Weekly News Roundup

White House:

Trump Signs Cyber Order

FCW | Sean D. Carberry | 5/11/17

President Donald Trump finally signed his long-anticipated cybersecurity executive order on May 11. The measure is broadly similar to drafts that have been circulating for months. The order directs federal agencies to adopt the National Institute of Standards and Technology cybersecurity framework, and includes recommendations from a number of other high-level reports. The document focuses on increasing cybersecurity of federal networks, securing critical infrastructure, deterring cyber threats and building international alliances are the pillars of the Trump administration’s cyber strategy. Modernization efforts will be led by the newly created American Technology Council, based at the White House. For more please read:

·         Trump Signs Cyber EO Promoting IT Modernization, Shared Services

·         What the New Cybersecurity Order Means For Federal Employees

·         New Trump Executive Order Would Move Federal Cybersecurity to the Cloud

Reorganization Order Creates Low Morale, Hurts Mission, Federal Managers Say

Federal News Radio | Terry Wing | 5/12/17

When President Donald Trump signed an executive order in March calling for government agencies to prepare for a major reorganization, federal managers braced for the possible elimination of programs, and perhaps entire agencies to satisfy the president’s goal of making the government more efficient and effective. Now, as they put together their individual restructuring solutions, agency leaders have expressed doubt about the process. And while many complain about the uncertainty a reorganization could bring, a survey of those leaders by the Partnership for Public Service indicates most do not plan to leave their agencies or alter their dedication to the mission. In a survey, “about two-thirds of respondents reported low morale, and the same percentage said the new administration has actually had a negative impact on their ability to fulfill their agency’s mission.” 

Department of Justice Leadership:

Sense of Crisis Deepens as Trump Defends F.B.I. Firing

New York Times |  Michael D. Shear, Jennifer Steinhauer and Matt Flegenheimer | 5/11/17

President Trump’s abrupt dismissal of the F.B.I. director roiled Washington on Wednesday and deepened the sense of crisis swirling around the White House. Republican leaders came to the president’s defense, and Mr. Trump lashed out at Democrats and other critics, calling them hypocrites. On Capitol Hill, at least a half-dozen Republicans broke with their leadership to express concern or dismay about the firing of James B. Comey, who was four years into a decade-long appointment as the bureau’s director. Still, they stopped well short of joining Democrats’ call for a special prosecutor to lead the continuing investigation of Russian contacts with Mr. Trump’s aides. For more please read:

·         Justice Interviewing Candidates For Acting FBI Director Post

·         Will Comey’s Encryption Legacy at FBI Go Dark?

Sessions Tells Prosecutors To Seek ‘Most Serious’ Charges, Stricter Sentences and New Criminal Charging Policy

NPR | Dwyer Colin | 5/12/17

In a memo to staff, Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to “charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offense” — a move that marks a significant reversal of Obama-era policies on low-level drug crimes. The two-page memo, which was publicly released Friday, lays out a policy of strict enforcement that rolls back the comparatively lenient stance established by Eric Holder, one of his predecessors under President Barack Obama.

Department of Homeland Security Management and Mission:

News Release: DHS S&T Transition To Practice Program Announces 2017 Cohort

DHS Press | 5/11/17

Eight new cybersecurity technologies developed by researchers at federally funded laboratories and academic research centers are ready for the commercial market. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate’s (S&T) Transition to Practice (TTP) program will showcase its 2017 cohort May 16 in Washington D.C. Each fiscal year, the TTP program selects promising cybersecurity technologies developed with federal funding to incorporate into its proven transition-to-market program. The TTP program selects the technologies from Department of Energy National Labs, Department of Defense-affiliated labs, Federally Funded Research and Development Centers, University Affiliated Research Centers, and universities.

DHS Targets ID Spoofing In Tech Solicitation

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 5/9/17

The Department of Homeland Security’s Science & Technology Directorate is again turning to its fast-track acquisition authority for ideas about how to identify sensors and ensure they aren’t being impersonated. On May 3, DHS S&T announced it was seeking companies to prove out technologies that might thwart sensor spoofing in an effort to curtail problems arising from wearable trackers and other sensors being hacked or compromised. The program falls under the DHS “other transactions solicitation” authority that offers speedy decisions on relatively low-cost procurements.

DHS Infrastructure Group Searches For Relevance

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 5/8/17

A Homeland Security advisory group is sharpening its focus and methods to get information on critical infrastructure out to stakeholders. The National Infrastructure Advisory Council studies potential risks for critical infrastructure, both in the real world and in cyberspace. The 15-year-old group is also charged with recommending solutions to reduce risks to infrastructure. At the behest of the White House, the group polled senior government and private-sector leaders to see what it could do better in the future.

