DoD IG blames systemic flaws for potential overprescribing of opioids

In today's Federal Newscast: Martin O'Malley turned 60 this year; now he gets to run the Social Security Administration. The Defense Department IG is warning th...

  • The State Department is back to processing passport applications at pre-pandemic levels. Routine processing now takes six to eight weeks. For an extra $60, the department will process your application within two to three weeks. The State Department issued a record 24 million passport books and cards this year, setting an all-time record. The annual defense policy bill Congress passed last week gives the State Department the ability to hire new passport specialists more quickly. But it also requires the department to set up new online tools for customers to check the status of their passport applications.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is launching a new service to help agencies better understand threats to their networks and data. In the next year, CISA plans to begin consolidating its cyber threat intelligence offerings under a new initiative called Threat Intelligence Enterprise Services (TIES). The new service is part of the evolution of CISA’s Automated Indicator Sharing program. The goal of TIES is to streamline how the agency shares cyber threat data with federal agencies, critical infrastructure groups and other partners. CISA said it will learn from its past efforts, including the need to make it easy to both share and receive threat reports, while protecting privacy and confidentiality.
  • The Social Security Administration is getting new leadership. The Senate approved former Baltimore Mayor and Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley to serve as the agency’s next permanent director. SSA has been under acting leadership since July 2021. Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.) said O’Malley will help improve the agency’s level of service to the public. Cardin said he will also look out for SSA’s workforce. "They’ve been asked to do more with less over time. And Governor O’Malley knows how to bring out the strength of the workforce,” Cardin said.
    (Senate floor vote - Senate Cloakroom)
  • Tens of thousands of military health care beneficiaries are at risk of being overprescribed opioids, according to the Defense Department's inspector general. A new audit found military treatment facilities and private sector medical contractors don’t tend to have a full picture of their patients’ prescription histories. The IG said that is partly because medical providers aren’t following federal requirements for opioid safety, and partly because the Defense Health Agency doesn’t have processes in place to keep track of an individual’s prescriptions over time.
  • A federal court is temporarily blocking the Army from removing the Confederate memorial at Arlington National Cemetery. Army officials started the work yesterday and planned to finish it by this week. They paused it after a federal judge in Virginia issued a preliminary injunction. The plaintiffs seeking to keep the memorial at Arlington argue the removal will disturb existing gravesites. The judge who issued the injunction said it is worth putting the project on hold to investigate that claim, but she also warned the plaintiffs could face sanctions if the claim turns out to be unfounded.
  • A first-of-its-kind continuous bounty program for white-hat hackers is coming to the Defense Department. The unique feature being offered by the Defense Digital Service is that the new bug bounty will run for one year, with the possibility for extension. The Hack the Pentagon team will start with the Defense Digital Service’s public-facing assets and will eventually move to attacking the DoD Chief Digital and AI Office’s assets and beyond. The continuous bounty includes a rapid response capability, which will allow researchers to be on the hunt for a specific vulnerability in less than 72 hours. Bug bounty submissions are open to the public, as the program goes through testing. The Hack the Pentagon program was launched in 2016 and allows ethical hackers from around the globe to look for and disclose vulnerabilities in Defense Department assets.
  • One of the Energy Department’s major labs is creating a new hub for artificial intelligence research. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory announced a new “Center for AI” last week. The new center is expected to coordinate the research of hundreds of scientists working on projects ranging from security to energy resilience. Court Corley, the chief scientist for AI at Pacific Northwest National Lab, will serve as director of the new center.
  • The Pentagon is looking to pay for new projects to help rebuild the domestic microelectronics industry. An estimated $280 million in funding is available to award projects that support microelectronics prototyping and manufacturing. Calling it "Microelectronics Commons," DoD will support prototype projects across six technical areas, including 5G and 6G technology, artificial intelligence hardware, quantum technology and electromagnetic warfare. The Defense Department will award multiple Other Transaction Agreements on a fixed-price basis. Potential vendors have until January 8 to ask questions. Final proposals are due by February 28.

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