A historic year of hiring at the Department of Veterans Affairs has lead to a record year for veteran care and benefits. The VA is staffing up its health care and benefits workforce to levels never seen before in the department’s history. It provided more than 116 million health care appointments to veterans and their survivors in fiscal 2023. That is three million more appointments than its previous record. VA also processed nearly two million benefits claims, a nearly 16% increase from the year prior. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said VA counts on its workforce to keep its promise to veterans. “None of this happens without the best federal workforce in the federal government,” McDonough said.
The Navy is sticking with a familiar face to be its permanent technology leader. Jane Rathbun is losing her "acting" title as the Navy Department's chief information officer. Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro promoted the 27-year Defense Department veteran yesterday. Rathbun has been serving in the acting role since March, when Aaron Weiss left after more than three years. Del Toro called Rathbun the right person to drive the Navy's efforts to implement the Defense Department's Digital Modernization Strategy and to leverage data for decision advantage. Rathbun has worked for the Navy Department since 2018, serving as the chief technology officer and then taking on the principal deputy CIO role in January. Prior to going to the Navy, Rathbun worked for the undersecretary of Defense for acquisition as deputy director of business systems.
The Biden administration wants to offer more cyber training and educational opportunities across agencies. The White House is working with Congress on legislation to establish a Cyber Workforce Development Institute. It would provide role-specific training for cyber employees and human resources specialists to help build the federal cyber workforce. The Office of the National Cyber Director is also providing weekly training to agency HR professionals to help them in their efforts to recruit technology talent from the private sector.
Data brokers are selling sensitive information, like health and financial data, of current and former military personnel. A Duke University report found it is not hard to obtain sensitive information about active-duty military members, their families and veterans. The report said that data brokers have inconsistent methods to determine customers’ identities and the government does not regulate these inconsistent practices. The data, the report warns, could be sold to customers outside the country, including foreign malicious actors targeting military members. House Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.) said that this is another example highlighting the need for national privacy legislation and for data-broker regulation.
The Pentagon is all in on 5G and FutureG, as it works to strengthen its communications. The Defense Department’s principal director for FutureG, Thomas Rondeau, said it is important to keep the end user in mind while working on use cases, logistics and security. The Defense Department will focus on cybersecurity, cloud security, privacy, signature management and logistics for 5G. Leveraging the industrial base and commercial technology will be critical to accomplishing this, while adjusting technology to suit the department’s needs.
The General Services Administration's Login.gov program is in the crosshairs of House lawmakers once again. Rep. Pete Sessions (R-Texas) introduced two amendments to the Financial Services and General Government 2024 spending bill that, if passed, would prohibit GSA from spending any money on the identity access and management site until it meets specific requirements. Sessions wants to see the Technology Modernization Fund application and a report of any disciplinary actions taken after the IG report found security misrepresentations about Login.gov. Sessions also wants Login.gov to meet certain security standards from the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The White House has threatened to veto the bill for reasons beyond the Login.gov issues.
The federal government’s landlord, the General Services Administration, is pouring $2 billion into sustainable construction projects. GSA is putting these funds toward low-carbon asphalt, concrete, glass and steel projects. The agency identified more than 150 federal buildings that will benefit from these projects, and expects the work to reduce 41,000 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions and support thousands of jobs. The funds make up more than half of GSA’s funding in the Inflation Reduction Act.
Federal agencies would boost their quantum technology research under a new bipartisan bill in the House. The National Quantum Initiative Reauthorization Act would create new quantum research centers and formally add NASA to the federal quantum program. It would also authorize the National Science Foundation to extend new traineeships, fellowships, scholarships and other workforce programs. Lawmakers say the goal of the bill is to move quantum beyond basic science and into applied research, demonstration and commercialization.