Weekly News Roundup

WEEKLY NEWS ROUNDUP | 9/8/17

Department of Homeland Security Leadership

Nominee for FEMA’s No. 2 Job Withdraws

Government Executive | Erich Wagner | 9/14/17

President Trump’s pick to be deputy director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency has withdrawn his name from consideration for the post, after news reports alleging misconduct when he served in the George W. Bush administration. According to NBC News, Daniel A. Craig was found by the FBI and Homeland Security Department Office of the Inspector General to have falsified government travel and timekeeping records in 2005. Investigators also probed whether he had violated conflict-of-interest laws in the awarding of FEMA contracts to companies with which he was seeking employment after Hurricane Katrina, but they concluded there was insufficient evidence to proceed with charges.

 

Department of Homeland Security Management and Mission

DHS Gives Agencies 90 Days To Remove Kaspersky Lab IT From Networks

Federal News Radio| Jason Miller | 8/13/17

The Homeland Security Department is giving agencies 30 days to identify where they are using products and services from Kaspersky Lab and to remove those technologies from federal networks 60 days after that. DHS issued a binding operational directive (BOD) Sept. 13 detailing the steps agencies must take.

 

The Next Big Thing In IT Procurement – Tech Demos

FCW | Steve Kelman | 9/14/17

In the course of Soraya Correa’s programs to revamp DHS procurement, the Department has begun to pioneer an innovative approach to source selection where the downselect is not “centered around a traditional written proposal but instead around companies actually performing a real agile task that was video-recorded and examined as a central part of proposal evaluation.” There are two big advantages of using tech demos for source selection. The most important is that it embodies a philosophy of “do, not just say.” The second advantage of tech demos is related to the first. Traditional government source selection is strange and unfamiliar to most vendors outside the government contracting fraternity, and represents an important barrier to entry for new entrants into the government marketplace. Using tech demos is a way to bring in new competitors.

 

Startups Rave About DHS’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program

Fed Scoop | Tajha Chappellet-Lanier | 9/13/17

Other agencies should take a good, hard look at what the Department of Homeland Security is accomplishing with its Silicon Valley Innovation Program, startup executives reflected on Wednesday at the AFCEA Homeland Security conference. Four early-stage companies, working in areas like Internet of Things security, radar vision for drones and more, joined a panel to discuss their experiences as the recipients of SVIP investment. And they all had overwhelmingly glowing things to say. Since founding in late 2015 the program has received around 220 applications, watched 40 pitches and funded 22 companies.

 

VA, TSA Are On A Mission To Make Government More Human

Nextgov | Jack Corrigan | 9/14/17

The Transportation Security Administration has taken steps to make itself more accessible and equipped to meet customer needs through person-to-person conversations. The TSA recently took to social media to rapidly resolve issues for travelers, allowing people to send questions to “Ask TSA” accounts on both Facebook and Twitter. Using each platform’s messaging service, people can get answers to questions on everything from international pre-check options to whether they can bring a goldfish on the plane. All responses come from an actual TSA agent within 20 minutes or less, TSA Director of External Communications Jennifer Plozai told Nextgov.

 

Federal E-Verify Law Would Mean Major Changes for U.S. Employers

Route Fifty | Tim Henderson | 9/14/17

Only a handful of states require all employers to screen workers to make sure they are in the country legally, but that could change soon. Spurred by the Trump administration’s crackdown on illegal immigration, Congress is set to debate a national E-Verify mandate that would require every U.S. employer to use the federal online service to screen all new hires and for the first time allow the screening of current employees. Seven states in the South (Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) and two in the West (Arizona and Utah) already require private employers to use E-Verify. But enforcement has been inconsistent, largely because state officials can’t access E-Verify records to make sure employers are checking new hires. Advocates for the system say a federal mandate likely would boost compliance across the country.

 

The Trump Administration is Hiding Data About How Its Crackdown on Illegal Immigration is Going

Government Executive | Ana Camoy | 9/13/17

The Transactional Record Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, which gathers such information through Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, says that until January ICE was giving it details about illegal immigrants, including their criminal history and whether they were ultimately arrested or deported. All TRAC is getting now is the number of detainers requested. The missing data “provide fundamental information about what’s going on in federal enforcement in immigration laws and the role that detainers play in that process,” said Susan Long, TRAC’s director. The data are needed not only to gauge whether the Trump administration is fulfilling its campaign promises to crack down on illegal immigration, but also because even if detainees are undocumented, they have rights. Those include due process and not being held in jail without probable cause.

