FCW Insider: Oct. 1

Top stories, quick hits and more from FCW's reporters and editors.

The Department of Defense is grappling with the loss of 4,000 civilian cyber-related personnel in the last year. Lauren C. Williams reports that the Pentagon is exploring ways to improve pay and streamline the hiring process.

DHS is looking to lock down federal agency's high value assets – the crown jewels of government data – but longstanding problems in access control and security weakness are hindering the process. Derek B. Johnson explains what's at stake.

The new cybersecurity office at the Department of Energy is looking for ways to get unclassified but actionable threat data to private critical infrastructure companies. Mark Rockwell has the story.

Quick Hits

*** Employee streaming of the Sept. 27 hearing on the nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court took a toll on network operations at the Department of Housing and Urban Development. The Office of the CIO sent out an all-staff email during the hearing threatening to block access to sites streaming the hearing, including news websites, C-SPAN and presumably the Senate Judiciary Committee itself, for the duration of the hearing. "To avoid this inconvenience, please discontinue streaming this live event on HUD's network," the email read.

*** Federal agency webmasters must update codes that authenticate web domains with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers by Oct. 11. ICANN is shifting the key codes because the domain name system has been targeted by bad actors who "poison" or hijack legitimate website names to channel traffic onto bogus sites.

In an advisory, US-CERT told federal agencies that validation of the security codes is mandatory under the Federal Information Security Act. In its guidance, ICANN said changes to the key will be automatically updated through its automatic process.

*** A U.S. District Court judge has set an Oct. 11 date to depose Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross over his decision to include a question on the citizenship of respondents in the 2020 decennial census. Ross testified before Congress that the Department of Justice "initiated" the request, but agency emails suggest Ross first raised the possibility with DOJ.

The lawsuit's discovery deadline is Oct. 12; a trial could begin Nov. 5. It's unclear how a lengthy trial could impinge on the schedule of the population count, which is required to take place every 10 years under the Constitution.

Democratic members of Congress have also requested a subpoena for Ross to again testify before Congress to explain his "misleading testimony."

"The Census Bureau has to take the census on time," said Terri Ann Lowenthal, who has more than three decades of census expertise. "it simply cannot hit the pause button anywhere… The Census Bureau will not let any proceedings in court interfere with its continued preparations" as it ramps up in 2019 and beyond.

If the court — or Congress — overturns the citizenship question, "then the Census Bureau will move quickly to make the necessary adjustments," Lowenthal said. There’s simply no flexibility in the schedule through the final year and a quarter in preparations.”

*** Google CEO Sundar Pichai may soon be in the hot seat before a House Committee. Pichai met with House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), Judiciary Chairman Bob Goodlatte (R-Va.) and other members on Sept. 28 to discuss GOP lawmaker concerns about Google's algorithm and the possible ideological influence on search results. After the meeting, Goodlatte put out a statement indicating that Pichai would be invited to testify at a Judiciary Committee hearing in the fall. 

*** A federal judge is allowing a lawsuit brought by more than 200 Democratic members of Congress against President Donald Trump over alleged emoluments clause violations to move forward. The Sept. 28 opinion from District Court Judge Emmet G. Sullivan said the lawmakers had standing to bring the case because the "consent of Congress" is required for the president to receive an emolument from a foreign state or leader. The argument pressed by the lawmakers is that every time a foreign government rents out a banquet room at the Trump Hotel in D.C. for an event, or buys a membership at Mar-a-Lago or pays rent at another Trump property (the Industrial & Commercial Bank of China rents out a floor of Trump Tower in New York City for a reported $2 million a year), this constitutes an emolument as envisioned by the framers of the Constitution.

The judge ruled that for the members, the inability to vote on the emoluments question is "a judicially cognizable injury that is fairly traceable to the President and can be redressed by a favorable judicial decision" and that there's no remedy the members can exercise through the legislative process. Justice Department lawyers had been pushing for a dismissal.

*** Looking ahead: AFCEA's Oct. 1 Navy IT Day features DOD CIO Dana Deasy and others, and comes as pieces of the new NGEN contract vehicle are hitting the street. On Oct. 3, Sen. Roy Blunt (R-Mo.) and Amy Klochubar (D-Minn.) will be talking election security at the Election Assistance Commission's Readiness Summit. Also Oct. 3, Steven Dillingham, President Trump's nominee to lead the Census Bureau, faces the Senate Commerce Committee in a confirmation hearing.

NEXT STORY: Quick Hits for Oct. 1

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