DHS’s Tracking Of Visa Overstays Hindered By Insufficient Technology, IG Reports

Homeland Security Today | Staff | 5/9/17

DHS IT systems have not effectively supported ICE visa tracking operations, and ICE personnel responsible for investigating in-country visa overstays pieced together information from dozens of systems and databases, some of which were not integrated and did not electronically share information, according to a new IG audit report. The IG said, “Despite previous efforts to improve information sharing, the DHS CIO did not provide the oversight and centralized management needed to address these issues. Additionally, ICE did not ensure that its field personnel received the training and guidance needed to properly use the systems currently available to conduct visa overstay tracking.” For more please read:

·         DHS IT Contracts Likely To Follow Inspector General Suggestions

DHS Delivers Study On Government Mobile Device Security To Congress

Homeland Security Today | Anthony Kimery | 5/11/17

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has submitted a report to Congress detailing current and emerging threats to the federal government’s use of mobile devices. The report recommended security improvements within the “mobile device ecosystem.” DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) led the study in coordination with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) National Cybersecurity Center of Excellence (NCCE) with support from the Department of Defense and General Services Administration. Mandated by the Cybersecurity Act of 2015, the Study on Mobile Device Security “relied on significant input from mobile industry vendors, carriers, service providers and academic researchers,” DHS said in its announcement.

DHS Wants To Verify Drones, Devices Are What They Say They Are

Next Gov | Mohana Ravindranath | 5/8/17

The Homeland Security Department wants to ensure its electronic devices can’t be spoofed, and it’s looking to the private sector for help. DHS’ Silicon Valley outpost is gathering applications from companies that can help it assure the identity of devices on its networks, potentially including wearables and drones. For instance, if emergency responders are wearing devices that monitor their vital signs, and that information is relayed back to a central office, how can that office ensure the data is real and not corrupted? If a border patrol drone is monitoring a geographic area for any anomalies, how might humans verify no one has tampered with the images coming in?

TSA Lays Out New Security Framework For ‘Soft Targets’

The Hill | Melanie Zanona | 5/12/17

The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) laid out a new national framework on Monday designed to improve security around public spaces, particularly in the areas located outside of security screening. The recommendations for local governments and transportation systems come in direct response to growing concern over so-called soft targets in the wake of deadly airport attacks in Brussels and Istanbul last year. Those incidents “highlight the evolving tactics and techniques that adversaries use to attack civilian targets in public areas,” the TSA said.

Tired of Long Airport Screenings? TSA Wants Tech To Cut Lines.

Next Gov | Mohana Ravindranath | 5/10/17

The Transportation Security Administration doesn’t like long airport security lines any more than passengers do. That’s why it’s looking for ideas about how to improve the screening process. This week, TSA issued a broad agency announcement—a solicitation for research about a particular topic—in search of “Innovative Demonstrations for Enterprise Advancement,” or IDEAs. TSA is specifically interested in mobile applications, “cosmetic and structural changes,” such as rearranging the checkpoint or queue layout, new ways to track and monitor passengers, and “risk-based screening,” among a handful of other topics.

DHS To Brief Airline Reps, Lawmakers As Laptop Ban Expansion Is Considered

CNN | Marsh Rene | 5/10/17

Department of Homeland Security officials will speak with airline industry representatives on Thursday about the electronics ban on aircraft as the agency considers an expansion of a security measure, according to DHS and industry sources. The discussion, the latest in a series of meetings that have been held, will include domestic and international airline industry officials, an airline industry source said. In addition, Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly will head to the Hill on Thursday to speak with lawmakers about aviation security issues including consideration of expanding the ban, according to a homeland security official.

Are We There Yet? How Close Is The U.S. To a Modern, Interoperable Public Safety Network?

Fed Scoop | Billy Mitchell | 5/10/17

The nation is on the brink of launching an interoperable and modern national public safety network, a group of private and public tech thought leaders said Tuesday — but there’s still work to be done. “I fundamentally believe the answer is in software — you look at where the entire world is going and the fact that all this communication is going digital,” Department of Homeland Security CTO Michael Hermus said. “At the end of the day, how do we ensure interoperability? We rely on sound architectural principles as we’re building the backend for these software systems so they can communicate properly.”

With More Priorities And Rising Personnel Costs, DHS Hopes Analytics Can Make A Bigger Play

Federal News Radio | Nicole Ogrysko | 5/10/17

Strapped with new priorities, an ever-increasing workload and growing personnel costs, data analytics and artificial intelligence capabilities may soon get a closer look from tech leaders within the Homeland Security Department. DHS has spent a relatively small share of its budget in recent years on automated data collection tools, processes and analytics, but that may need to change. Personnel costs made up nearly 40 percent of the DHS budget in fiscal 2016, according to a joint study from Govini and AFCEA, which the organizations released during the May 10 Law Enforcement and Public Safety Technology Forum in Washington.

