The FAA maintains that it has created new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the IT failure that ground the nationwide air traffic network to a halt last month. But it will still be another two years before the aging system at the root of the problem is fully replaced. The agency’s acting administrator said about 80% of FAA’s customers have moved to a new, more resilient system for what is called "Notices to Air Missions" (NOTAM). But the 30-year-old system that failed last month — and still serves the Department of Defense — will not be be fully phased out until 2025.
At a Washington rally, Environmental Protection Agency employees raised concerns about understaffing. EPA workers gathered outside agency headquarters to voice frustrations over pay and staffing levels. Union leaders said despite increasing workloads, EPA’s workforce is 20% below what it was during the Clinton administration. Council 238 of the American Federation of Government Employees is the bargaining unit representing close to 8,000 EPA workers. “We are facing a staffing crisis. We need to not only hire new staff, but the bigger problem from our point of view is retaining the staff that we have. We simply cannot afford to have that wealth of knowledge walk out the door,” Council President Marie Owens Powell said.
(EPA rally - Federal News Network)
The Postal Service is cracking down on what it calls a surge in counterfeit postage. USPS is proposing a rule that would allow items shipped with counterfeit postage to be considered abandoned. That would allow the agency, at its discretion, to open-and-dispose of mail or packages that fall under this criterion. USPS is giving the public until March 18 to comment on the proposed rule. USPS returns items to the sender if they use an insufficient amount of legitimate postage to send mail or packages.
The second draft of a much-anticipated governmentwide contract is almost ready. The General Services Administration is close to publishing the second draft solicitation for the OASIS plus professional services multiple-award contract. Tiffany Hixson, the assistant commissioner for the Office of Professional Services and Human Capital Categories at GSA, said the response to the first draft RFP has been extraordinary. "We received over 2,000 comments and questions. There was a survey that went along with that and we received over 600 responses. We are getting ready to publish feedback,"Hixson said. She added that GSA also will be hosting an industry day after releasing the second draft RFP in March.
The policies governing the federal grant making process are in line to be updated. The Office of Management and Budget is asking for feedback from agencies, grant recipients and other stakeholders for possible revisions to title 2 of the Code of Federal Regulation. OMB issued a request for information asking for feedback around four main areas, including how to revise the guidance to reduce agency and recipient burden and how to rewrite certain sections in plain English, improve flow and address inconsistent use of terms. Responses to the RFI are due by March 13. OMB expects to complete the revisions of 2 CFR by December.
The White House takes steps to defend federal agency data from the power of future quantum technology. The national cyber director’s office sent agencies new guidance this week on inventorying high-value IT systems that could transition to quantum-resistant cryptography.The forthcoming national cyber strategy will also feature a strong stand on quantum technology, according to Dylan Presman, the director for budget and assessment in the office of the national cyber director. “This is going to have amazing transformational qualities for our society, offer amazing opportunities," Pressman said at an event hosted by ATARC. "But also we do need to take these steps to secure ourselves from adversaries."
The Biden administration is looking to a familiar face to put tens of billions of dollars to good use at the IRS. Danny Werfel, President Joe Biden’s pick for IRS commissioner, told the Senate Finance Committee he is focused on getting the IRS to answer more phone calls and shrink a growing tax gap. Werfel served as acting IRS commissioner during the Obama administration. He said the IRS needs to put some of the $80 billion received under the Inflation Reduction Act into customer service to make the agency more accessible to taxpayers with questions. “There has to be an objective to meet taxpayers where they are," Werfel said. "If they can’t afford the resources to help them navigate, how can the IRS do more to answer their questions?”
The Defense Information Systems Agency said it is finished with the prototype phase of its Thunderdome zero trust project. DISA Deputy Director Chris Barnhurst said the agency spent about a year in testing and operational assessment, which wrapped up in January. Thunderdome uses security capabilities such as Secure Access Service Edge and software-defined wide area networks. Thunderdome currently has about 1,600 users at multiple locations across DISA. Barnhurst said the next step in the process will be follow-on production contracts as DISA continues to expand the program.
The Government Accountability Office will expand its Center for Enhanced Cybersecurity (CEC) this year. CEC assistant director West Coile told a group at an FCW-Nextgov Zero Trust Workshop that the jobs will be posted on USAJOBS.gov in the near future. The center currently has 38 specialists working on cybersecurity audits, but needs to expand to meet its workload. The center wants to hire new auditors with a wide span of cybersecurity and software skills, who can be trained to evaluate security systems and make recommendations for improvement.
The Office of Personnel Management is laying out goals and progress for advancing diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility. In a first-of-its-kind DEIA report, OPM previewed some upcoming initiatives, like employee training opportunities for accessibility, as well as gender and racial equity. OPM also outlined efforts already underway, including the creation of a Chief Diversity Officers Executive Council, a new DEIA index in the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey and efforts to expand gender-affirming care in the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) Program.
More than 100 agencies have been onboarded into the National Background Investigation Services system. That is according to the latest update from the Security, Suitability, and Credentialing Performance Accountability Council. The next-generation NBIS IT system is central to Trusted Workforce 2.0 reforms, aimed at speeding up personnel vetting and security clearance processes. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency is in charge of developing NBIS. The agency plans to continue scaling the number of clearance cases that are entered into the system this year.