NIST’s new project for securing public benefits programs

Adaption of digital-identity guidelines will support those who need help to pay for food, housing and medical expenses.

  • The National Institute of Standards and Technology has a new project to help secure public benefits programs. NIST will adapt its digital identity guidelines to support public beneficiary programs, including those used to pay for food, housing and medical expenses. The agency is working with the Digital Benefits Network and the Center for Democracy and Technology on the two-year project. It comes amid concerns around fraud and cyber attacks on government benefits programs. NIST leaders said the goal is to balance access and security.
  • Agencies know more today about the security of their endpoint devices than ever before. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) spent tens of millions of dollars last year to install technology to protect agency device endpoints. The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) told Congress in its annual Federal Information Security Modernization Act (FISMA) report, that 76 agencies have met the criteria to have at least 80% of all known endpoints covered by the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation (CDM) program. Of those 76 agencies, 36 are using CISA's Persistent Access Capability (PAC) tools to enable continuous threat hunting activities. CISA has now deployed more than 750,000 endpoint detection and response (EDR) licenses across 54 agencies since 2021.
  • The Marine Corps has launched a pilot program that will allow qualified civilians to enlist at ranks up to gunnery sergeant, if they have certain high-tech skills. The program’s initial focus is on military occupational specialties that have shortages. For the initial effort, the Corps is looking to fill cyberspace warfare operator and signals intelligence collection manager roles. Veterans or civilians with a degree in computer science, information systems, engineering or other related fields are encouraged to apply. Civilians will have to go through Marine Corps basic training to qualify. The Marine Corps Talent Acquisition program is a two-year pilot.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs is giving veterans more options to get health care and benefits. In some cases, it takes just a few taps on their smartphones. VA’s flagship health-and-benefits app recently surpassed more than two million total downloads. It is also seeing more than a million monthly users. VA launched the app less than three years ago. The app allows veterans, among other things, to message their doctors, view upcoming health care appointments, and check the status of benefits claims. Charles Worthington, VA’s chief technology officer, said more and more veterans are looking to sign up for services right from their phones. “We wanted to ask ourselves, the question is this the best experience we can provide to smartphone users?”
  • The first-ever Acquisition and Sustainment Workforce Framework from the Defense Department outlines four pillars to improve how the military recruits, trains and retains contracting officers and other acquisition workers. The focus areas include acquisition innovation, making DoD an employer of choice, talent development, and continuous improvement of workforce policies, programs and processes. DoD said each pillar includes initiatives prioritized by Acquisition and Sustainment leadership that will be pursued and measured against specific metrics. The framework also details how DoD will recruit from non-traditional communities, promote industrial careers, increase apprenticeship programs, grow manufacturing and STEM skills, and upskill existing acquisition and sustainment workers.
    (DoD issues first-ever Acquisition and Sustainment Workforce Framework - Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment)
  • The IRS is reducing underutilized office space, but still has plenty it doesn’t need. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration finds more than half of IRS buildings had a workstation occupancy rate of 50% or less. The watchdog said the IRS has not rolled out shared workstations for most employees, who frequently telework. Since fiscal 2018, the IRS has reduced its office space by about two million square feet. It holds more than 22 million square feet of office space across the country.
  • Agencies processed a record 1.1 million Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests last year, according to the Justice Department's summary of annual FOIA reports released this week. Agencies also received nearly 1.2 million FOIA requests in 2023, another record number. The Department of Homeland Security accounts for more than half of all FOIA requests received and processed every year. There was a slight improvement in the government-wide FOIA backlog, as it decreased by 2.8% to about 200,000 cases at the end of 2023.
  • The Department of the Air Force is looking for its next chief data and artificial intelligence officer. The service’s CDAO will be responsible for advancing data and artificial intelligence efforts across the Air Force and Space Force. The candidate must possess executive-level knowledge and experience in enterprise data management, as well as artificial intelligence and machine learning strategy. Applications are due by June 18.

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