VA, NIH launch five-year study into Gulf War Illness

In today's Federal Newscast: The VA and NIH are launching a five-year study into the chronic condition known as Gulf War Illness. The Defense Department has nam...

  • Agencies are looking to strike a balance between security and access, in the wake of damaging intelligence leaks. Defense and intelligence agencies are reviewing how they grant security clearances and whether they are sharing sensitive data too widely, after an Air National Guardsman was arrested last week for allegedly leaking classified information online. Yesterday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed some details about the governmentwide review of security policies. “Just because you have a top secret clearance, doesn't mean you get to see everything that's top secret,” he said. “It's about having the clearance and the need to know,” he continued. “And so I think you can expect that we're going to look and see whether we have that balance right in general.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has already directed the military to tighten access to sensitive intelligence in the wake of the leaks.
  • The final piece to modernize the TIC 3.0 requirements is finally here. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is providing agencies with common network and multi-boundary security guidance for cloud environments. The final version of the Trusted Internet Connections 3.0 cloud use case details applicable security architectures, data flows and policy enforcement points, when using infrastructure, platform, software and/or email-as-a-service. Additionally, the use case offers cloud-specific considerations, such as the shared services model and cloud security posture management principles. CISA released the draft version of the cloud use case in 2022 and received industry and agency feedback to develop this final product.
  • The Defense Department tapped a new director for its Civilian Protection Center of Excellence. Michael McNerney will take over the center, which studies ways to protect civilians during military operations. McNerney previously worked at the RAND Corporation, as a senior international and defense researcher, and published research on civilian protection issues. DoD ordered creation of the center last summer, after completing a report on the steps the department will take, and resources needed, to improve its approach to civilian harm mitigation and response.
  • The Social Security Administration begins bargaining this week with one of its federal unions. The agency has reopened six articles of its national contract with the American Federation of Government Employees. Telework is not one of the provisions up for discussion. The negotiations come as Social Security faces massive staff attrition and a rapidly growing number of beneficiaries. The agency also took last place in this year's rankings for the Best Places to Work in the Federal Government.
  • The IRS points to better taxpayer service as a taste of what’s to come with its $80 billion overhaul. The Treasury Department said the IRS answered 87% of incoming calls this filing season, exceeding Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen’s targets for improved service. IRS employees this year answered 2 million more calls than they could last year, and cut the average phone on-hold time from 27 minutes down to 4 minutes. Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said the IRS is prioritizing improved taxpayer experience in both the short and long term. But he said efforts by House Republicans to roll back IRS funding would degrade its efforts to improve service. “If Republicans took away that money, they would make it harder for everyday Americans to get the information they need from the IRS," Adeyemo said.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs and the National Institutes of Health are launching a five-year study into a chronic condition affecting veterans of the Gulf War. The VA and NIH are looking at new diagnostic testing and treatment for Gulf War Illness, a condition that affects about a third of the more than 700,000 veterans who served in operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. Chronic symptoms include fatigue, headaches, memory and cognitive difficulties, joint and muscle pain, poor sleep and respiratory problems. NIH said its first veteran participant joined the study this week.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is offering some insight for federal diversity leaders. An online event this Wednesday will share the details of OPM's latest work on the diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility executive order. The meeting is open to agency chief diversity officers and other DEIA leaders in government. Governmentwide Chief Diversity Officer Janice Underwood and OPM Director Kiran Ahuja will offer remarks during the event.
    (Leading the Way in DEIA - Office of Personnel Management)
  • Agencies have outlined their program evaluation plans for fiscal 2024. Through these new strategies, agencies will generate evidence on processes, outcomes and impacts based on the requirements in the Foundations for Evidenced-Based Policymaking Act. The Office of Management and Budget requires agencies to update their plans annually, looking at programs based on size, importance or funding, as well as whether they need to fill a knowledge gap to better serve citizens. One example is the Small Business Administration will study leading practices for contracting with a diverse pool of small businesses and increasing equity in federal procurement.
    (Agencies publish their latest annual evaluation Plans - Office of Management and Budget)
  • How should your agency be using a Software Bill of Materials? The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has some answers, releasing the SBOM Sharing Lifecycle report on Monday. The goal is to help organizations choose suitable SBOM sharing solutions. The report also features interviews with stakeholders to understand how they are already sharing the software ingredients lists. SBOMs are a key facet of the Biden administration’s push for secure software development, but they are still not widely adopted across the government or in the commercial sector.
  • The number of mergers and acquisitions for companies in the government-services sector saw a sharp increase over the past two years. After a 10-year period of about 100 deals per year, the number shot up to 180 in 2021. Although 2022 dropped back down to about 110 deals, Kate Troendle, a managing partner with investment banking firm KippsDesanto, said she expects the trend of increasing deals to continue, as strong demand for government services companies means increased investment in those companies.
    (M&A Trends - M&A Trends Power Breakfast )

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