Watch out if you get a phone call from someone claiming to represent a group of federal watchdogs. The Council of Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency (CIGIE) said scammers are impersonating the group in order to steal money. CIGIE said scammers are telling people they face money laundering charges and need to mail large sums of cash to eliminate the charges. The council is telling individuals to report scam calls to the Federal Trade Commission.
The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up to go on an artificial intelligence hiring spree. DHS plans to recruit 50 AI experts in 2024. The department said its new “AI corps” will be modeled after the U.S. Digital Service. AI corps teams will help DHS components better use AI and machine learning to advance missions ranging from countering fentanyl to securing cyber networks. DHS will use flexible hiring authorities granted by the Office of Personnel Management last year. The new hires will serve under the office of the chief information officer.
The Government Accountability Office is digging deeper into what caused agency delays in moving to the new telecommunications contract. More than a dozen agencies received an "F" grade on the recent FITARA scorecard for their lack of progress on the transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS) contract. Carol Harris, the director of cybersecurity and IT at GAO, said a new audit looking at why the transition has been so difficult will begin this spring. "We'll be able to really dig in deep and ascertain the progress, and the reasons why agencies are not able to make this transition on time. We'll also dig into the missed cost savings as a result as well because that's a huge component of this."
The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency settles a religious discrimination lawsuit. Jeffrey Podell, a Sabbath-observant Jew, applied for several NGA police officer jobs in April 2021. But a federal lawsuit states the agency only offered Saturdays to complete pre-employment testing and denied his request for a religious accommodation. NGA, as part of the settlement, agreed to offer non-Saturday options for testing. It agreed to update its religious accommodation policy to clarify how it covers both agency employees and applicants.
The government is offering almost $900,000 for innovative training and development program approaches within the federal hiring space. The U.S. Digital Service, the Office of Management and Budget's Office of Performance and Personnel Management (OPPM), and the Office of Personnel Management are hosting this three-step Tech Hiring Professional Training and Development Program Challenge to improve the capacity of agencies to hire technology talent. Initial ideas are due by February 29, with phase one winners announced by early March. Later this year, one winner will receive $100,000 to run a pilot program of 30 students to test out the concepts.
The Marine Corps orders a wall-to-wall inspection of its barracks around the world. The Marine Corps Installations Command is directing installation commanders to assign an active-duty gunnery sergeant or a housing civilian equivalent, outside of the chain of command, to conduct inspections. The directive comes after the Government Accountability Office found that some barracks posed serious health and safety risks to service members and their families. The effort will allow the service to get a complete assessment of its inventory. Inspections will be finished by March 15.
A longtime intelligence community employee will lead digital efforts at the CIA. The agency named Juliane Gallina as the new deputy director for digital innovation this week. She most recently served as the associate deputy director for digital innovation. Gallina also served in the dual-hatted role of chief information officer and the director of the information technology enterprise. The CIA stood up the digital innovation directorate in 2015 to help provide its officers with better technology tools.
Bipartisan lawmakers are urging the Office of Personnel Management to do more to make federal employees aware of their options for paid parental leave. For the last couple of years, feds have had the possibility of taking up to 12 weeks off as a new parent. But, in reality, very few feds are taking advantage of the new benefit. In a letter to OPM, Democrats and Republicans said part of the reason for so few using the leave is because they are unaware of the option. The lawmakers called on OPM to update its resources to reflect the current policies, including updating a handbook that is supposed to detail the changes.
The Office of Personnel Management is taking steps to try to improve its talent acquisition software, called USA Staffing. OPM said it is starting to look at ways to improve how it manages agency data in the program. USA Staffing is one of many platforms that agencies can use to, among other things, assess job candidates and onboard new hires. OPM's plans come after a Government Accountability Office report found that OPM did not have clear data management methods. GAO also found some cybersecurity risks in the software. GAO's recommendations are not yet implemented, but OPM agreed to start to try to mitigate the risks.
"Forever chemicals" cleanup actions are underway at more than 30 Defense Department installations and National Guard facilities. The list of sites include Fort Lee Army Base in Prince George, Virginia; the Navy Research Laboratory - Chesapeake Bay Detachment; and Naval Air Station Oceana in Virginia Beach. The efforts will mitigate further spread of P-FAS chemicals that stay in the environment after they are released and, in many cases, cause severe health problems. Last year, DoD directed the military services to evaluate installations and National Guard facilities nationwide to assess the existence of such hazardous substances and contaminants.