 

How DHS Is Thawing The Industry-Government Deep Freeze

Federal News Radio | Jason Miller | 9/12/17

The thaw in industry-government collaboration for acquisitions has yet to fully materialize. Even after more than six years since the first mythbusters memo from the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, the freeze at many agencies remains deep into the permafrost. OFPP is planning a third mythbusters memo as part of its continuing effort to improve communication around acquisition. But there are signs that the sheet of ice is starting to crack. In 2017 alone, four agencies held reverse industry days — the IRS, the General Services Administration, the Homeland Security Department and the Defense Department — where they bring in contracting officers and other acquisition professionals to learn from industry. DHS will host a third reverse industry day in October. Another sign comes from the awards under GSA’s Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions (EIS). GSA received only one minor protest, which experts say the Government Accountability Office (GAO) likely will dismiss fairly quickly.

 

CBP’s Border Wall Plans Integrate Tech

FCW | Chase Gunter | 9/12/17

Even with funding for President Donald Trump’s promised wall along the southern border looming as a flash point in December budget negotiations, Customs and Border Protection is moving ahead with designs for a technological and physical barrier.” Planning is very much underway” for the hybrid barrier, said CBP chief Ronald Vitiello at a Sept. 12 AFCEA event. “What we’ve decided on is personnel, technology, infrastructure.” Vitiello said that CBP has learned lessons since SBINet, the Department of Homeland Security’s billion-dollar attempt to combine tech and infrastructure to secure the southern border that was abandoned in 2011. For more one the border wall please read:

 

New Guidelines For Hack-Proof Elections Get A Key Vote Of Approval

FCW | Adam Mazmanian | 9/12/17

A new set of voluntary guidelines for security and reliability of elections systems was approved on Sept. 12 by a key committee of the Elections Assistance Commission. The vote took place at a meeting of the EAC that was chaired by Kent Rochford, acting director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology. The new document represents a refresh of voting system guidelines that were developed in 2005 and last updated in 2015. The EAC vote comes as cybersecurity experts warn that election systems are vulnerable to hacking, and almost a year after the Department of Homeland Security added election systems to its list of critical U.S. infrastructure.

 

ASU Teams Up With Department of Homeland Security to Build a New Center of Excellence

State Press | Sam Deadrick | 9/15/17

Government contracts are the bread and butter of large public universities, and ASU just landed a massive one. ASU will run the Department of Homeland Security’s latest Center of Excellence (COE), tasked with innovating within the realm of defense. Ross Maciejewski, an associate professor in the School of Computing, Informatics and Decisions Systems Engineering (CIDSE), will serve as the center’s director. The Center of Excellence will pair experts and students from CIDSE with those from the Fulton Schools of Engineering, together encapsulating about 26,000 students. This means that students from many different disciplines will be cooperating and blending their talents.

 

TSA Gives Approval For New Luggage Scanner Designed To Be Faster, More Effective

LA Times | Hugo Martin | 9/15/17

The nation’s airports took another step toward speeding up security screening lines through the use of new advanced scanners. The Transportation Security Administration gave airports the green light this week to begin testing a new model of scanner that uses the same type of imaging technology used in hospitals. Instead of examining the internal organs of patients, the scanners will look into carry-on bags.

The new scanner approved by the TSA creates a 3-D image of the contents of a bag through the use of computed tomography, a technology hospitals use to see the inner workings of a body.

 

The Coast Guard Is Struggling With ‘A Capacity Challenge’ Amid A Cocaine Boom

Business Insider | Christopher Woody | 9/14/17

US Coast Guard officials have warned several times that their units are unable to keep up with the flows of illegal narcotics coming to the US from South and Central America. Vice Adm. Charles Ray, the Coast Guard’s deputy commandant for operations, repeated those concerns on Tuesday during a hearing before the Senate Caucus on International Narcotics Control. “We have good intelligence on between 80% and 90% of these movements,” Ray said, referring to trafficking in the eastern Pacific Ocean and Caribbean. “So we have good intelligence, [but] we only have the capacity to get after about 30% of those” shipments.

 

Hurricane Recovery and Lessons Learned: In the aftermath of Harvey and Irma, the interagency recovery efforts—being coordinated by FEMA—continue to face diverse challenges. For example, the storms have breached numerous hazardous-waste facilities and the sewage systems, leading to the spread of chemical pollutants which continue to contaminate of residential areas. In turn, as the government continues to meet these and other challenges, federal and private entities are beginning to evaluate the effects of the storms, reviewing the use of new tools such as drone technology and artificial intelligence while also analyzing the methods FEMA employed to predict and respond to forecasted disaster zones.

 

DHS Mulling Deadline Extension For Dreamers To Reapply For DACA

The Hill | Max Greenwood | 9/14/17

A Justice Department official said Thursday that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is considering extending the deadline for some young immigrants to reapply for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) protections. Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brett Shumate said in court that DHS is considering an extension of the deadline because a pair of recent hurricanes devastated the U.S. in recent weeks, according to Reuters.

