State Dept gets serious about cybersecurity

In today's Federal Newscast: The Justice and Commerce Departments join forces to target cyber crime. The backlog of retirement claims at OPM ballooned last mont...

  • The Office of Personnel Management’s backlog of retirement claims climbed by more than 3,200 in January. OPM received more than 12,000 claims and only processed about 9,000. The inventory of backlogged claims is now at the highest level since October, with almost 25,000 claims. OPM said it typically took 93 days in January to process a claim, up from 85 days the month before.
  • Longtime intelligence community and Defense Department leader Jennifer Hay has taken over as the new principal deputy at DoD's Directorate of Digital Services. The directorate is made up of software developers, data scientists and engineers who procure commercial technology and recruit tech workers for DoD.
    (Twitter - Directorate for Digital Services)
  • Kelly Fletcher, State Department's new chief information officer, said the department has gotten serious about cybersecurity in the past few years. At a Billington Cybersecurity fireside chat, Fletcher said about 80% of their systems use multifactor authentication, up from 20% a few years ago. She also said the State Department started using cybersecurity scorecards, which increase transparency by showing agency leaders how secure their systems are and where they stand in relation to their peers.
  • Agencies have new instructions from the Biden administration to advance racial equity. A new executive order tasks agencies with providing yearly updates on their equity action plans. Agencies also have 30 days to ensure their equity teams are properly set up. Biden said agencies should also work to better incorporate feedback from underserved groups when making changes to federal programs. The new executive order builds on a separate order to advance equity that Biden signed on his first day in office.
  • An upcoming proposal for federal IT employees narrows the pay gap with the private-sector. The Office of Personnel Management approved a request for Special Salary Rate (SSR) for federal employees working in IT and cybersecurity positions. But the agency still needs to finalize some specifics. Generally speaking, early and mid-career federal IT employees would see the highest pay increase. Many would see a more than 20% pay increase if their agencies implement the SSR. The Department of Veterans Affairs said in a memo that all covered personnel in its Office of Information and Technology would see higher pay under the SSR.
  • DoD's move toward zero trust received a key building block. Version five of the Defense Department's cybersecurity reference architecture (CSRA), shifts the design principles toward a data-centric approach from the old network-centric focus. The DoD chief information officer recently updated the CSRA to guide the modernization of cybersecurity through the integration of zero trust principles. The goal of the reference architecture is to serve as enterprise-level guidance for establishing threshold cybersecurity capabilities to support two strategic outcomes. The first is an integrated deterrence. The second is to gain advantages enabled by procurement planning alignment. Additionally, version five aligns better with command-and-control architectures to improve cyberspace survivability and enhance resiliency in operations and warfighter support.
  • Cybersecurity leaders are looking forward to a new framework update from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. NIST is updating the Cybersecurity Framework for the first time since 2018. Some of the big planned changes for CSF 2.0 include a big focus on cybersecurity governance, and also more examples for how organizations could implement the framework. During a workshop hosted by NIST this week, several cybersecurity leaders supported updates to the framework, including federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha. “It's been a crucial piece of how we organize and assess how agencies are doing,” DeRusha said. NIST plans to release a draft CSF 2.0 this summer, with a final version expected early next year.
  • A new cross-agency group will help defend critical technologies from foreign theft. The Justice Department launched a Disruptive Technology Strike Force this week. It’s led by DoJ’s National Security Division and the Commerce Department’s Bureau of Industry and Security. The strike force’s goal is to strengthen supply chains and protect critical assets from being swiped by nation-state adversaries.
  • A bipartisan bill lifting pay caps for health care workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs is headed for a Senate floor vote. The Senate VA Committee advanced the VA CAREERS Act, which would set higher pay caps for VA physicians, podiatrists, optometrists and dentists. The bill would also expand eligibility for more health care staff to be reimbursed for professional education costs. Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Sen. John Boozman (R-Ark.) said the bill will help the VA recruit and retain health care workers, as the agency brings more veterans into its care under the PACT Act.
  • A new portal on may make it easier for agencies to connect with candidates for federal internships. That's the Office of Personnel Management's goal with the new "one-stop shop" for prospective interns. There are currently 150 open internship positions posted to the portal. The launch of the internship portal also builds on recent guidance from OPM on increasing early-career opportunities at agencies, including guidance to expand paid internships.
  • The Air Force wants new ways to win battles, and they want airmen to come up with a plan. Airmen with ideas for agile combat employment (ACE) should submit them between February 21 and May 22. This year's challenge focuses on two key areas: Delivering combat power, while rapidly transitioning to a wartime footing and operating in a highly contested environment. Airmen whose ideas move forward in the Vice Chief’s Challenge will be paired with members of the Air Force headquarters staff to help convert the ideas into reality.

Copyright © 2024 Federal News Network. All rights reserved. This website is not intended for users located within the European Economic Area.

Related Stories


    3 requirements for agencies under Biden’s new executive order on equity

    Read more
    Amelia Brust/Federal News Networkcybersecurity, intelligence, network, computers, technology

    Cyber leaders applaud forthcoming updates to NIST cybersecurity framework

    Read more