The National Security Agency hit an all-time high in hiring people with disabilities. The agency said a record 15.6% of new hires in 2022 self-identified as having a disability. NSA said it needs to expand its accommodations to create an environment where people with disabilities can work. The Cybersecurity Directorate, for example, launched a recent initiative to offer many printed materials in braille. Other NSA organizations have undertaken similar campaigns to ensure reasonable accommodations for every employee.
Bad password practices come under the microscope at another agency. The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) is taking action after its inspector general found lackluster security controls could be putting the agency’s data and systems at risk. A new report from the IG details shortfalls in how the FDIC secures and manages its Microsoft Active Directory services. The IG found some privileged users at the FDIC shared passwords, while others were being granted excess privileges. The IG found three accounts held privileged access for nearly a year after they no longer needed it. The FDIC told the IG that it plans to fix its Active Directory security issues by March 2024.
The Army’s Fort Pickett was named after a general who fought against the U.S. Army in the Civil War. That’s changing this week. The southern Virginia installation is changing its name to Fort Barfoot, in a formal ceremony this Friday. The base’s new namesake is Van Thomas Barfoot, who earned a Medal of Honor in World War II and continued to serve through the Vietnam War, before eventually retiring in Virginia. It’s the first of several base renamings to come. Earlier this year, the Pentagon approved new names for eight other Army bases that were named after Confederate officials.
Agencies will soon be able to share their cyber experts across government. A workforce program from the Office of Personnel Management will let federal cyber employees go on temporary rotations to other agencies. Cyber workers will have the option to work at a different agency for anywhere between six months and one year. The goal is to improve employees' knowledge for their personal career growth, while also bringing new skills back to their own agency. Agencies will have an annual open period each November to advertise any rotation opportunities. And agencies will also be able to announce other open cyber rotations throughout the year.
The cornerstone of a modern security clearance process is almost fully in place. By the end of the fiscal year, 115 agencies will be using the new e-app personnel vetting form from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). DCSA said 83 agencies already have gone through the onboarding process, which features more than 56,000 security clearance cases. Jeff Smith, the program executive officer for the National Background Investigation Services at DCSA, said starting last March, they pressure-tested the system to get it ready for all agencies. "We incrementally started with one form, iteratively brought one form online, the SF86, and over the year we brought on all four forms and added pre-fill," Smith said.
The Veterans Health Administration has reduced its time-to-hire for the first time this year. VHA’s total workforce grew by more than 9,500 employees in the first five months of fiscal 2023. That is the agency’s highest rate of growth in its workforce in more than 20 years. Undersecretary for Health Shereef Elnahal said VHA is looking to reduce the time-to-hire by eliminating the time it takes its human resources office post a vacant position on USAJobs. “If we have an automatic way that vacancies are posted and ultimately triggered for recruitment, we can eliminate that inefficient period of time," Elnahal said.
Federal contractors have until June 29 to file their documents to certify compliance with affirmative action program (AAP) requirements for 2023. The Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP) will open the filing portal on March 31. The Labor Department says it enhanced the portal and now requires contractors to provide the start date of their AAP coverage period when certifying. OFCCP launched the portal in 2022, making this the second filing season for contractors. The agency is providing a training video to help vendors through the process.
Some familiar faces are joining a key group of federal cyber advisers. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency announced 13 new members of its Cybersecurity Advisory Committee this week. They include former national cyber director Chris Inglis, who just retired in February; John Katko, the former top Republican on the House Homeland Security Committee; and Jim Langevin, the recently retired House Democrat and longtime congressional leader on cybersecurity issues. The advisory committee was established in June 2021 and gives CISA advice on policies and programs related to its cybersecurity mission.
The State Department is finalizing changes that should make it easier for people with disabilities to join the Foreign Service. The State Department is setting a new standard of medical clearance for prospective diplomats, as part of a settlement in a lawsuit spanning nearly two decades. The State Department also agreed to pay more than $37 million dollars to settle claims of disability discrimination, after it rejected or delayed hiring more than 230 individuals who were unable to obtain a “Class 1” or “Worldwide Available” medical clearance. The State Department announced the settlement last month and has now finalized the agreement.
Agencies have a deadline to share some data on senior-level staff. The Office of Personnel Management has issued its annual data call to gather information on employees in senior-level, scientific and professional roles, as well as those in the Senior Executive Service. Agencies will have to provide information on performance ratings, pay and awards for the employees. OPM said it will review the data to ensure that performance ratings for SES employees correlate with related pay and awards decisions. Agencies' data reports are due May 26.