The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is expanding its cyber services beyond federal agencies. Healthcare organizations, water utilities and K-12 schools can now access some of the same shared cybersecurity services as federal agencies. That is because CISA has launched a new pilot program aimed at providing services to organizations in critical infrastructure. One of the first services it is offering to those groups is Protective Domain Name System, or Protective DNS, which helps block malicious web traffic. CISA hopes to deliver services to upwards of 100 entities over the next year.
Public sector retirees, at a field hearing in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, pressed Congress on the negative impacts of Social Security's "evil twins." Those retirees shared their personal stories in front of the House Ways and Means Committee yesterday. They said Social Security's Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset unfairly reduce or eliminate benefits for federal and other public-sector retirees. The Social Security Fairness Act aims to eliminate the two provisions. And after decades of pushing, the bipartisan bill has gained near record traction. "You are witnessing history because we're going to get this thing done. We got 300 co-sponsors. We're pushing it very hard this Congress," Rep. Clay Higgins (R-La.) said.
Blue-collar federal employees could see a pay raise under a reintroduced bill. The Locality Pay Equity Act aims to alter the government’s Federal Wage System. If enacted, the legislation would bring it in line with the mapping of the General Schedule. Currently, the General Schedule gets yearly reviews of locality-based pay maps. But the pay system for blue-collar feds does not. The bill would block the government from using two different pay localities for blue-collar workers in areas where just one exists for GS employees. That would result in higher locality-pay adjustments for many employees on the Federal Wage System. House and Senate Democrats reintroduced the Locality Pay Equity Act last week.
The State Department is looking at artificial intelligence tools to further its diplomatic work. State's first enterprise AI strategy sees these emerging tech tools as the key to maximizing the impact of its workforce. Among the use cases, it is using AI-powered tools to document war crimes in Ukraine using satellite imagery. It is also using machine-learning tools to declassify diplomatic cables more quickly. Matthew Graviss is the department’s chief data and AI officer. He said there is increased demand for data and AI services across the department. "We are committed to harnessing AI's potential. And we're committed to doing it in a manner that safe, secure and trustworthy,” Graviss said.
The Defense Department faces eight overarching management challenges going into fiscal 2024. The department’s inspector general said these challenges are affecting DoD’s ability to perform its mission. These are the same challenges from the year before, including strengthening DoD’s cybersecurity, improving financial management, recruiting and retaining a diverse workforce, taking care of the health and wellness of service members and their families, having a resilient defense industrial base and accelerating to be a data-centered organization.
The Department of Homeland Security said it is taking steps to improve access to services for people with limited English-language proficiency. DHS released its first language access plan in more than a decade this week. It touts a number of recent advancements, including a new contract vehicle that provides a full array of language services and the launching of a multi-lingual online complaint portal. The department also plans to translate an expanded number of forms and instruction documents. And in the coming year, DHS will update its basic language access training for employees.
The Coast Guard is trying to foster a more inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ individuals. The Coast Guard has a voluntary diversity and education program and a gender-transition request policy, which says that request decisions should be made within 90 days. However, according to a Government Accountability Office report, nearly half of the approved requests from September 2021 to June 2023 took longer than the 90-day time frame. GAO recommended the Coast Guard collect information on gender-transition-request time frames to identify and address the reason for delays. The agency agreed with the watchdog’s recommendation. The Coast Guard said it is waiting for the Defense Department to provide more guidance before it would collect more information.
Want to help a child or family in need this holiday season? The Postal Service stands ready to help. USPS, through its Operation Santa program, is uploading letters addressed to Santa Claus to its website, but redacts sensitive information like last names or addresses. Individuals who go through a short ID verification process can pick a letter and mail a gift to its author. You can adopt a letter now through Dec. 18. USPS has run the program for more than a century.