 

Executive Branch Reorganization Pushes DHS To Find IT Efficiencies

FedScoop | Billy Mitchell | 9/14/17
Executive branch reorganization orders laid out by the White House have led the Department of Homeland Security’s CIO team to seek out efficiencies that can be gained in the department’s IT. DHS responded to the March reorganization executive order by creating an Organizational Effectiveness Working Group over the summer to solicit feedback from industry and the public. From that came a series of priorities from the Office of the CIO for cutting waste and boosting effectiveness, senior DHS officials explained Wednesday.

 

General Services Administration, Office of Management and Budget

GSA’S Governmentwide It Portfolio Has A New Leader – Bill Zielinski As Government-Wide IT Category Manager

Nextgov | Frank Konkel | 9/14/17

The General Services Administration didn’t look far to fill its open government-wide IT category manager. GSA announced today that Bill Zielinski, currently GSA’s Federal Acquisition Services deputy assistant commissioner for category management, will take over as the agency’s government-wide IT category manager—one of the most important positions in federal procurement. Zielinski will now oversee some $55 billion in IT spending across government from various agencies that use GSA’s contracts and initiatives to procure all sorts of technology, from analytics and networking to cybersecurity services.

 

Government Plans On-The-Spot Hiring Event For Cyber, Tech Positions

Nextgov | Joseph Marks | 9/14/17

The government will host its first major tech and cyber recruitment event in November in an effort to fill hundreds of open jobs across at least 20 federal agencies, the General Services Administration said Thursday. Applicants who register in advance and go through pre-screening could be offered tentative positions on the spot, a senior administration official told reporters. Those job offers will still be dependent on security clearance requirements, however, which vary by agency, the official said. Participating agencies include the Defense, Homeland Security and Health and Human Services departments and the Social Security Administration, National Archives and Small Business Administration, an official told reporters.

 

Justin Herman: GSA Overdue For A Revamp, Solution Is Blockchain

Federal News Radio| Tom Temin | 9/13/17

Blockchain may sound like something you’d find in a prison yard — but this online ledger technology has a lot of potential for federal digital services. The General Services Administration is betting on the technology as a way for agencies to modernize legacy systems. Justin Herman, the lead for emerging citizen technology at GSA, joined Federal Drive with Tom Temin to explain what the technology is and how it works.

 

OMB Names Zielinski As IT Category Manager

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 9/14/17

Bill Zielinski was just tapped to lead the governmentwide effort to pay less for IT. Zielenski, currently deputy assistant commissioner of the General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Service (Office of IT Category) will also serve as the Office of Management and Budget’s governmentwide IT category manager. In 2015, OMB launched a category management initiative to develop guidance and methods for obtaining lower purchase prices on products and services the federal government buys in large quantities. In 2016, OMB settled on a list of 10 “supercategories” and assigned a lead manager to each.

 

White House

Citing London Terrorist Attack, Trump Calls For Expansion Of His Travel Ban

Washington Post | John Wagner and Matt Zapotosky | 9/15/17

President Trump weighed in Friday on an attack in London by a “loser terrorist” and used the episode to call for an expansion of his travel ban that has temporarily blocked entry into the United States for citizens of six Muslim-majority countries. “The travel ban into the United States should be far larger, tougher and more specific-but stupidly, that would not be politically correct!” the president wrote on Twitter. Trump’s assessment followed news of an explosion in a London subway car during the morning rush hour that injured at least 18 commuters and was labeled a terrorist attack by police.

 

Trump Aide: White House Still Talking With Tech CEOs About Government IT

Politico | Li Zhou | 9/14/17

The White House continues to have conversations with tech CEOs and other executives about modernizing government IT, according to an aide to President Donald Trump, despite the industry’s strong opposition to Trump’s actions on Dreamers and other issues. The White House Office of American Innovation has been in contact with CEOs and others as recently as the past 24 hours, Matt Lira, special assistant to the president for innovation policy and initiatives, said at the POLITICO Pro Policy Summit on Thursday.

 

How A Telecom Contact Might Spur IT Upgrades

FCW | Mark Rockwell | 9/8/17

The Trump administration’s IT modernization plan issued in late August looks to leverage a newly issued governmentwide telecommunications contract to lower agency costs, improve efficiencies and potentially jump-start IT modernization efforts at smaller agencies. The plan sets two high-level goals — a vision for the future of federal IT maximizing secure use of the best commercial technology available, and a plan to jumpstart the government’s transition to that vision. The contract could allow agencies to move more quickly to adopt cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence or block chain, without the long development and adoption cycles that have often slowed federal IT. GSA developed the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions vehicle with relatively easy-to-use technology “on-ramps” that let the contractors add services without months of development time.

