The Securities and Exchange Commission is going after the company at the center of a major cyber attack on federal agencies. The SEC is suing SolarWinds and its chief information security officer for defrauding investors by allegedly overstating the company’s cybersecurity practices and downplaying known risks. Suspected Russian hackers injected malware into SolarWinds' widely used software to infiltrate the networks of at least nine federal agencies between 2018 and 2020. The SEC said SolarWinds and its CISO, Timothy Brown, ignored repeated red flags about SolarWinds’ cyber shortfalls. In a statement, SolarWinds pledged to vigorously oppose the charges.
The Pentagon will launch an artificial intelligence pilot program in the next few months, which will help the Defense Department explore how it can use AI to protect national security systems and networks. For example, it could use large-language models to find and fix vulnerabilities in critical systems. President Joe Biden’s recent executive order mandates this new pilot program, and for the secretaries of Defense and Homeland Security to provide a report on the program.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is looking at artificial intelligence tools to reduce burnout among its health care workforce. The VA, through its AI Tech Sprint, is calling on technologists to develop tools that will allow clinicians to spend less time with paperwork, and more time treating patients. That includes AI dictation tools to help clinicians take notes during medical appointments and AI tools that can help analyze and summarize patients’ medical records. The VA will award a million dollars in prize money to winning teams. The VA is launching the AI Tech Sprint as part of the executive order President Joe Biden signed on Monday.
Agency chief learning officers are aiming to close mission-critical skill gaps in government. Offering more training opportunities for current federal employees is a key way that the senior leaders are trying to improve skills gaps. Among many mission-critical skills areas, the Small Business Administration's Chief Learning Officer Joellen Jarrett said there is one sector that is at least starting to get more interest. “AI courses do get attention, but in pockets. It depends on what organization we’re talking about. That’s not yet clearly across the board.” Aside from AI, Jarrett said data analytics is a highly popular training course for federal employees.
More than two dozen contractors have won a spot on the Transformation Twenty-One Total Technology Next Generation Two (T4NG2) multiple award contract from the Department of Veterans Affairs. Six months after issuing the solicitation for this follow-on vehicle, VA picked 30 contractors to provide a variety of IT services ranging from program management to software engineering to cybersecurity services. The 10-year contract has a ceiling of almost $61 billion. This is the third version of the T4 contract, with VA awarding the second iteration in 2016 with a $22 billion ceiling.
They might like to "Live Free or Die" in the Granite State, but a Department of Veterans Affairs employee nonetheless has agreed to a 15-day suspension without pay after running for political office. The employee ran for a seat in the New Hampshire State House and accepted political contributions. Federal employees are prohibited from doing either of those things under the Hatch Act. The VA employee won the election, and served briefly, but has since stepped down, following an investigation by the Office of Special Counsel.
Thrift Savings Plan participants will not see changes from the SECURE 2.0 Act until 2026. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board plans to use the next two years as a transition period to implement the new system. SECURE 2.0, a law passed last December, increases the required minimum distribution age and expands catch-up contribution options for TSP participants. But the TSP board delayed the law's implementation after the IRS allowed for two more years to help handle the transition.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Secretary of State Antony Blinken are urging Congress to approve more than $100 billion in national security supplemental funding. On Capitol Hill yesterday, they told senators the funding will bolster the United States’ defense industrial base, while helping Ukraine and Israel. They also say it will help create jobs, since half the request would go toward supporting the defense industrial base.
Spending on classified intelligence activities took a big jump to nearly $100 billion this past year. Congress appropriated a total of $99.6 billion for intelligence programs in fiscal 2023. That is up from the $89.8 billion spent in 2022. This year’s figures, released just this week, include $71.7 billion for the National Intelligence Program and $27.9 billion for the Military Intelligence Program. The government does not typically release any other details on the classified spending besides the topline figures.