The White House is creating a new permanent office to fight COVID-19 and all future pandemics. The Office of Pandemic Preparedness and Response Policy will take over current federal programs to address COVID-19 and mpox. It will also coordinate the Biden administration’s response to emerging public health threats, as well as coordinate federal science and technology efforts on pandemic preparedness. Retired Maj. Gen. Paul Friedrichs will serve as the office’s first director, starting in August.
The White House is calling on the federal government and industry to keep the risks of artificial intelligence in check. The Biden administration is getting commitments from seven of the top AI developers to agree to certain safeguards for their products. But the White House says agencies will also take steps to regulate AI. A senior administration official says the White House is developing an executive order that “will ensure the federal government is doing everything in its power to advance safe, secure and trustworthy AI.” The Biden administration is also working with both parties in Congress to craft a bill on trustworthy AI. Later this summer, the Office of Management and Budget will release draft guidance on the use of AI systems within the federal government.
A union for employees at the Federal Aviation Administration is pushing back against the agency’s return-to-office announcement. The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, or PASS, said an email announcement from agency leadership occurred without an opportunity to discuss or negotiate over telework policies for employees. FAA announced in an all-staff email last week that agency employees will have to work in the office at least three days per week, starting October 9. PASS plans to file a national grievance over FAA's telework decision, saying it violates existing collective bargaining agreements and current telework arrangements at the agency.
The FAA would get more money to hire air traffic controllers under a sweeping reauthorization bill the House passed last week. The bipartisan legislation would also increase the mandatory retirement age for pilots from 65 to 67, and make some reductions in the number of in-flight training hours needed to become an airline pilot. The Senate is considering a similar bill, but it’s been held up over a disagreement about those training changes.
Federal hiring managers would get more flexibility in the recruitment process under a new proposal. The Office of Personnel Management wants to change how agencies select final candidates from a list of eligible job applicants. Federal job applicants are traditionally assigned a numerical score and considered for a job based on something called the “rule of three.” The new proposal, stemming from the fiscal 2019 National Defense Authorization Act, would replace the rule of three, with the “rule of many,” allowing hiring managers to select from a broader pool of eligible candidates. Hiring managers would still assign numerical values to candidates, based on a modified rating system. OPM’s new proposed rule will remain open to public comments until September 19.
The next slate of Navy leaders are up for consideration in the Senate. On Friday, President Joe Biden nominated Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the next chief of naval operations. If confirmed, she’d be the first woman to lead the Navy, and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs. The president also nominated Vice Adm. James Kilby to be vice chief of naval operations, Adm. Samuel Paparo to be the commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, and Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler to replace Paparo as the commander of the Navy’s Pacific Fleet. It’s unclear when the confirmations will actually happen, since Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is maintaining a hold on many senior military nominations. Franchetti will become the acting CNO if the hold isn’t lifted by next month. That’s when Adm. Michael Gilday, the current CNO, is set to retire.
Federal contractors have until Wednesday close of business to update their voluntary self-identification of disability form for the Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs. The Labor Department organization updated the form to include the preferred language for disabilities and to include additional examples of disabilities. OFCCP says contractors and subcontractors are legally required to provide employment opportunities to people with disabilities. The form is how OFCCP measures contractors' progress toward meeting the goal of hiring at least 7% of all employees who have disabilities.
A government contractor agrees to pay one of the biggest fines in the history of the False Claims Act. Booz Allen Hamilton has agreed to pay $377 million to settle allegations it improperly charged costs to its government contracts and subcontracts that instead should have been billed to its commercial and international contracts. The Justice Department says Booz Allen allegedly violated the False Claims Act by overcharging the government between 2011 and 2021. DoJ says Booz Allen obtained reimbursement from the government for the costs of commercial activities that provided no benefit to the United States. The allegations were brought under the qui tam or whistleblower provision of the False Claims Act by a former Booz Allen employee, who will receive more than $69 million from the settlement.
Federal auditors focusing on cybersecurity and other IT audits have new draft requirements that updates existing standards, control criteria and addresses new technologies. The Government Accountability Office revamped the Federal Information System Controls Audit Manual or FIS-CAM standards for the first time since 2009. GAO is seeking feedback on the draft document, which it developed through a series of focus groups and interviews with internal and external experts, stakeholders and users. Among the changes GAO is offering is to simplify the FIS-CAM Framework by consolidating and reorganizing certain control categories, objectives and activities. The draft also proposes to clarify the use of the FIS-CAM Framework through enhanced auditor requirements and application guidance. Comments on the draft standards are due by October 18.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement is taking steps to address gaps that could lead to a cybersecurity incident. Employees at ICE who left the agency or changed positions may still have been able to access their old IT accounts. That's according to findings from a Department of Homeland Security inspector general report. 84 percent of the ICE accounts reviewed by the IG remained active beyond the individual’s last workday. ICE told the IG that it’s implementing new account management technology that will ensure the appropriate action is taken when an employee separates from the agency.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is planning a meeting with contractors to discuss a major new program. CISA will hold a virtual industry day on Aug. 15 to discuss the Joint Collaborative Environment. The idea for the JCE was first developed by the Cyberspace Solarium Commission as an information-sharing environment for synthesizing and analyzing data related to cybersecurity risks. During the industry day, CISA will share an overview of its plan and requirements for the new program.