Correctional officers at Leavenworth federal penitentiary in Kansas are holding a picket line today. The Bureau of Prisons employees are warning that consistent understaffing at the federal facility is putting both officers and inmates at risk. The American Federation of Government Employees is hosting today's rally in Kansas, but the workforce issues at the Leavenworth prison are not uncommon for BOP. AFGE has been highly vocal about systemic workforce issues across the entire bureau. Increased overtime and staff burnout are just a few of the union and officers' concerns that come from severe understaffing.
(EVENT: Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary union members speak out about staff shortages - Event Sponsor: AFGE)
The chairman of the Federal Labor Relations Authority has a warning about the agency's budget. Susan Tsui Grundmann said for fiscal 2024, Congress promises $29 million, the same level as 20 years ago. "We're talking furloughs, beginning as early as next year. Furloughs for the people who process the cases, investigate the charges, mediate/litigate these matters, and issue decisions. They will be sent home," Grundmann warned. Grundmann said staffing has already dropped by 50% over the years, as caseloads have grown.
(Susan Tsui Grundmann - Federal Drive with Tom Temin)
Chris Cleary, the Department of the Navy’s principal cyber advisor, will leave federal service in November, after more than four years. In 2019, the Navy brought in Cleary through the “Highly Qualified Expert” appointing authority as the Navy’s chief information security officer, and promoted him in 2020 as the first principal cyber advisor. The promotion came via a term-limited senior executive service position. That three-year term ends on November 21. Cleary said he will take some time off before looking for a new position in industry.
The cloud security program known as FedRAMP is getting its first major update in more than a decade. The Joint Authorization Board will be replaced by a new FedRAMP Board. A plan for automating FedRAMP security assessments and reviews is due by December 23. These are just two of the major changes outlined by the Office of Management and Budget in its draft memo released Friday. Another major change is OMB is pushing against the creation and support of government-only cloud instances, encouraging agencies to use the same infrastructure as commercial companies. The updates to FedRAMP are in part to meet the requirements in the FedRAMP Authorization Act of 2022 and in part to accelerate the adoption of software as a service. OMB is accepting comments on the draft memo through Nov. 27.
The Transportation Security Administration is not retreating on cybersecurity rules for one critical sector. TSA has renewed cybersecurity requirements for passenger and freight railroad carriers. The revised security directives were set to expire on October 24, but TSA renewed them for another year. New updates include a requirement for railroad operators to test out a minimum of two objectives in their Cybersecurity Incident Response Plan every year. The revised cyber rules for the railroad industry come amid a governmentwide push to set minimum cyber standards for all critical infrastructure sectors.
The Navy is putting artificial intelligence into practice through low-risk, but high-reward use cases. Those use cases include the launch of its first conversational AI program, called "Amelia," to answer thousands of help-desk requests in less than a minute. That frees up its IT personnel to handle more pressing matters. Nathan Hagan is the deputy data officer at the Office of the Chief of Naval Operations. He said Amelia allows the Navy to answer many more help tickets with only about 15 employees staffing the help desk. “The value of that is it allows us to perform a really important business function, keep it at a manageable scale,” Hagan said.
Many agencies have hired a senior-level chief diversity officer in the last few years, but where exactly that official sits in an agency's hierarchy can make a huge difference. The Partnership for Public Service said some agencies should do a bit of shuffling so that their chief diversity officers make a greater impact on organizational performance and workplace culture. The Partnership also recommended that agencies establish an independent DEIA office to make an even greater difference.
Navy personnel will soon be able to provide real-time feedback for certain products. The Navy’s Program Executive Office for Manpower, Logistics and Business Solutions is rolling out a customer feedback program for its applications and processes. Brandon Wehler, the program's technical director said this will help the office perform analytics, make predictions and update products faster to improve the customer experience.
The Defense Acquisition University recently graduated its first cohort of graduates from its immersive acquisition program. The program announced the next cohort of six contract and procurement personnel. The 12-month program is a collaboration between Defense Acquisition University and the Defense Innovation Unit and is designed to provide students with the tools to bridge the gap between the Defense Department and innovative commercial technology companies.
The Biden administration is continuing to push the software community to adopt stronger security practices. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is requesting public comment on a new white paper laying out “software identification” options. The goal is to facilitate greater automation, inventory visibility, and broader, more effective use of software bills of materials (SBOMs). Some agencies have started asking for SBOMs from their software vendors. CISA is seeking feedback on its new proposals by December 11.
A bipartisan bill to make better use of the stuff agencies buy is making its way through Congress. The Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee advanced the Reuse Excess Property Act. The bill updates existing requirements for agencies to report their excess personal property to the General Services Administration and to make those reports public. That personal property can include office supplies, furniture, vehicles and heavy machinery. Committee Chairman Gary Peters (D-Mich.) introduced the bill, along with committee member James Lankford (R-Okla.).