IRS needs more precision in doling out cash awards to whistleblowers, IG says

In today's Federal Newscast: Senator Ron Wyden thinks spy agencies might be going too far to get data on Americans. The Treasury's IG says the IRS could improve...

  • The House Armed Services Committee will get to work this week on its version of the 2024 defense authorization bill. No one will know the details of what lawmakers have agreed on until a week or so from now, but one provision advanced by Chairman Mike Rogers (R-Ala.) would completely eliminate the Pentagon’s office of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation (CAPE). Congress created that office in 2009 as a way to hold the military services accountable for weapons systems costs. Aides said House members now see the office as an impediment in the acquisition system, partly because of the office’s recent analytical work regarding Navy amphibious ships. The first-draft House proposal does not explain the reasons for CAPE’s disestablishment, and does not indicate how Congress would prefer DoD to handle cost analyses in the future.
  • An IRS watchdog said the agency is not keeping close enough tabs on whistleblower tips that bring in revenue. The IRS spent nearly $600 million in whistleblower awards between fiscal 2017 and 2021. The agency said those tips helped the agency recover $3 billion in proceeds. But the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) said the IRS is not capturing all the data that would help its enforcement office decide which whistleblower tips could lead to the biggest payoff. TIGTA found the IRS was late in mailing payment notifications to nearly a third of its whistleblowers.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs received more than two dozen recommendations to improve its cybersecurity posture. VA's chief information officer has a plan to check off several of the more than two dozen IT security recommendations from the agency's inspector general. Kurt DelBene told auditors he will implement a new assessment framework to bring standardization and consistency to the authorizing official reviews of systems. VA also plans to address systemic findings in its plans of action and milestones and security control assessments. And the security office will update all system security documentation to accurately reflect current operational environments, particularly for critical systems. This was the second year in a row the VA IG made 26 recommendations as part of its annual FISMA report to Congress.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is working on updates to its landmark technology security standards. CISA will issue the next iteration of its secure-by-design-and-default principles by the end of this summer. CISA and several partner agencies issued the first version of those principles in April. Eric Goldstein, CISA’s executive assistant director for cybersecurity, explained the forthcoming update. “That’s going to incorporate robust input from the private sector and ideally have even more international partners onboard for that work,” Goldstein told reporters after speaking at an event hosted by SolarWinds at the U.S. Capitol. “We think that’s a good way to convey nationally and even globally, what does having a secure and safe product look like.” And Goldstein said the principles complement the software security attestation form agencies will use to ensure their software vendors follow secure development practices.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is looking to give a familiar recruitment program a facelift. The Pathways Program, run by OPM, is traditionally reserved for college graduates with four-year degrees. But it could soon have a bigger pool of eligible applicants. Rob Shriver, OPM's deputy director said, "What we're looking to do is [say], 'how can we expand its reach into more of the community colleges, more trade schools? Are there skills-based programs where the federal government really needs to be more competitive as well?'" Shriver said OPM is looking at soon updating the rules around the Pathways Program.
  • Employees and servicemembers with government purchase cards at Fort Meade will have a new way to buy products. Last Wednesday, the Defense Information Systems Agency opened the doors to the DISA-Fort Meade AbilityOne Base Supply Center. Fort Meade agencies and commands will be able to purchase both AbilityOne and commercial supplies through the new retail store at DISA headquarters or purchase from the store at Blind Industries and Services of Maryland will deliver orders to non-DISA customers. The AbilityOne program created base supply centers in 1995 and there are more than 150 of them around the country.
  • One senator is pushing for new restrictions on spy agencies purchasing Americans’ personal data from private companies. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) issued that call after a declassified report detailed how intelligence agencies acquire a significant amount of commercially available information. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence released the report, which warns that the widespread availability of commercial information, like cell phone location data, raises privacy and civil liberties concerns. The report recommends the intelligence community adopt more precise sensitivity-and-privacy-protecting guidance for commercially available data.
  • The White House is bringing in new leadership to connect the federal government with state, local and tribal partners. President Joe Biden is appointing outgoing Labor Secretary Tom Perez as his newest senior adviser and assistant, as well as the White House’s director of intergovernmental affairs. The office coordinates with state, local and tribal governments, as well as with Puerto Rico and U.S. territories. Biden said Perez will help roll out the administration’s infrastructure agenda. Perez is taking over for Julie Chavez Rodriguez, who Biden selected as his 2024 campaign manager.
  • Instances of prohibited personnel practices are reportedly on the decline. But certain types of practices are still more common than others. Discrimination based on race, sex and age, in that order, is more frequent than other types of prohibited personnel practices, such as religious discrimination. In the last decade, race and sex discrimination have both increased by about 1% in the federal workforce, according to a new report by the Merit Systems Protection Board.
    (Prohibited personnel practices - Merit Systems Protection Board)

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