Republicans have renewed their push to try to make it easier for agencies to fire federal employees. GOP lawmakers in both the House and Senate reintroduced a bill to make feds at-will workers. Proponents of the Public Service Reform Act said it would make it easier to remove poor performers, and create more accountability and efficiency. It is an idea that former President Trump originally touted through a now-revoked executive order that created the Schedule F position classification. Republicans' new bill would also abolish the Merit Systems Protection Board. Democrat lawmakers, though, have pushed in the opposite direction, proposing legislation to prevent a future Schedule F-type policy. Democrats’ Saving the Civil Service Act would prevent the reclassification of federal positions outside merit system principles.
The Office of Personnel Management has made a move to try to close a gender-based pay gap in the federal workforce. OPM proposed regulations that would prohibit agencies from using a job candidate's salary history when setting his or her pay. The proposal is an effort to fully close the pay gap between men and women in the federal workforce. Currently women federal employees' pay is on average 5.6% lower than their male counterparts. Proponents said the regulations will help historically underserved groups gain more equal footing when applying for government jobs. OPM's proposal is open to public comment for the next 30 days.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is taking a closer look at disruptions in veterans receiving prescription drugs. The VA and vendor Oracle-Cerner are working to fix issues that have led to less productive pharmacy operations at VA facilities using its new Electronic Health Record. The Government Accountability Office found the Oracle-Cerner EHR led to multiple instances of veterans receiving double quantities of their prescriptions, as well as the wrong medications. Neil Evans, acting program executive director of VA’s EHR Modernization Integration Office, said fixes to these EHR pharmacy issues have been “small and incremental” and is calling for further action. “VA pharmacy staff and providers need an accelerated delivery of upgrades," Evans said.
The National Archives and Records Administration has new, permanent leadership. After some pointed questioning in committee hearings by GOP members, the Senate confirmed political scientist Colleen Shogan to lead NARA about a year after President Joe Biden nominated her for the job. Shogan previously served as an executive at the White House Historical Association and has held jobs at the Congressional Research Service and Library of Congress. As Archivist of the United States, Shogan will oversee 13 presidential libraries and 14 regional archives. She told lawmakers she will prioritize a backlog of veterans’ requests for military service records needed for them to receive benefits.
House lawmakers are preparing to update key IT modernization programs. The Technology Modernization Fund (TMF) is nearly six years old and is getting a bit dull. So Rep. Nancy Mace (R-S.C.) plans to do something about it. "But it's become clear that it's a tool that needs sharpening, so I intend to introduce legislation soon to do just that," Mace said. Mace did not say how she plans to sharpen the TMF, but the Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Federal IT and Cybersecurity hearing yesterday was one piece of the fact-finding effort. Additionally, ranking member Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) said he would like to update the FITARA scorecard with new categories for zero trust and legacy IT modernization.
The Defense acquisition system needs to spend more time working directly with small businesses. DoD acquisition chief Bill LaPlante said in the future, he wants to do direct deals with small businesses and less through prime contractors. LaPlante made those comments at the Naval Post Graduate School's Annual Acquisition Research Symposium. He also wants a faster process for small business accreditation. It's part of a Pentagon effort to increase the percentage of small businesses working with the department. A DoD small business strategy released earlier this year focuses on increasing engagement with industry including providing more tools, training and resources.
There's a new push from Capitol Hill to overhaul the government’s security classification policies. Four senior members of the Senate Intelligence Committee have legislation that would discourage agencies from classifying records when they don’t actually need to, and speed up the process of declassifying information that’s already been marked as secret. The bills would also add funding for agencies’ insider threat programs and add more governance to the classification process.
Top lawmakers on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee are calling for a one-stop-shop for federal disaster aid. The Disaster Assistance Simplification Act would require FEMA to create a universal application for disaster survivors to apply for assistance across all federal agencies. Disaster survivors currently need to fill out separate applications for each agency from which they need help, a process that can take weeks or even months. Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the bill along with Ranking Member Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and committee member James Lankford (R-Okla.)
Even without a federal loan default, delays in passing federal budgets cost Defense Department acquisitions four years of progress. DoD acquisition chief Bill LaPlante, speaking at the Naval Post Graduate School's Annual Acquisition Research Symposium, said continuing resolutions or CRs amounted to four years of funding delays over the last 12 years. As a result, the U.S. lacked enough stockpiled ammunition for the war in Ukraine. LaPlante said it also caused the U.S. to lose ground to China in acquisitions and advancements.
Dreamport, the U.S. Cyber Command's creation to promote cyber innovation and collaboration, has new leadership. Gregg Smith started in April as the new CEO of the Maryland Innovation and Security Institute (MISI), which runs Dreamport. Smith replaced the founders, both of whom unexpectedly left their leadership roles in April. Cyber Command created Dreamport through a partnership intermediary agreement in 2018 with MISI. Smith joins Dreamport and MISI after spending the last three years with Archon Security and previously was the chairman of the Cybersecurity Association of Maryland.
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The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s new draft update to Special Publication 800-171, Revision 3 takes into account a year’s worth of comments and data collection to make significant changes to the requirements to protect controlled unclassified information or C-U-I. Among the major changes to Revision 3 are the introduction of the concept of organization-defined parameters in selected security requirements to increase flexibility and help organizations better manage risk. NIST also created a prototype C-U-I overlay to better connect SP 800-53 and SP 800-171. NIST will hold an information webinar on June 6. Comments on the draft are due by July 14.