Concerned that "federal bureaucrats are phoning it in," one senator is calling for the State Department's Inspector General Office to roll back telework for employees. Like many Republicans in Congress, Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) said feds working from home is worsening federal services to the public. Ernst is calling on the IG to determine the impact of telework, across the federal government, on the delivery of services and how much money could be saved by consolidating unused office space. The letter to the State Department's IG follows a long line of calls from Republicans urging a governmentwide return-to-office.
The Transportation Security Administration is taking steps to shore up its cybersecurity practices in response to a critical report. TSA is adopting an automated capability that will ensure inactive accounts on one of its critical IT systems are shut down within 45 days. That is just one action the agency said it is taking after the Department of Homeland Security inspector general called out cybersecurity gaps in an identified high-value asset. Those are typically an agency’s most sensitive IT systems. TSA also said it is updating management directives after the IG found the agency did not always patch critical vulnerabilities in that system.
A federal labor union coalition is urging the Senate to act quickly to confirm Martin O’Malley as the Social Security Administration's commissioner. The Federal Workers Alliance, which collectively represents more than half a million federal employees, said confirming President Biden's pick for SSA commissioner will bring better stability and workers' rights to the agency's employees. Biden first announced his intent to nominate former Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley for the position in July. In total, SSA employs nearly 60,000 workers across the country. But SSA has operated for eight out of the last 10 years without a Senate-confirmed agency leader. Kilolo Kijakazi currently serves as SSA commissioner in an acting capacity.
A new effort aims to make mobile driver's licenses a reality. The current approach to mobile driver's licenses is ad hoc and lacks standards. To that end, the National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCoE) at the National Institute of Standards and Technology is looking for private-sector research and academic institutions to define and facilitate a reference architecture or architectures for digital identities. NCCoE wants to enter into a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) to determine the best way to implement the mobile driver's licenses in a secure way that protects privacy, enables equity, is widely adoptable, interoperable and easy-to-use. Capability statements are due to the NCCoE by September 28.
The Postal Service is looking for more rural carriers to help with Sunday deliveries. To address a nationwide staffing shortage, USPS and the National Rural Letter Carriers Association are allowing full-time rural carriers to volunteer to work Sundays. Both parties reached an agreement to temporarily waive a provision in their collective bargaining agreement that prohibits full-time carriers from working Sundays. Volunteers will be paid at the overtime rate and will be allowed to take up package delivery shifts from September 2, 2023 through March 8, 2024.
The Space Force has taken a big step toward independence. Frank Calvelli, the Air Force assistant secretary for space acquisition and integration, now has so-called "milestone decision authority" over space acquisition. With that authority, he can initiate each increment of the acquisition process and decide when programs have completed a phase, before moving onto the next phase. At a National Defense Industrial Association conference on Monday, DoD Under Secretary of Defense for Defense Acquisition and Sustainment William LaPlante said he gave Calvelli full authority. Calvelli took over as the Space Force’s acquisition chief in May 2022.
The Department of Homeland Security is turning to small businesses to help develop artificial intelligence systems and other cutting-edge technologies. The DHS Small Business Innovation Research program (SBIR) is awarding nearly $15 million to 15 small businesses for phase two SBIR work. The companies will have two years to build and demonstrate a prototype. Some of the technologies include an automated AI system for distress alerts and monitoring, a broadband push-to-talk interoperability platform, and streamlined airport checkpoint screening for limited mobility passengers.
Agency contracting officers and other acquisition workers have their first glimpse of the updated portal to find the latest acquisition tools, policies and initiatives. The General Services Administration relaunched the beta version of the new acquisition gateway. The developers said the goal of the new gateway is to present all of government’s advice and knowledge in a given market and allow users to make informed decisions and act with confidence. GSA is accepting feedback on the site and updating its functionality over the next month. The agency launched the acquisition gateway in 2016 to help create a community of people and information. GSA will progressively decommission components on the legacy site over the next three months and aims to decommission the legacy version in its entirety by December 31.
The Defense Department's Rapid Defense Experimentation Reserve (RDER) is moving new technology into a testing phase. At a National Defense Industrial Association conference on Tuesday, the Pentagon's Chief Technology Officer Heidi Shyu said some of the new systems were tested with the Indiana National Guard. The initiative is focusing on new systems for joint forces in the Indo-Pacific theater. The RDER program encourages prototyping and experimentation for joint capabilities and techniques that speed up acquisition. It's part of the foundation for the Pentagon's Joint All-Domain Command and Control initiative.
The Census Bureau is laying the foundation for its next decennial count in 2030. The bureau is establishing its 2030 Census Advisory Committee, and is looking for members. The committee offers an outside perspective on how to easily and efficiently collect responses for the 2030 Census, as well as conduct outreach to underserved communities. The bureau is calling on the public to nominate members to serve on the panel. The bureau expects the advisory committee will hold its first meeting later this year or in early 2024.