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FCW Insider: Feb. 15

It's been a long and winding road, but the Technology Modernization Fund got a $25 million boost in the appropriations package passed by Congress on Thursday. Chase Gunter reports.

The Transportation Security Administration needs to improve its handling of energy pipeline cybersecurity, according to lawmakers, stakeholders and internal government watchdogs. With intelligence reports asserting that China can launch damaging cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, some on Capitol Hill think responsibility for safeguarding pipelines should be shifted to an agency with stronger rulemaking authority. Mark Rockwell has the story.

Chris Krebs, head of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, pushed back on media reports that CISA was drawing down personnel and resources from efforts to combat foreign interference with U.S. elections. But it appears that the agency is more focused on securing election infrastructure than probing outside influence. Derek B. Johnson explains.

U.S. Cyber Commander Gen. Paul Nakasone said, with the current state of threats, he expects the cyber mission force to expand beyond 133 teams. The Pentagon's budget request is due out soon, and CyberCom looks like it's coming in for an increase. Get more from Lauren C. Williams.

Quick Hits

*** Congress voted to pass a compromise spending bill to fully fund the government for the remainder of fiscal year 2019 and avoid a second partial government shutdown

President Donald Trump has pledged to sign the bill before the current continuing resolution funding the government expires on Friday, Feb. 15, at midnight. He also plans to declare a state of emergency on the southern border of the U.S. in order to direct funds to construct a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Senate voted 83-16 to pass the bill in the afternoon of Feb. 14. The House wrapped up its vote the same evening. The tally there was 300-128.

The funding bill contains a 1.9 percent raise for federal employees retroactive to Jan.1. That overturns a decision Trump made in the midst of the recent 35-day partial government shutdown.

The bill also contains a $25 million boost for the Technology Modernization Fund -- the central revolving fund created under the Modernizing Government Technology Act to support IT updates at federal agencies.

*** The Merit Systems Protection Board may soon have a quorum to begin cutting into its four-digit backlog of cases. 

The Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee advanced two of Trump's nominees to serve on the board: Dennis Kirk to serve as the chair and Julia Clark to serve as a member. 

Without action, the board will soon be left with no members; the term of its lone current member, Mark Robbins, is set to expire March 1. MSPB requires at least two board members to vote on cases, and has been without a quorum since Jan. 7, 2017, its longest-ever period without a quorum. In that time, its backlog has ballooned from 11 to 1,708 cases awaiting action. 

Johnson said the full Senate would not vote to confirm them until a third member makes it through committee. 

Trump's pick to be that third nominee -- Andrew Maunz -- withdrew his name from consideration after being voted down by the committee in November 2018.

"We're going to try to work with the White House and the ranking member [Michigan Democrat Sen. Gary Peters] to fill the additional nomination as quickly as possible," said Johnson.

Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) was the lone vote against Kirk and Clark, he said, "not because I'm against the nominees, but because I think the Merit Systems Protection Board is not really working."

*** The General Services Administration unveiled a new Special Item Number on technology procurement vehicle Schedule 70 that will give agencies access to a wider portfolio of wireless carrier services and management options.

The new SIN replaces the expiring Federal Strategic Sourcing Initiative wireless blanket purchase agreements the agency crafted over five years ago to consolidate wireless plans across federal agencies.

GSA said the offerings under the new SIN were developed through its mobile services category team, in collaboration with a group of agency mobility experts led by the Office of Management and Budget, Department of Defense, Department of State and Department of Homeland Security.

Posted on Feb 15, 2019 at 12:53 AM


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