legislation said that both the Windfall Elimination Provision and the Government Pension Offset unfairly reduce retirement benefits for federal employees and other public sector workers.
  • Agencies may have an easier way to connect with job applicants for federal tech jobs. has a new portal to target candidates specifically applying for IT positions. The Office of Personnel Management hopes the portal will help candidates sort through different openings and apply for multiple opportunities at once. It’s part of OPM’s response to try to recruit tech talent amid continuous layoffs in the industry. So far, more than a dozen agencies have posted job openings on the new tech job board.
  • Intelligence agencies are moving to upgrade and integrate their IT infrastructure. The intelligence community only recently started using integrated chat and email. Defense Intelligence Agency Chief Information Officer Doug Cossa said spy agencies have traditionally built their IT environments in siloes. “Those simple things have really taken way longer than they should, and that was because we never designed it that way from the beginning,” Cossa said. “We all went our separate ways and that’s what agencies are struggling with right now across our community.” Now, DIA is offering a set of common IT services under a program called Company Storefront. The agency plans to ramp up the program this year to help unify IT across the intelligence community. (DIA CIO sees intel community moving beyond ‘stovepipe’ IT model – Federal News Network)
  • A new policy is coming for federal health data. The Department of Health and Human Services is about to roll out a new data strategy. The strategy will outline how HHS uses data to power artificial intelligence, tackle fraud, and facilitate data sharing. HHS Chief Information Officer Karl Mathias said the strategy will allow researchers to exchange data to develop new drugs and accelerate the delivery of health care. HHS expects to release the strategy in the coming weeks.
  • Agencies have until February 15 to name at least one career official to serve as an adviser for labor contracts. The Office of Management and Budget is telling agency CFOs to designate someone who has a working knowledge of contract labor laws and a general understanding of federal acquisition. These advisers will work with contracting officers and other acquisition professionals to ensure the goals of labor laws, implementing regulations and policies are being met by contractors. Additionally, the Labor Department and the Office of Federal Procurement Policy will create a contract labor advisory group, to include these advisers, that will promote better understanding and implementation of contract labor laws and improved communication across agencies.
  • Agencies moving to the latest Internet Protocol version get some new security guidance. The National Security Agency released IPv6 guidance this week. It comes as civilian and defense agencies upgrade from the legacy IPv4 protocol used to facilitate communications between Internet-connected devices. The NSA said system owners and administrators should implement cybersecurity mechanisms on both IP protocols to protect the network during the transition. The security guidance covers configuration controls and other considerations, including common IPv6 stumbling blocks.

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