Despite Pledge, Trump’s Wall Can’t Keep Out All Illegal Drugs

CNN | Zachary Cohen | 5/9/17

A US border patrol marine unit intercepted a small speed boat near the southern coast of Puerto Rico last month — an operation that led to the arrest of two foreign nationals after agents uncovered 1,320 pounds of cocaine, worth an estimated $17 million, on board. On the surface, it seemed like a success story for federal and local law enforcement groups tasked with carrying out one of President Donald Trump’s major policy priorities — protecting the US border from drugs and criminals.

DHS Takes Home Slew Of Government Infosec Awards

Fed Scoop | Staff | 5/11/17

The Department of Homeland Security dominated the winners’ list Wednesday night at the 14th annual U.S. Government Information Security Leadership Awards ceremony. DHS staff or former staff won four of six government slots at the awards, dished out by the International Information System Security Certification Consortium, or (ISC)². The federal cybersecurity workforce talent gap was top of mind at the ceremony. Dan Waddell, head of U.S. government Affairs for (ISC)², said it was time to stop thinking about cybersecurity as an IT issue or as the responsibility of specific professionals. “Cybersecurity is everyone’s job,” he said. The awards come as federal agencies continue to entertain ideas about how to recruit and retain cybersecurity talent.

General Services Administration:

GSA Official Promises Vendors “Proactively Business-Friendly” Approach Under Trump

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 5/11/17

The General Services Administration is considering changes to transactional data reporting rules to make them more palatable to vendors, said the agency’s third in command. The agency will shift mandatory rules for contractors to a voluntary basis, said Jack St. John, GSA’s chief of staff in a speech to the Coalition for Government Procurement’s spring training conference on May 11. The rules require government contractors provide data about the transactions they made through the GSA’s schedule and government-wide acquisition contracts. The rules were meant to help smooth the reporting requirements for contractors under other regulations. However, contractors reported significant concerns over how data was being interpreted by GSA.

Legislative Branch:

Senate Wants Info On Spike In Border Patrol Assaults

Federal Times | Tony Ware | 5/8/17

An increase in assaults on Customs and Border Protection law enforcement personnel between 2016 and 2017 has prompted the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee to request information to determine measures that could be taken to mitigate these threats. Sens. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Claire McCaskill, D-Mo., have sent a letter to Department of Homeland Security Inspector General John Roth requesting he review the number of assaults on CBP personnel — including Border Patrol agents, CBP officers and air and marine officers and agents — since fiscal 2010.  Roth has been asked to report the location and type of each assault, days lost to injury, any trends that have emerged and the percentage of incidents that resulted in prosecution (including average sentence given to offenders). He has also been asked to audit the methods CBP uses to collect, compile, track and report data on field injuries, as well as any measures taken and training instituted to improve personnel safety.


Hackers Hit Dozens of Countries With a Stolen N.S.A. Tool

The New York Times | Dan Bilefsky and Nicole Perlroth | 5/12/17

Hackers using a tool stolen from the United States government conducted extensive cyberattacks on Friday that hit dozens of countries around the world, severely disrupting Britain’s public health system and wreaking havoc on computers elsewhere, including Russia. Hospitals in Britain appeared to be the most severely affected by the attacks, which aimed to blackmail computer users by seizing their data. The attacks blocked doctors’ access to patient files and forced emergency rooms to divert people seeking urgent care. Kaspersky Lab, a Russian cybersecurity firm, said it had recorded at least 45,000 attacks in as many as 74 countries.

Security Clearance Bureau Making Progress But No Timeline To End Backlog

Next Gov | Joseph Marks | 5/10/17

The National Background Investigations Bureau has made significant progress hiring investigators and developing new tools but does not have a deadline yet for when it will clear out a substantial backlog in clearance seekers, an official said Wednesday. Those wait times typically extend more than 200 days for an initial top secret clearance. The bureau hired about 400 investigators last year and expects to hire about 180 more this year, Jim Onusko, director of the bureau’s Federal Investigative Records Enterprise, told an advisory panel.

GAO Reports of Interest: 

Nothing this week.

Upcoming Congressional Committee Hearings of Interest:

Hearing: Challenges Facing Law Enforcement in the 21st Century

Committee on the Judiciary – Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, Homeland Security, and Investigations

May 17, 2017 (10:00 AM) | 2141 RHOB Washington, D.C.

Hearing: Requirements, Priorities, and Future Acquisition Plans

Committee on Appropriations –  Subcommittee on Homeland Security

May 18, 2017 (8:00 AM) | 2007 RHOB Washington, D.C.

Hearing: “From the Border to Disasters and Beyond: Critical Canine Contributions to the DHS Mission”

May 18, 2017 (2:00 PM) | House Capitol Visitor Center Room 210