Manufacturer of bug-repellent combat uniforms stung with Justice Dept charges

In today's Federal Newscast: Army and Air Force Exchange Service employees in Germany vote to join AFGE. A company that makes bug-repellent combat uniforms is s...

  • The Justice Department is alleging that Insect Shield, a bug repellent clothing company, submitted false claims to the Defense Department under contracts to provide combat uniforms for the Army. DoJ is claiming that the company falsified the results of testing to conceal failing results of an insect repellent that is applied to the uniforms. Allegedly, Insect Shield combined results from different rounds of testing, relabeling test samples to hide the true origins of the samples, and performed re-tests of uniforms in excess of what the contract permitted. The lawsuit was originally brought by a former employee of the company, under the whistleblower provisions of the False Claims Act.
  • Lawmakers want to see the intelligence community speed up its adoption of commercial technologies. You've heard of the Defense Innovation Unit. Now, Congress is telling the director of national intelligence to establish an Intelligence Community Innovation Unit. The provision is tucked into the 2024 defense authorization bill, passed by lawmakers last week. Similar to the Pentagon’s DIU, the IC Innovation Unit would be responsible for speeding up spy agencies’ adoption of commercial technologies. Lawmakers want to see it established within a year of the bill being signed.
  • A group of Defense Department employees in Germany has voted to join the American Federation of Government Employees. The new bargaining unit encompasses nearly 400 employees of the Army and Air Force Exchange Service at the Military Community Center in Kaiserslautern. The election was the first that AFGE held since establishing a strategy for Europe-based federal employees. The union said it plans other elections at European locations of the Defense Health Agency and Defense Logistics Agency.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services released a new data strategy. Deputy Secretary Andrea Palm called the strategy a pivotal step forward in efforts to improve health outcomes. It expands the portfolio of the Office of the National Coordinator for Health Information Technology. And it adds a new priority: responsible use of artificial intelligence. Officials said the strategy also aims to advance the department's so-called cancer moon shot, to reduce the cancer death rate by 50% within 25 years.
  • A new General Services Administration team is enabling four state and local governments to customize text messages for application updates, reminders, fraud reduction and other critical updates for federally funded benefits. The program will operate in parts of Maryland, Virginia, Washington state and Wisconsin. As part of its effort to improve customer experience, GSA's new service will allow citizens who receive benefits to opt in to receive text messages throughout their application process. If successful, the program, out of GSA's Technology Transformation Services' Public Benefits Studio, could expand to other states.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services has developed a suite of tools other agencies can use to improve how they manage grants and grant-making, and to make life simpler for grant recipients. The Government Accountability Office found the challenge for HHS and the White House is getting the tools more widely adopted. So far AmeriCorps, and the departments of Commerce and Education have signed on. The White House designated HHS to lead the Grants Quality Services Management Office, a shared services effort, back in 2021.
  • The Department of Homeland Security wants help developing new, more ambitious approaches to advance environmental justice. In a new request for information, DHS is seeking feedback to help inform its next departmentwide environmental justice strategy. The agency said its goals need sharpening to keep pace with climate change, new scientific developments, and an increased focus on equity throughout the federal government. Responses to the environmental justice RFI are due by February 16.
    (DHS environmental justice RFI - Federal Register)
  • Hope is not lost for all federal technology workers to get on board with the Special Salary Rate. Sources told Federal News Network that the Office of Management and Budget recently told agency CIOs that there is not enough money in department budgets to implement the new salary rate for all workers in the 2210 series. Instead, OMB told agencies to target specific job classifications like cyber or data scientists, certain grade levels or areas where they have the biggest retention or recruitment challenges to use the special salary rate. The administration, however, would not be providing any new money for these salary increases, which means agencies will have to fund the pay increases within their current or future 2024 budgets.
  • The Defense Department is getting ready to deliver, by the end of 2023, a minimum viable capability for Combined Joint All Domain Command and Control (CJADC2) to the joint forces. The DoD Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office has just wrapped up the eighth iteration of the Global Information Dominance Experiment (GIDE 8). This experiment’s main objective is to provide the joint forces with CJADC2 tools focused on global integration and joint fires. DoD completed three iterations this year resulting in the initial fielding of CJADC2 capabilities. The experiments are expected to continue and expand in 2024.

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