Contracting officers will have to double check the size and socioecomonic status of small businesses before they award them task orders from certain contracts. A proposed rule from the Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council seeks to implement changes the Small Business Administration initiated in October 2020. Under that proposed rule, small firms would have to re-represent their size and/or socioeconomic status for orders set aside exclusively for small businesses — if those orders fall under an unrestricted multiple-award contract. The proposed rule doesn't apply to GSA's schedules or any multiple award contract specifically for small businesses. Comments on the proposed rule are due by Nov. 28.
Starting next month, contractor employees will have enhanced whistleblower protections. After a years long effort, disclosing certain information will be permanently protected. The Federal Acquisition Regulatory Council is also making a pilot program giving contractor whistleblowers better protection from reprisal if they share certain information permanent. However, this does not apply to the Defense Department, Coast Guard or NASA who have a different whistleblower program for contractors. Contractors and subcontractors must inform their employees of these protections.
More details emerge about why the IRS bailed from using Login.gov's advanced capabilities. The IRS plans to implement two or more identity credentialing providers instead of just relying on Login.gov from the General Services Administration. A new report from the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration said the tax agency will seek a government and non-government cloud option in the near future. This decision comes after the IRS halted its planned Login.gov implementation in March. The IG said Login.gov failed in three of four assessment areas, including business, cybersecurity and privacy and information protection. GSA ended up returning more than $22 million to the IRS based on revised usage estimates.
The Office of Personnel Management is looking for a leader to help move the agency from legacy paper-based systems to the cloud. A current job posting for OPM's chief technology officer is open to federal employees in the competitive service, the excepted service or the Senior Executive Service. The incoming CTO will report directly to OPM’s Chief Information Officer Guy Cavallo. Applications for the permanent senior-level career position are open until Oct. 23.
The Army’s trying to modernize just about everything right now — from helicopters to vehicles to radios. But if it’s going to afford all that, it also needs to get rid of old stuff. General Randy George, the Army chief of staff, said the hunt for older and unneeded equipment is starting now with a 90-day pilot project in the eighty-second airborne division and the third infantry division. George said the goal is to reduce not just big-ticket items like vehicles. He also wants a scrub of Army units’ property books to look for smaller items that have outlived their usefulness — things that make their equipment load more complicated, heavier and more expensive than it ought to be.
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One agency is using new technology to help solve a long-time records management challenge. The State Department has declassified dozens of diplomatic cables from 1997 using a new machine learning tool. The technology can do that work in a fraction of the time it spends humans to review old records. State spent about $400,000 developing the tool. Officials said it’s at least 97% as accurate as humans in making declassification decisions. The agency is now considering expanding use of the tool to other types of records, including emails.
Lawmakers found several issues with the Defense Department’s Exceptional Family Member Program, which the Pentagon created to provide support those who have a family member with “a physical, emotional, developmental or intellectual disorder requiring specialized services.” Senators Elizabeth Warren and Thomas Tillis said they are concerned that there is insufficient housing for program participants and some must pay out-of-pocket to have their accommodations meet ADA standards. Furthermore, in a letter late last week, the lawmakers noted that DoD should improve its data practices and ability to track the housing needs, while addressing health privacy concerns. As of 2022, 110,000 active-duty service members got help from the program.
The federal retirement claims backlog has once again beat its own record low. Just shy of 16,000 retiring feds’ cases are currently sitting in the Office of Personnel Management’s Retirement Services inventory. During September, OPM processed more claims than it took in. The agency was able to dip below the record it set in June this year and shrink the backlog to a six-year low. The average time it takes to process feds’ claims is also on a downward trend. But OPM’s inventory of federal retirement claims is still about 3,000 above its overall goal.
An ex-Army sergeant has been charged with attempting to share classified information with the Chinese government. Twenty-nine-year-old Joseph Daniel Schmidt appeared in U.S. District Court on Friday facing two felony indictments. Schmidt led intelligence units during his time in the military. After leaving the Army in early 2020, he allegedly traveled to Hong Kong with a secure network device, and offered the device to Chinese authorities to help them access sensitive U.S. networks. Schmidt faces up to 20 years in prison if convicted.