Crackdown in the works against acquisition fraud and misconduct

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  • House appropriators are finished with their version of next year’s Defense spending bill. The measure cleared the House Appropriations Committee on a party line vote, with Republicans arguing the topline funding level is too low. The bill includes $706 billion in military spending for 2022, down slightly from the White House’s $715 billion proposal. It also includes provisions that would close the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, and repeal the 2001 and 2002 authorizations for use of military force that formed the legal basis for the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency has issued yet another emergency directive ordering federal agencies to take action against a new cyber vulnerability. This one deals with the printing subsystem on Microsoft Windows computers. Left unpatched, CISA warned it could let hackers compromise agencies’ entire networks. The directive gives agencies one week to install new security updates and take other steps to block the security hole.
  • The Air Force Academy is turning to new high-tech ways of teaching its students. The school plans to have mixed reality goggles in chemistry classrooms by early 2022. The goggles will allow students to mix virtual chemicals without provoking dangerous reactions or spilling harmful chemicals. The academy said the mix-reality learning also helps students who are learning remotely or in socially distanced situations. (Federal News Network)
  • A handful of Air Force organizations are teaming up to crack down on corruption in government contracting. Top Air Force contracting officials and law enforcement signed a memorandum of understanding strengthening relationships and information sharing to stop acquisition fraud and misconduct. The document said the parties will proactively pursue remedies by facilitating criminal investigations and coordinating criminal and civil litigation efforts. The Air Force spends more than $70 billion on procurement projects each year. The service hopes the collaborative approach will save the Air Force money while maintaining the integrity of the procurement system.
  • Prices for your personal air travel tickets might be going sky high, but not for your official travel. The General Services Administration’s City Pair program for fiscal 2022 awarded official travel contracts to eight carriers. GSA said negotiated fares for the next fiscal year will save the government an estimated $1 billion versus published fares. Domestic fares, at an average of  $209, will be a few dollars lower next year and international fares will increase by a few dollars, to an average of $746. The new program starts when the fiscal year does on Oct. 1.
  • The House Foreign Affairs Committee is asking the State Department why it is taking so long to process passport applications, just as travel ticks back up this summer. Committee Chairman Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-N.Y.) and Ranking Member Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) said the department is spending up to 18 weeks to process standard applications and 10 weeks for expedited services. The committee is asking Secretary of State Antony Blinken what percentage of passport processing employees are back to working in person and how the department has previously dealt with application backlogs.
  • Agencies will soon get some new options for securing their iPhones, Androids and tablets. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is rolling out a series of shared services for mobile device security. CISA is piloting several different services, including a way to monitor the devices of employees who are travelling abroad. The cyber agency is also testing out a new way to secure government mobile applications. CISA said the products will be free for agencies to use as long as Congress continues to fund them. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs will miss a 2022 deadline to resolve all legacy appeals. VA said the pandemic slowed its progress toward meeting the goal. It created bottlenecks within various points of the disability claims and appeals process. And that has made it more difficult for VA to collect data and evidence needed to review a veteran’s case. VA said it is hopeful it will resolve all legacy appeals in 2023, but it does not have a formal timeline just yet. (Federal News Network)
  • A bill in Congress would prevent federal agencies from tracking people’s locations without a warrant. Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) introduced the No Trace Act, which would prevent agencies from gathering the geolocation of any U.S. person prior to obtaining a warrant. The legislation would also stop state or local governments from receiving certain policing grants if they do not introduce policies prohibiting the use of geolocation information. Agencies performing foreign intelligence surveillance are exempt from the bill’s provisions. The Government Accountability Office will conduct yearly studies on agency compliance.
  • The Defense Department is seeking to develop new career paths to stay ahead of the global arms race around artificial intelligence. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said DoD has more than 600 AI efforts in progress, a significant uptick just within the past year. Those efforts include the AI and Data Acceleration initiative the department announced last month that will help the department harness its data at scale and speed. But Austin said DoD needs to rethink the way it recruits and retains personnel with in-demand technology skills. “We still see college graduates and newly minted Ph.D.s who would never think about a career in the department. So we have to do better,” he said.
  • The Biden administration continues churning out new cybersecurity publications. This week, it is a “Software Bill of Materials.” The National Telecommunications and Information Administration published the essential elements of an SBOM on Monday. An SBOM is a formal record containing the details and supply chain relationships of the components used in building software. NTIA said using the lists could help agencies drive supply chain transparency and security.
  • House Republicans are still looking for answers about the personnel records backlog at the National Archives and Records Administration. House Oversight and Reform Committee Ranking Member Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.) wants a hearing on the backlog. He said more employees will start working on site at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis starting next week. But Comer said he wants to know why employees have not been working in-person sooner. The NPRC has a backlog of roughly 500,000 outstanding records requests.
  • And a high-tech contest will allow science entrepreneurs the chance to showcase their technology to NASA, which will host its 2021 Entrepreneurs Challenge to attract the latest innovations in satellite capabilities, sample handling and metamaterials-based sensor technology. The agency’s Science Mission Directorate will award finalists as much as $90,000, through a two-stage process. Winners from the first round will receive $10,000 each, while winners from the second round will each receive $80,000.

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