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FCW Insider: Feb. 27

The Pentagon is having trouble hiring via the Cyber Excepted Service thanks to too few internal HR personnel and a backlogged and complicated security clearance process. Lauren C. Williams explains why the cyber fast track is stalled at DOD.

The Transportation Security Administration oversees 2.7 million miles of gas pipeline with 5 full-time employees -- none of whom have cyber experience. TSA is trying to grow its capacity and also tap expertise at the newly formed Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Protection Agency. Derek B. Johnson has more.

Officials at the Department of Veterans Affairs say they're making progress on their 10-year, $16 billion electronic health records modernization project. But Rep. Will Hurd (R-Texas), newly named to the Appropriations Committee, says the cost and length of the project is "outrageous" and can likely be done in less time. Chase Gunter reports.

The Federal Acquisition Service is closing in on deadlines for its e-commerce push and a new contract writing system. Mark Rockwell has the story.

Quick Hits

*** The National Archives and Records Administration released a primer on blockchain with an eye to explaining how the technology might work (or not work) in the context of records management. So far, no distributed ledgers have been scheduled as government records and transferred to NARA. But as agencies try to develop more uses for blockchain technology, that could change. Some aspects of blockchain, the white paper notes, could be useful in ensuring the authenticity of records, especially features such as long-term storage of digital signatures. On the other hand, NARA notes, "features like cryptographically inaccessible data indicates that records retention and disposition was not included as part the original intention of blockchain developers."

As federal agencies begin to explore blockchain use cases like smart contracts, public health surveillance and supply chain monitoring, federal records managers will have to figure out how to address access, retention, storage and disposition of blockchain records, as well as NARA's role as a manager and custodian of blockchain records.

*** The Transportation Security Administration announced it was going to use other transaction authority to fast-track vendors for the expansion of the TSA PreCheck program that allows trusted travelers to speed through airport security. In a contracting notice posted Feb. 25, TSA said it would be selecting one biometrics vendor and another firm that specializes in vetting.

The planned OTA approach will be explained in detail to vendors at a March 15 industry day. A 2018 law required TSA to expand the PreCheck offering by requiring TSA to offer a mobile enrollment platform and to take other steps to increase enrollment options. The goals of the law are to expand PreCheck enrollment while curtailing the practice of individuals not enrolled in the program using PreCheck security lanes because they share a travel booking with someone who is PreCheck cleared.

*** Ahead of the fiscal year 2020 budget release, the President's Pay Agent is calling for fundamental changes to the general schedule pay structure. In a delayed report, the Pay Agent -- comprised of the secretary of Labor and the directors of the Office of Personnel Management and the Office of Management and Budget -- approved the creation of two new locality pay areas backed by the Federal Salary Council, but pushed for broader civil service pay changes.

"It is important to appropriately compensate personnel based on mission needs and labor market dynamics," they write. "The existing [general schedule] compensation system fails in this regard."

To that end, the three officials push to forgo "across-the-board and locality pay increases for 2019, while proposing to realign incentives by enhancing performance-based pay and slowing the frequency of tenure-based step increases."

The report also criticizes the methodology used by the Federal Salary Council to calculate the pay discrepancies between public and private sector employees. The President's Pay Agent levied similar critiques in last year's report. 

Posted on Feb 27, 2019 at 3:51 PM


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