FDIC sex, work-culture scandals catch Sen. Ernst’s attention, ire

  • An Air Force official is sounding the budget alarm about a full-year continuing resolution. Acting Undersecretary of the Air Force Kristyn Jones said the service would lose as much as $13 billion in buying power, before adjusting for inflation. A year-long CR, Jones said, would cancel 34 construction projects and impact seven national security space launches. She added that the Space Force would see the largest gap in funding under a full-year CR, losing up to $2.6 billion in research funding, and the Air Force would lose up to $1.4 billion in research, test, development and evaluation dollars. The Pentagon meanwhile, she said, is already absorbing the cost of pay raises for service members, but a year-long CR could very well create a $5.8 billion gap in military personnel funding and cut enlistment bonuses.
  • The Department of Homeland Security is pushing hard to improve customer experience. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas has directed DHS component agencies to create their own burden-reduction strategies. The directive is part of DHS’s customer experience push. DHS has hired more than 70 CX experts in recent years, as it pushes to streamline services like disaster assistance, immigration processing, and airport security screening. DHS also cut down on its public-paperwork-burden by more than 21 million hours last year.
  • The Defense Department now has a single office in charge of studying what used to be called UFOs. But there is still no comprehensive plan to respond to what DoD now calls “unexplained aerial phenomena (UAPs),” according to the Pentagon’s inspector general. Parts of the OIG’s findings are still classified, but a summary the office published last week faults the department for not involving DoD’s combatant commands in its approach to UAPs. The IG said the lack of coordination could pose a threat to U.S. military forces.
  • Trouble at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation continues to multiply. Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) is pressing FDIC leadership on more details about why it didn't use expedited procedures to dismiss an FDIC employee who was indicted on producing child pornography. She asked for answers to three questions by Friday about its decision processes. The Iowa Republican also wrote to new FDIC Inspector General Jennifer Fain, asking her to make her top priority the investigation into the FDIC's sexual harassment prevention program and the leadership climate. The acting IG announced the investigation after a Wall Street Journal article in November detailed a toxic workplace culture.
  • There is a new way to give artificial intelligence capabilities in the cloud a boost. The growing demand for artificial intelligence capabilities, including generative AI, will be among the first priorities of the FedRAMP program management office, under its draft Emerging Technology Prioritization Framework. The PMO, which issued the draft document on Friday, is creating an operational framework for how FedRAMP will prioritize certain cloud service offerings (CSOs) for specific emerging technologies during the FedRAMP authorization process. Among the first sets of AI tools include chat interfaces, code-generation and debugging tools, and prompt-based image generators. The PMO is seeking feedback on the draft prioritization framework by March 11.
  • Military physicians said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected to make a full recovery after his hospitalization stemming from prostate surgery complications. Austin returned to Walter Reed Military Medical Center for a follow-up appointment on Friday. Doctors there now say his prognosis is excellent and he has no more treatment planned for his cancer. Austin’s health issues caused consternation throughout the executive branch earlier this month when the Defense Department failed to notify the White House and the public that he was hospitalized. DoD is conducting an internal review of that communication breakdown and the department’s inspector general has launched its own investigation.
  • The Army’s Program Executive Office for Enterprise Information Systems has a new leader. Bill Hepworth, who has served as the deputy program executive officer since 2022, will replace Ross Guckert, who is retiring after 34 years of Army service. Guckert led his office through a number of major initiatives, including the rollout of the Integrated Personnel and Pay System-Army. As the new leader, Hepworth will oversee more than 37 acquisition programs that support and field Army’s finance, personnel, logistics and procurement systems.
  • New legislation coming out of the Senate aims to make the presidential transition process easier on federal agencies. The Agency Preparation for Transitions Act (APT Act), is a bipartisan bill sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters (R-Mich.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine). The legislation provides timelines, guidance and services to improve coordination between federal officials tasked with managing the presidential transition process. The APT Act also makes recommendations for cybersecurity and requires incumbent administrations to prioritize records management leading up to a presidential election.
  • A senior Senate staffer is heading to the White House to help lead on cybersecurity issues. Jeff Rothblum is joining the White House’s Office of the National Cyber Director. For the last five years, Rothblum had led the cyber and emerging technology portfolio at the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. Prior to joining the Senate committee, Rothblum worked at MITRE, Booz Allen Hamilton, Lockheed Martin and Boeing.

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