The Malaysian defense contractor, widely known as Fat Leonard, who is at the center of a massive Navy bribery scandal, was back in court yesterday for the first time since he was captured and extradited from Venezuela. Leonard Francis told the judge he is seeking new attorneys before his final sentencing. That process will likely set the case back even further. Francis was first arrested during a sting operation in San Diego in 2013. He escaped from house arrest in 2022 while awaiting sentencing, fleeing first to Mexico, then Cuba and Venezuela, where he was arrested. Venezuelan authorities extradited him to the U.S. in a prisoner swap late last year.
A full-year Continuing Resolution could require big cuts to agency discretionary budgets. Non-defense agencies would face a 5% or a total of $41 billion in cuts, while defense agencies would have to reduce their discretionary spending by about $1 billion or 1%. If Congress passes a full-year appropriations at current levels, only non-defense agencies would face cuts under sequestration of about 9% or $73 billion. A new report from the Congressional Budget Office detailed the impact of two funding scenarios on agency discretionary budgets. In December, the Office of Management and Budget said that cuts under sequestration would not be decided until later this spring.
An IRS watchdog is calling for much-needed safety improvements at an agency facility. IRS employees at an underground record storage facility in Independence, Missouri are dealing with rocks that fall from the ceiling. Broken ladders, unacceptable air quality and fire hazards are also concerns raised by the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. TIGTA found facilities management personnel instructed employees not to use fire extinguishers located throughout the facility because they have not been trained to use them. The IRS uses the underground facility to store up to 75 years of tax forms.
Improper payments have been gradually increasing in a key division of the Office of Personnel Management. OPM's retirement services improperly paid out close to $326 million in fiscal 2022. That is $42 million more than it was five years ago. Most improper retirement payments go out because of unreported deaths of federal annuitants. The payments can sometimes continue for years and cost tens of thousands of dollars in individual cases. But OPM said it is planning to improve the situation with a fraud division in retirement services dedicated to rooting out the erroneous payments. OPM's program is also just one of many across government adding up to billions of dollars each year. Since 2003, agencies’ improper payments have reached nearly $2.4 trillion.
Another reorganization of a CIO's office is finally complete. Nearly a year after announcing its plan to reorganize its chief information officer's office, the National Science Foundation said the transformation is complete. NSF named Terry Carpenter as the CIO and chief technology officer. He came to NSF in July from the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency where he was the CTO and program executive officer. Former CIO Dorothy Aronson is the new chief data officer and assistant CIO for artificial intelligence. NSF said the reorganization will ensure that IT, technology innovation and data are supported by centralized structure and resources.
With the right messaging, federal employees might be more likely to up their contributions to the Thrift Savings Plan, according to a new study from the TSP board. The board sent a series of test emails to some lower-income federal employees throughout 2023, and found that the participants they contacted were more likely to increase how much they were contributing to the TSP each month. The board said it strongly encourages all participants to make sure they are contributing at least 5% to the TSP, to be able to receive the full matching rate from the government.
The Defense Department needs to have a more comprehensive approach to child care, according Chief Master Sergeant of the Air Force JoAnne Bass. She said the department needs to decide whether child care is a "must have" or a "nice to have" for the military. While a lot of progress has been made to ensure service members have access to child care, there is no regular data to understand how long waitlists are at child development centers or the extent of child care providers shortages. The defense policy bill that went into law last month, pushes the DoD for more transparency around the topic. Specifically, Congress wants the Pentagon to evaluate the availability of teachers for pre-kindergarten programs. Lawmakers also required the Pentagon to provide them with a list of military installations with the longest waiting lists for child care services.
Postal Service equipment is becoming a major target for theft. The USPS inspector general's office said the agency lost nearly $70,000 of IT equipment in two high-profile thefts last year. Computer monitors, printers, and docking stations account for most of the stolen goods. But thieves also took more than $7,000 of charging station equipment for the agency’s electric vehicles. USPS is spending nearly $10 billion on its next-generation fleet of mostly electric delivery vehicles.
Cloud service providers handling controlled unclassified information now have to obtain a letter of attestation from a FedRAMP third-party organization. The Defense Department’s latest memo requires 100% compliance with the latest FedRAMP moderate security control baseline. Cloud service providers will have to update their letters of attestation annually. And all contractors will be responsible for reviewing cloud providers' documents and making sure they meet all the necessary requirements. The memo reflects the Pentagon's push for establishing uniform requirements for cloud service providers.