The Georgia Army base formerly known as Fort Benning is now Fort Moore. After a renaming ceremony Thursday, the fort will carry the name of the late Lt. Gen. Hal Moore and his wife, Julia Moore. The change marks the first time an Army base carries the name of a married couple. Hal Moore served in Vietnam. Julia Moore successfully lobbied Congress to have military families notified of casualties in person instead of by telegram. The renaming is part of the Defense Department's effort to remove the names of bases honoring the Confederacy.
Pandemic watchdogs are uncovering more fraud in emergency COVID-19 spending. The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee (PRAC) found nearly $38 million in COVID funds issued by the Small Business Administration went to applicants using the Social Security numbers of deceased individuals. The improper payments stem from SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and the Paycheck Protection Program. The PRAC determined that the SBA could have prevented the fraud by checking applications against the Treasury Department’s Do-Not-Pay system.
The State Department is once again on a hiring spree for data scientists. The State Department’s Center for Analytics is accepting applications for those aspiring to become GS-13 data scientists as part of an agency-wide hiring initiative. The State Department hired about 50 data scientists last year in its first agency-wide data scientist hiring effort. The department will keep the position open through May 25, or until it receives 400 applications. The State Department launched its Center for Analytics three years ago. It serves as the department’s central hub for data science expertise.
We now know who the members of the federal security cloud advisory committee are. The General Services Administration named nine federal employees and five of the six industry participants to the inaugural federal security cloud advisory committee. Ann Lewis, the director of the Technology Transformation Service, is the chairwoman. The other federal members come from GSA, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Administration, the National Institute for Standards and Technology, the Securities and Exchange Commission, the Defense Information Systems Agency, the Small Business Administration, and the departments of Health and Human Services and Veterans Affairs. The five industry executives include experts from IBM, Google, Palo Alto, Schellman and Bluescape. The FedRAMP Authorization Act of 2022, which was part of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, called for GSA to create this new federal advisory committee to help improve the cloud security authorization process.
The General Services Administration has launched its biggest project to retrofit federal buildings and make them more energy efficient. GSA is looking to award contracts to retrofit more than 40 federal facilities across Washington, D.C., Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Wisconsin. The projects are focused on making the buildings all-electric and weaning them off equipment that runs on fossil fuels. GSA expects the projects will cost about $300 million and will cover those costs through funds in the Inflation Reduction Act.
The Defense Department has some significant oversight problems in its $17.5 billion IT-services contract known as ENCORE III. A new audit from DoD’s inspector general looked at a sample of five big task orders, and found the government officials who oversee contractors’ performance were not properly trained, and often lacked the experience they would need to make sure vendors were upholding their side of the bargain. The IG said $24 million may have been improperly spent on those five task orders alone.
Cities across the U.S. are challenging the figures the Census Bureau came up with in its 2020 count, but so far, they are not having much luck. Officials from Austin to Milwaukee claim the Census undercounted their populations because of the challenge of conducting the count during the pandemic. More than a hundred local governments have filed similar appeals, but local officials in some of the largest cities say the bureau has rejected their challenges. One exception is Boston. That city managed to persuade Census officials that they had missed more than 6,000 college students and hundreds of jail inmates.
In an effort to meet the needs of the evolving acquisition field, the Defense Acquisition University has changed its curriculum to allow for more specialization. The new program means future contracting officers will have a more diverse skill set than their predecessors. Instead of students taking classes together, they can pick and choose what courses they want and get accreditation though online courses. It is part of a push to develop and retain talent in the acquisition workforce.
Two senators want to close the existing loopholes to protect federal contractor and grantee whistleblowers. Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.), chairman of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, and Mike Braun (R-Ind.), introduced the Expanding Whistleblower Protections for Contractors Act. The bill would clarify that whistleblower protections cannot be waived by nondisclosure agreement or other conditions of employment. The legislation would also protect whistleblowers from retaliation for refusing to perform an action they believe is illegal. Finally, the bill would clarify that federal officials do not have the authority to request that contractors retaliate against whistleblowers, and would allow agencies to take disciplinary action against officials who do so.