 

U.S. Digital Service Taps 8(a) To Help Agencies ‘Fail Fast’

Fed Scoop | Carten Cordell | 8/14/17

With end-of-the-year spending upon us, agencies wanting to experiment with digital solutions can look to a new vehicle from the U.S. Digital Service. Leveraging sole source contracts from the Small Business Association’s 8(a) program, USDS has created a contract exemption program that allows agencies looking to procure services, build a minimum viable product or learn about skills like agile development. Traci Walker, lead contracting officer at USDS, said the exemption gives agencies the ability to experiment with possible digital solutions, providing the ability to “fail fast,” innovate and move on without the heavy lift of a large project.

 

Legislative Branch

Democrats Agree to More Border Security in Exchange for Protecting ‘Dreamers’

Government Executive | Russel Berman | 9/14/17

President Trump confirmed on Thursday morning that he supports legislation that would protect young undocumented immigrants from deportation and would deliver a “massive” increase in border security — but not with a wall on the southern border. Mr. Trump’s comments, both in Washington and in Florida, affirmed the broad parameters of an agreement that Democratic leaders unilaterally announced Wednesday night after dinner with the president at the White House. In remarks to reporters as he left the White House on Thursday, Mr. Trump said, “We’re working on a plan for DACA,” referring to protections for immigrants who are part of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He confirmed, “the wall will come later.” For more please see:

 

House Passes Bill To Streamline DHS Info Sharing

FCW | Lauren C. Williams | 9/12/17

A House bill passed Sept. 12 on a voice vote looks to enhance the Department of Homeland Security’s intelligence sharing abilities, in part via an IT refresh. The Department of Homeland Security Data Framework Act, first introduced in May, puts statutory backing behind an ongoing DHS effort to consolidate existing databases and systems across all the agency’s components. Doing so will give authorized personnel the access and ability to quickly share and analyze intelligence pertaining to national security, terrorism and weapons of mass destruction. Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), who sponsored the bill, said its passage facilitates information sharing “without compromising our nation’s secrets.”

 

Secret Service Overtime Bill Passes House Committee

Federal News Radio | Jory Heckman |9/13/17

More than 1,000 Secret Service agents tasked with protecting President Donald Trump and his family have already maxed out their overtime pay for the year, but House lawmakers are one step closer to ensuring agents get paid for every working hour. The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee passed a bipartisan bill Wednesday that would allow the Secret Service to raise the salary and overtime pay cap from $161,900 to $187,000 for agents protecting the first family. The waiver would last until the end of 2018. Congress passed a similar waiver in 2016 to ensure that more than 1400 Secret Service agents received all of their overtime pay during the presidential campaign.

 

House Panel Moves Bill Urging Federal Buyers To Consider Quality, Not Just Cost

Nextgov | Joseph Marks | 9/13/17

The number of federal contracts that use the lowest-priced bid as their major deciding factor would be substantially limited under legislation forwarded by House Oversight lawmakers Wednesday. The Promoting Value Based Procurement Act would discourage agencies from relying on “lowest price technically acceptable” contracts unless the contracting officer has demonstrated that non-price factors, such as a company’s expertise or the quality of particular technology, are unlikely to make a big difference. The bill would also require a government auditor to report on each time agencies pick a contractor based primarily on cost and why the agency chose to do so for the next three years. That provision would apply to contracts valued over $5 million.

 

DHS Rebuked For Inadequate Cyber Hiring

Federal Times | Ted Knutson | 9/10/17

The Department of Homeland Security was reprimanded for poor cyber hiring on Thursday by both the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee’s cybersecurity subcommittee and its lead Democrat. The chair, Texas Republican John Ratcliffe, took aim at DHS for not taking advantage of all the authorities Congress gave to better recruit and hire cyber professionals three years ago. He added DHS needs to overcome the normal slow federal hiring processes to build the cyber workforce it needs to do its job in information security. The ranking Democrat on the subcommittee, Cedric Richmond, accused DHS of lagging behind the FBI, NSA and other cyber-focused agencies in attracting cyber talent.

 

Upcoming Homeland Security Events

 

  • Fedstival Week – Nextgov and Government Executive | September 18th–22th | Sidney Harman Hall

 

 

 

 

  • Cyber Talks – Cyber Scoop | October 18th | Andrew Mellon Auditorium, Washington, DC

 

 

 

 

 

GAO Reports of Interest

Coast Guard: Workforce Actions Under Way to Address Backlog in Recreational Vessel Documentation

Publicly Released: September 12, 2017

 

Aviation Security: Actions Needed to Systematically Evaluate Cost and Effectiveness Across Security Countermeasures

Publicly Released: September 11, 2017

 

Upcoming Congressional Committee Hearings of Interest

DHS Financial Systems: Will Modernization Ever Be Achieved

Oversight And Management Efficiency Subcommittee | September 26, 2017 2:00 PM | House Capitol Visitor Center (Hvc) Room 210