Feds who have been in the same health plan for years might have missed big changes coming to the Federal Employees Health Benefits (FEHB) program in 2024. Reforms to Medicare Part D, expanded dependent care services and coverage for infertility treatments are just a few of those changes. It is all the more reason the Office of Personnel Management is encouraging federal employees and retirees to take time over the next month to look at different health care plans. Feds in the FEHB program can use OPM's online plan comparison tool to weigh the costs and benefits of alternative options. And plan brochures from FEHB carriers detail new coverages, updated premiums and much more. Open Season starts today and runs through Dec. 11.
GSA is setting up a new contract to help agencies mitigate their supply chain risks. The General Services Administration wants to give agencies new tools and services to help mitigate the risks of fraud, abuse and adversarial exploitation of the supply chain. Agencies could use the Supply Chain Risk Illumination Professional Tools and Services (SCRIPTS) blanket purchase agreement for cyber hygiene; supply chain; foreign ownership, control and influence; and vendor vetting. The 10-year contract with a ceiling of $919 million would also include personnel vetting services to assist agencies in having continuously and dynamically informed insight on industry supplier health. Comments on the draft solicitation are due by December 8.
Maryland lawmakers are celebrating a decision to bring a new FBI headquarters to their state. But Virginia lawmakers are challenging that call. Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.) said he is calling for an inspector general review of plans to bring the FBI to Greenbelt, Maryland. That is after FBI Director Chris Wray raised concerns about how the federal government’s landlord, the General Services Administration, reached its decision. But Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) said the Greenbelt site is the best option for FBI employees and the public. “This is a final decision. We have been at this for over 10 years. There is no going back. We are going forward. The FBI headquarters will be built here in Greenbelt," Van Hollen said.
The Department of Homeland Security said a new statistics organization will help boost transparency. DHS is aiming to centralize statistical reporting across more than a dozen DHS components and offices. It is an outgrowth of the Office of Immigration Statistics. While immigration-related data will continue to be a major focus, the new office will also publish statistics on other DHS missions, like cybersecurity and international trade. Later this year, it plans to release a report on use-of-force incidents recorded by DHS law enforcement components in fiscal 2022.
For the first time in 20 years, the Office of Management and Budget is giving agencies new ways to more accurately estimate the impacts of their regulations. OMB updated Circular A-4 last week. In the guidance, which hasn't been changed since 2003, the White House establishes new approaches to come up with the value of future consequences of policies, as well as how to analyze the scope of the effects of the regulations. OMB released a draft of Circular A-4 in April and received feedback, including putting the final draft through a peer review process. In the coming months, OMB also will release an update to Circular A-94, which provides guidance on benefit-cost analysis in the context of federal investments. A-94 hasn't been updated since 1992.
The Defense Department is working to fix its inconsistent information security controls for devices that collect biometric data. A DoD inspector general report found the department doesn't have enough accountability over devices that collect biometric data, but it could improve its information security controls and record keeping for those devices. For example, it could make sure the data is encrypted, and that all of it is wiped from each device.
As winter weather approaches, federal employees have some reminders about what to do if government offices are closed. In the case of a snowstorm or other weather emergency, agencies should be ready to respond immediately. Supervisors and employees in the D.C. area can check operating status announcements on the Office of Personnel Management's website to see if offices are closing. Feds outside the D.C. metro-area should check in with their own agency for local updates.
Agencies are offering a few tips for how you can make use of a Software Bill of Materials (SBOM). The National Security Agency, the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency and others have released new guidance on how to use SBOMs. They said the software ingredients lists provide much needed transparency that can help customers with patching and vulnerability management, and potentially address supply chain risks as well. The guidance comes as the Biden administration considers new software security requirements, including potential SBOM standards.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to use bio-based tools to predict and optimize team performance. DARPA’s project aims to provide Defense Department instructors with data to support real-time assessment, after-action reviews, performance diagnostics, and objective prediction of team and mission readiness. It will identify bio behaviors like heart rate variability and communication, and their correlation to team performance and outcomes.
Congressional leaders want an update on how agencies are using artificial intelligence tools, and the steps it would take to keep those tools in check. Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) and Ranking Member Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) are checking in with the heads of several agencies. That includes Customs and Border Protection, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Department of Health and Human Services. Their letters press agencies for details on AI use cases and their guardrails to keep AI algorithms from producing biased outcomes.