One senator is pushing hard to fill a potential cybersecurity leadership vacancy. Acting National Cyber Director Kemba Walden is stepping down on Friday and her replacement has yet to be confirmed.“The worst thing would be if we suffered a serious cyber attack, and this position was vacant," Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) told reporters on Thursday. President Joe Biden has nominated Harry Coker to serve as the next national cyber director. The Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee approved Coker’s nomination this week, and King said he will push for a floor vote as soon as the Senate gets back after Thanksgiving.
The General Services Administration is proposing three major changes to acquisition policy. GSA wants to make the pandemic-related changes to the Economic Price Adjustment (EPA) clause permanent. It proposes to update 40-year-old language in the Competition in Contracting Act (CICA) to drive lowest price, technically acceptable into the ground. And the agency wants more money for acquisition workforce training. These are the three major acquisition policy changes GSA is pursuing over the next year. GSA submitted the CICA and acquisition workforce training proposals to Congress and issued a proposed rule for the Economic Price Adjustment Act changes. Comments on the EPA proposed rule are due by January 16.
(GSA - Federal News Network)
More than 33,000 federal employees will see additional raises in fiscal 2024. The Office of Personnel Management yesterday finalized four new locality pay areas for the General Schedule. Federal employees in Fresno-Madera-Hanford, California; Reno-Fernley, Nevada; Rochester-Batavia-Seneca Falls, New York; and Spokane-Spokane Valley-Coeur d’Alene, Washington-Idaho will see changes in their first pay checks in January. OPM issued a proposed rule in June and received 405 comments, mostly in support of the locality pay changes. For 2025, the Federal Salary Council, earlier this week, recommended adding Wyandot County, Ohio, to the Columbus, Ohio, locality pay area and Yuma County, Arizona, to the Phoenix, Arizona, locality pay area.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to staff up on mental health professionals and launch new resources to address an uptick in veteran suicides. The VA’s latest data shows nearly 6,400 veterans died by suicide in 2021. That is more than 17 veteran suicides a day. In response, the VA is launching a “full hiring initiative” for mental health experts. That includes a mix of VA bringing in new hires and expanding its own programs to train mental health care professionals. Undersecretary for Health Shereef Elnahal said higher levels of mental health staffing are linked to decreased suicidal behavior among patients. “We are of course looking to hire as many clinicians within the mental health sphere as possible," Elnahal said.
The Defense Department is inching toward a clean audit. The annual departmentwide financial audit examines its $3.5 trillion in assets and spending. But auditors once again said they are not getting enough information to certify the department is spending its money exactly how it says it is. DoD is still the only federal department that has never earned a clean audit opinion. Defense officials said they are still working on improvements — for example, implementing bots to reduce manual tasks in the financial management workforce.
GOP lawmakers are trying to override a controversial cybersecurity regulation. Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-N.Y.), along with Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), have introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the Securities and Exchange Commission’s cyber disclosure rule. They said the SEC rule conflicts with existing cyber incident reporting laws. The regulation would require public companies to disclose cyber incidents within four days of determining the event was material to the business. Adopted by the SEC earlier this year, the rule is opposed by major industry groups.
The Pentagon unveiled its new digital on-demand program yesterday to accelerate workers' knowledge of artificial intelligence. The Defense Department is partnering with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to provide a learning platform for its personnel. All military and civilian employees can access the platform to help create a basic understanding of AI and emerging technologies in the department. DoD's Chief Digital and AI Office is leading the new initiative.
The State Department is partnering with top universities on ways to anticipate, prevent and respond to global conflicts. Its Bureau of Conflict and Stabilization Operations is launching an academic partnership with seven universities across the U.S. Students will research real-world cases at the unclassified level and will address existing and emerging conflicts. Students will also join bureau meetings and have the opportunity to brief State Department officials on their findings.