More federal employees could see their student loans forgiven under a newly introduced bill. The bipartisan legislation would reduce eligibility requirements for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program (PSLF). Currently, borrowers must be employed in public service at the time of loan forgiveness. That means retired feds and those who have left public service, but who still made all the qualifying payments, are not currently eligible for the program. The PSLF Payment Completion Fairness Act would remove this requirement. The bill was introduced in both the House and Senate.
(Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) Payment Completion Fairness Act - Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.))
The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA) is calling on the Biden administration to go back to the drawing board with its greenhouse gas emissions supply chain acquisition regulation. AIA said the Federal Acquisition Regulations Council's proposal, that would require certain contractors to disclose greenhouse emissions throughout their supply chains, would saddle vendors with steep implementation and compliance costs. In a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Shalanda Young, AIA said the proposed rule is onerous and includes impractical requirements. AIA also said the regulations would open the door to foreign influence on government procurement and the aerospace and defense industry, as well as inflict a disproportionate burden on small businesses.
The National Security Agency's mega cyber services contract has survived a protest. NSA can move forward with its Focused Fox cybersecurity analytics services contract. The Government Accountability Office ruled in favor of NSA and its $2.4 billion award to CACI, after Leidos protested for a second time. Leidos claimed NSA erred in its evaluation of proposals and how it decided the best-value tradeoff for this five-year contract for network and exploitation analyst services. NSA initially chose CACI, but pulled back the award in November after Ledios and Booz Allen protests. After taking corrective action, NSA awarded Focused Fox to CACI once again, leading to this latest protest.
The top Republican on the Senate Small Business Committee is calling for higher standards for federal small business contracting goals. Committee Ranking Member Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is leading bills that would require agencies to only count women-owned small businesses and service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses that have been certified by the Small Business Administration, as part of their governmentwide contracting targets. Agencies have met or exceeded governmentwide contracting goals for service-disabled veteran-owned small businesses for more than a decade. But they have only met the governmentwide goal for women-owned small businesses twice. SBA is rolling back self-certifications, after watchdogs found contracts went out to ineligible businesses.
The Defense Department's zero trust architecture could have stopped the type of data leak that exposed national security secrets in April. DoD chief information officer John Sherman said if zero trust had been fully implemented across the services, the Massachusetts air national guardsman responsible would likely have been stopped from releasing large quantities of sensitive national security information. Zero trust includes verification of identity that requires frequent reauthorization for network access. The Pentagon plans to have the cybersecurity program fully in place by 2027.
As part of its expansion as an independent command, Cyber Command is building up its acquisition office. The agency wants to model its acquisition program on the office at Special Operations Command. Until now Cybercom used the Air Force's resources, but it expects to become more independent over the next couple of years. This year, it will start a program management office for weapons acquisitions, and the program will also hire 25 entry-level employees to begin building its workforce.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology is taking the lead on a governmentwide technology strategy. The White House published a National Standards Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technology this week. It aims to strengthen U.S. leadership in areas like artificial intelligence, renewable energy, and cybersecurity. Under the strategy, NIST will help establish a non-federal Standards Center of Excellence to engage the private sector. The agency will also assist in growing the technical capacity within government agencies as well.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency’s draft software attestation form, released last week, aims to ensure vendors are following secure development practices. But security experts said there should be more clarity around how often vendors need to submit updates and why certain security controls were left out of the form. The Office of Management and Budget has directed agencies to collect attestations for critical software starting this June. But despite the tight timeline, experts also said the form provides an important baseline for raising software security standards across government.
Military spouses are getting a little help with navigating the federal hiring process. The Office of Personnel Management will hold a two-day event next week for military spouses who are looking to join the federal workforce. A panel of current federal military spouses and HR specialists will offer strategies to best conduct a federal job search. They will also explain how to apply for federal jobs under the military spouse hiring authority, and go over eligibility requirements. OPM's event will take place on May 15 and 16.
The National Science Foundation is spending $140 million dollars to create seven new National AI Research Institutes across the country. The institutes serve as hubs for research and development across federal agencies, academia and industry to accelerate breakthroughs in trustworthy AI. NSF’s latest investment will bring the total number of National AI Research Institutes up to 25 and will extend an R&D network that includes participants from nearly every state. The new institutes are part of a broader launch of several new AI initiatives from the Biden administration.