Oregon Senator fed up with data breaches, blasts Big Tech, demands mandatory standards

Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) cites a Cyber Safety Review Board report that blames Microsoft's inadequate cybersecurity culture.

  • After a scorching report, one Senator wants to see the federal government overhaul its cybersecurity practices. Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Ore) on Monday released draft legislation to set minimum federal cyber standards for collaboration technologies, like Slack and Teams. Under the bill, the National Institute of Standards and Technology would establish interoperable standards for those technologies. The legislation would also require the use of end-to-end encryption. The bill comes after a Cyber Safety Review Board report blamed Microsoft's inadequate cybersecurity culture for multiple federal hacks. Wyden argued that interoperable standards would reduce the federal government's reliance on Microsoft.
  • Radha Plumb has officially assumed the role of the Defense Department’s Chief Digital and Artificial Intelligence Officer. Prior to her new role, Plumb served as the deputy under secretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment. Deborah Rosenblum, the assistant secretary of Defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs will take over Plumb’s previous role starting April 8. Plumb will replace Craig Martell, who became the Pentagon’s first permanent chief digital and artificial intelligence officer in 2022.
    (Plumb officially assumes CDAO role - Defense Department )
  • Underutilized federal buildings could turn into affordable housing if a House bill makes it through Congress. The Government Facilities to Affordable Housing Conversion Act would require agencies to identify vacant and underutilized buildings that would be suitable for converting into residential use. The bill provides funding to study the effectiveness of converting office space into housing and also creates a grant program for state and local governments to undergo these conversion efforts. Reps. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) and Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.) are leading the bill.
  • Some new recommendations aim to kick-start federal shared services. In the five years since the Office of Management and Budget relaunched the federal shared services initiative, experts said progress has languished. The Shared Services Leadership Coalition (SSLC) said in a new report that agencies have not achieved any of the goals outlined in the 2019 memo and federal shared services remain resource starved. The good-government group outlined four legislative and regulatory policy recommendations to get agencies moving in the right direction. SSLC's recommendations include mandating shared services as a required business blueprint and creating a new Senate-confirmed position called, "The Commissioner of Government Operations" at the General Services Administration.
  • The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) is reminding employees of their whistleblower rights after being called out by a lawmaker. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) said an ATF memo, issued late last fall, chilled lawful whistleblowing. It warned employees against disclosing unclassified information without prior authorization. But it contained no references to lawful disclosures to Congress or federal watchdogs. After Grassley pressed the agency on the memo earlier this year, ATF recently issued an update with repeated references to the Whistleblower Protection Act and other disclosure rights.
  • Over the next five years, the General Services Administration (GSA) will eliminate the use of PFAS, known as "forever chemicals," in the cleaning of federal buildings. GSA is requiring government contractors to purchase cleaning products that are free of the toxic chemicals. Instead, contractors will be required to use alternative products, certified to ecolabels such as EPA’s Safer Choice and certain Green Seal® certifications. GSA’s Public Building Service has more than 600 contracts for custodial services at more than 1,500 government-owned buildings at a cost of more than $400 million per year. GSA expects that most of these contracts will include the new and safer specifications within five years.
  • James Lee, who led the IRS-Criminal Investigations office for the last three years and served 29 years in the federal government, retired on March 31. He has joined Chainalysis as its global head of capacity building. Lee said his initial focus will be helping international law enforcement agencies develop solutions against cryptocurrency-based crime. During his time at the IRS, Lee led IRS and federal law enforcement efforts to shut down Hydra, the world’s largest darknet market. He also conducted the largest crypto-seizure connected to terrorism financing and rescued 23 children and arrested 337 child abusers around the globe after taking down Welcome to Video, the world's largest distributor of child sexual abuse material.
  • The office of the Air Force chief information officer just got a new director of the enterprise information technology directorate. Keith Hardiman will oversee the management, planning, governance and resource allocation for the department's information and cyber enterprise, which has a budget of nearly $7 billion. Prior to his new role, Hardiman served as the director of the Air Force's information management and chief information office, where he led the Air Force's declassification and publications distribution offices.
  • Leaders of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee are pushing for a higher cost-of-living increase for veterans and their surviving family members. The higher COLA would impact disability payments, clothing allowances, and compensation for surviving spouses and children of veterans. The cost-of-living adjustment would be determined by the annual COLA adjustment set by the Social Security Administration, and would go into effect December 1, 2024. Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and Ranking Member Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) are leading the bill.

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