Former acting IG gets 18-month prison term in software theft

  • A former fed who once served as acting inspector general at the Department of Homeland Security has been sentenced to time behind bars. Charles Edwards was handed an 18-month prison sentence this week for his role in a conspiracy to steal proprietary software and law enforcement databases from the U.S. government. Edwards and two of his former colleagues at the Postal Service inspector general's office were accused of stealing the data. The Justice Department said they planned to use the information to create a software product that would then be offered for sale to government agencies.
  • Agencies are no longer allowed to ask job applicants how much money they made at their last position. Banning the use of “salary history” is becoming much more common in hiring. Advocates said the practice helps address pay discrimination, and may be a step toward closing pay gaps based on gender and race. The Office of Personnel Management is issuing a final rule on Monday that will make the salary history ban official governmentwide.
  • A long-time federal technology executive is retiring. Nancy Sieger, who led IRS technology efforts through the pandemic, is leaving federal service after 35 years. Sieger moved from IRS to Treasury to be its chief technology officer about a year ago. In a post on LinkedIn, Sieger wrote she will leave Treasury at the end of April and see what comes next. During her time at IRS, Sieger, who won a 2021 Presidential Rank Award, ensured tax agency employees could work securely while remote by doubling their network capacity. She also improved the IRS' technology so it could handle the more than 490 million Economic Impact Payments made during the pandemic.
  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology wants to make sure its guidelines keep up with the rapidly evolving field of artificial intelligence. NIST’s digital identity team is considering how to more quickly update its guidelines.“We're looking at new ways to potentially update the guidance in flight in ways that can better keep pace with technology,” said Ryan Galluzzo, digital identity lead in NIST’s cyber division. NIST plays a key role under the Biden administration’s AI executive order. And NIST is releasing new revisions to those digital identity guidelines later this spring.
  • The Biden administration is recruiting more data experts into the federal workforce. The Office of Personnel Management is leading a governmentwide pooled hiring effort to bring in a large volume of data scientists. That means jobseekers can submit one application and be considered for several job openings at multiple agencies. The hiring push is part of the Biden’s administration’s work under a recent executive order to ramp up the use of artificial intelligence tools in government. OPM is accepting applications no later than Friday, and will stop accepting them once it receives 750 applications.
  • The Navy no longer requires a high school diploma to enlist. Candidates will still need to pass the Armed Forces Qualification Test to meet the requirements for enlistment. Candidates without a GED are also eligible to join, as long as they score over 50 on the qualification test. Senior officials estimate that the policy change will gain an additional 500 sailors. All military services are struggling to meet their recruitment goals. Last year, the Navy missed its enlistment goal by almost 6,000 recruits.
  • The General Services Administration is ready to expand its new platform to all contractors to improve the management of vendor catalogs on GSA Advantage. The FAS Catalog Platform replaces a decades-old system that was difficult to use and took on average a month to add new products. GSA said the new platform automatically publishes modifications to GSA Advantage, saving an average of 34 days for vendors adding new products to their catalogs. Additionally, GSA can now publish catalog deletions within one to two days of modification submission by the contractor. GSA said agency schedule users will be able to see updates more quickly and improve their decision making.
  • The Defense Department is exploring generative AI through bias bounty exercises. The effort will help find bias in large language models. The first bounty exercise will focus on understanding the risks of open source chatbots. The Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Office, in partnership with ConductorAI-Bugcrowd and BiasBounty.AI, will conduct the exercises. The first public bounty will run from January 29 to February 27. The exercise is open to the public and participants can earn money for their findings.9
  • Taxpayers on hold with the IRS this filing season will have the option of getting a call back, rather than wait on the phone. The IRS plans to offer a callback option to people who have been on hold for about 15 minutes. But the agency expects fewer callers will have to stay on hold that long. The IRS now has 18,000 call center representatives. That is twice the number it had a decade ago.

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