The Biden administration takes the wrapping off its new national cyber strategy. The White House wants to establish minimum cybersecurity requirements across critical infrastructure sectors. That is just one of the big goals in President Joe Biden’s national cyber strategy released today. It also sketches out a plan to hold tech companies liable when they fail to take reasonable steps to secure their products and services. White House officials said they plan to work with Congress on software liability legislation. The strategy also includes a role for federal agencies in how they use their purchasing power to incentivize good cybersecurity practices.
The Defense Department is transitioning away from using firefighting foams that have contaminated groundwater at and around hundreds of current and former bases. In January, DoD approved a new military standard for alternative substances that do not pose health risks. DoD plans to start transitioning to the safer versions this summer. The department’s current estimates show the groundwater around 700 bases has had possible exposure to the current formulations. According to the EPA, the chemicals are tied to increased cancer risk and other health problems.
A new bill could bring changes to federal firefighters' retirement savings. The Federal Firefighter Pay Equity Act would adjust certain retirement calculations for federal firefighters. Overtime pay for these firefighters does not currently get calculated into their retirement benefits. The legislation would adjust the retirement calculation to include mandatory overtime hours toward those savings. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) reintroduced the bipartisan bill, saying it would help with recruitment and retention of the federal first responders.
The Department of Veterans Affairs’ second-in-command is stepping down. Deputy VA Secretary Donald Remy told his staff he is leaving the agency on April 1, after nearly two years on the job. Remy helped oversee the VA’s rollout of a new Electronic Health Record, although the project has been on hold as the agency troubleshoots outages and patient safety concerns. Remy also served as one of the Biden administration’s top leaders to improve customer experience governmentwide. VA’s Assistant Secretary for Enterprise Integration, Guy Kiyokawa, will serve as Acting Deputy Secretary. The VA is working with the White House to find a permanent replacement.
Agencies get one final extension for bringing on staff to help with pandemic response efforts. The Office of Personnel Management has extended the COVID-19 hiring authority until mid-May. OPM's announcement comes after the Biden administration made plans to end the public health emergency this spring. Until May 11, agencies can continue to fill these positions. The hires will only be temporary, and can stay on agency staff for up to a total of two years.
The Postal Service is falling behind on its financial goals. USPS reported a more than $1 billion dollar net loss for January 2023 and a more than $2 billion net loss so far for the fiscal year. Both losses are more than twice as bad as what USPS had projected. So far this fiscal year, USPS has seen a more than 5% decrease in its first-class mail volume, compared to the same period last year. But it has seen a 1% increase in first-class mail revenue, after raising rates in July 2022 and January 2023.
Department of Homeland Security employees get a boost on DHS’s 20th anniversary. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas granted employees eight hours of administrative leave to mark the date. DHS leaders and President Joe Biden convened for a ceremony at St. Elizabeths campus yesterday. The event honored the DHS workforce and recognized about 32,000 so-called "plank holders" who joined DHS on the first day 20 years ago and continue to serve there today.