IG tells Veterans Health Administration to strengthen background checks to avoid hiring persons barred from employment

In today's Federal Newscast: The Veterans Affairs Department's Inspector General tells the Veterans Health Administration to strengthen background checks to avo...

  • A federal arbitrator said the Department of Veterans Affairs did not bargain in good faith with the largest federal employee union. An arbitrator found the VA violated ground rules it established with the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE) when it reopened contract negotiations. The arbitrator found VA tried to negotiate over items outside the scope of a limited reopening of contract talks, such as terminating supplemental agreements reached with local union officials. The arbitrator ordered the VA to issue a written notice acknowledging those unfair labor practices.
  • A watchdog report found that the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) could do more to avoid hiring individuals barred from working in federal health care. VA’s inspector general found VHA recently fired four employees in housekeeping, clerical and support positions. Three of the former employees had their nursing licenses revoked or suspended. A fourth was convicted of health care fraud. VHA told the IG office none of the former employees was engaged in patient health care. The IG recommended VHA take additional steps to avoid hiring individuals with these disqualifying records in the first place.
  • The Navy's new budget request would be about a 4.5% boost, compared to what Congress agreed to this fiscal year. The $256 billion budget prioritizes both new equipment and the operation-and-maintenance of the existing Naval fleet. The department wants to increase its research-and-development by nearly a billion dollars, and expand its skilled labor pool at public shipyards. As is the case across the Defense Department, the uniformed and civilian workforce would get a 5.2% pay raise.
  • There is a new technology lead at a key State Department intelligence bureau. The State Department's Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR) is bringing in a new chief information officer from the intelligence community. Jimmy Hall joins INR as its new CIO after spending the last four-plus years working for the Defense Security Service (DSS) and then the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). He replaces Dominic Cussatt, who left in April to join the private sector. Previously, Hall served as acting CIO for DCSA and deputy CIO for DSS. Hall also served in the Army, rising to the rank of colonel and retiring in 2017, after 30 years of service.
    (Jimmy L. Hall, Jr. - State Department)
  • As part of its effort to reduce the administrative burden on agencies, the Biden administration is proposing to eliminate, streamline or reduce the frequency of 53 reports that Congress requires every year. Of those 53 reports, the White House is asking to eliminate 40 of them and reduce the frequency of seven others. The list includes seven reports from DHS, five from OMB and five from HHS. The administration said agencies spend too much time, money and energy in complying with outdated, redundant and unnecessary requirements. That time, the White House said, could be better spent accomplishing high-value objectives. Each year, under the Government Performance and Results Act or GPRA Modernization Act of 2010, the White House is required to propose to Congress, for elimination, a list of reports that are outdated or duplicative.
  • Agencies get new Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) guidance for Sunshine Week. The Justice Department is reminding agencies to make decisions about FOIA requests with a presumption of openness. DOJ’s Office of Information Policy (OIP) issued new guidance this week telling agencies to make FOIA decisions with an eye toward transparency. And OIP said agencies should also be applying the FOIA’s foreseeable harm analysis on a case-by-case basis and working cooperatively with record requesters. The Sunshine Week guidelines come after agencies received a record number of FOIA requests last year.
  • A software development program run by the Defense Information Systems Agency (DISA) has so many users the program has to be expanded. Sharon Woods, director of DISA's Hosting and Compute Center, said git.mil currently has 2,400 users and continues to grow. It offers Defense Department users a toolkit to develop software applications that can be turned into pilot programs. Several projects are in a pilot phase, and Woods said there is a backlog of people who want to do pilot testing. DISA plans to upgrade the program with more capabilities and more security.
    (The Future of Defense and Data IT - Defense One webinar )
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is launching a new initiative to combat ransomware. CISA established the Ransomware Vulnerability Warning Pilot this week. It will involve CISA scanning internet-facing devices and warning critical infrastructure organizations about cyber vulnerabilities that could be exploited by ransomware gangs. The pilot project will be coordinated by the Joint Ransomware Task Force, which is required as part of the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022.

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