The Department of Homeland Security is looking to harness artificial intelligence. DHS is considering how artificial intelligence technologies can detect fentanyl and other contraband coming through ports of entry. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told the Senate Appropriations Committee this week that the Homeland Security Advisory Council is reviewing the issue. In addition to analyzing how DHS could benefit from AI technologies, Mayorkas has also asked the council to study what it should do to prepare for AI being used by nefarious actors.
Agencies wanting to move to 5G have some new help. The General Services Administration released the Acquisition Guidance for Procuring 5G Technology. This white paper is the first effort to distill the government's collective knowledge to help federal technology managers to buy, build and use secure 5G systems. The guide includes tools and strategies for buying 5G technologies. GSA said it expects the guide to be a living document that it frequently updates based on new technology, cybersecurity or acquisition requirements.
The chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee is fed up with the VA’s troubled rollout of its new Electronic Health Record. Rep. Mike Bost (R-Ill.) said the VA recently notified Congress of six “catastrophic events” related to a feature of the EHR modernization program over the last couple of years. Four resulted in patient deaths. Bost said those incidents occurred because the EHR either dropped a possible appointment “that was vitally important” for a patient to receive, led to patients receiving the wrong medication or caused delays in care. "So it's one issue like this after another that we've noticed," Bost said. He added that the VA has yet to provide a clear picture of what a successful EHR rollout looks like from here.
Federal employees in a hybrid work setting can get new training from the Office of Personnel Management. OPM's training series, called "thriving in a hybrid environment," will cover topics like performance management, and best practices for leading teams working in a mix of in-person and remote workplaces. The upcoming trainings are part of OPM's latest guidance on the future of work, which focuses largely on hybrid work as a long-term goal for agencies. OPM will host 12 in-person sessions and six virtual ones throughout the spring and summer.
The Senate confirmed Laura Taylor-Kale as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Industrial Base policy, nearly a year after her nomination. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) held up the nomination in an effort to get the White House to agree to the Ambler Road project. The 200-mile road would access mining opportunities in northwest Alaska. The new industrial base policy position was authorized in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act. Taylor-Kale previously served as deputy assistant secretary of commerce for manufacturing in the International Trade Administration.
The Veterans Affairs Department is falling short of meeting a key piece of a key IT law. VA's compliance with the Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act (FITARA) is coming under the microscope. The CIO plans on reviewing federal acquisition data to determine if the agency is buying technology without his approval. The CIO also will team up with the chief acquisition officer's office to figure out how to add automated controls to the purchase request system to ensure the CIO signs-off on future technology buys. These actions come after the GAO found in a new report that 39% of IT contracts between 2018 and 2021 didn't receive CIO approval.
Some transportation security officers could receive upwards of a 40% pay raise this July. The Transportation Security Administration expects an average salary increase of 26% across its workforce. The latest update on the pay equity plan comes after Congress passed funding in December to bring TSO pay in line with the rest of the federal workforce. TSA Administrator David Pekoske said the agency’s human capital team is available to answer further questions about the forthcoming pay raises.
The Army is already looking ahead to how it will build its Army of 2040, and it will involve new technology and new training methods. The Army Futures Command will develop the concept and a rough draft of the 2040 plan, which should be finished by this fall. Army leaders expect soldiers in 2040 to have greater technical abilities than their predecessors, as they work in increasingly sophisticated technical environments. And the service expects artificial intelligence and machine learning to dictate their future battlefield capabilities.
The D.C. area’s Joint Base Andrews was locked down for several hours yesterday while military security forces searched for a reported armed suspect in the base’s family housing areas. Officials eventually lifted the lockdown, saying no gunman was ever found. Base officials said they still want residents and employees to be vigilant about reporting suspicious activity. The sensitive site has a recent history of physical security breaches. Last month, an intruder made his way into the housing area, and two years ago, another got all the way to the flight line and on board a military aircraft.
The State Department is getting new leadership to help oversee its operations. The Senate confirmed Mastercard executive Richard Verma as the department’s deputy secretary of State for management and resources. Verma served as a captain in the Air Force and worked as assistant secretary of state for legislative affairs under the Obama administration. The Biden administration’s last pick for the job, Brian McKeon, left the department in December.
The Office of Personnel Management is easing requirements for small agencies' human resources offices. Small agencies no longer have to maintain delegated examining (DE) certifications for their HR employees. OPM said it made the policy change because the requirement was burdensome for small agencies which don't hire very often. Small agencies, which contract out their hiring services, still have to have the contractor complete an annual audit. The waiver to the DE requirement applies to agencies with 200 or fewer employees.
A higher cost-of-living adjustment for some veterans is one step closer to reality, as the Senate passed the Veterans’ COLA Act. The bipartisan bill would increase the rates of compensation for veterans with service-connected disabilities and military survivors. The bill now heads to the House. The bill, if passed, would base the COLA for service-disabled veterans and their survivors off the Social Security Administration’s annual determination for its beneficiaries, starting this December.