Senators call on White House for action plan against ransomware attacks

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  • The Pentagon is repaying $ 2.2 billion for military construction projects that were funded to pay for former President Donald Trump’s border wall. The money is returned to 66 projects in 11 states, three territories and 16 countries. The $ 2.2 billion represents the uncommitted portion of the $ 3.6 billion in military construction reallocated by Trump to finance the wall. The remaining $ 1.4 billion has already been committed or spent and cannot be refunded. Earlier this spring, the Biden administration began canceling plans to build border barriers. (Federal Information Network)
  • The military and the DoD’s top auditor disagree over whether military officials squandered hundreds of millions of dollars in Congressional relief funds. The inspector general said he found “pervasive” issues with DoD officials who failed to seek reimbursement for coronavirus relief missions that were supposed to be funded by FEMA. The IG said the DoD used its own funds instead and left more than $ 220 million unused in FEMA accounts. Army and National Guard officials agree they need to improve their processes, but don’t think they have lost use of these funds.
  • The Biden administration chose Carlos Del Toro to be its first Secretary of the Navy. The White House chooses a CEO of a technology solutions company and a former destroyer captain to lead the Navy. Carlos Del Toro was born in Cuba and has decades of experience working with the Pentagon. If confirmed, Del Toro will inherit a Navy that has struggled in recent years. A handful of ship accidents have led to revisions to departmental safety protocols and modernization priorities conflict with fixed budgets. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) Said Del Toro was well-equipped to lead the Navy.
  • The Air Force is further revising its hair standards for women after adding new acceptable hairstyles in uniform. Later this month, women will have more flexibility on how updos, ponytails, and braids can extend from the head. The Air Force says it is continually reviewing its policies to ensure the best solutions for its Airmen.
  • The Biden administration makes fairness in government services a key goal of its regulatory agenda. The Department of Health and Human Services is preparing to strengthen protections against discrimination in health programs, and the Department of Housing and Urban Affairs is working on regulations to ensure equal access to its programs. The White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is also working on regulations aimed at tackling climate change, pollution and protecting small businesses.
  • President Biden’s Made in America office has stepped up a gear by detailing plans for how it will create a more rigorous waiver process for agencies that say they can’t follow national procurement laws, including the Buy American Act. It also outlines plans for a new public website listing these waivers, and data agencies will be required to report to the office on a semi-annual and annual basis. The Office of Management and Budget released this memo to implement President Joe Biden’s January executive order requiring a series of actions to ensure that agencies purchase products and services made in the United States.
  • NIST is releasing new data standards that will make it easier to secure cloud services. You don’t really need to know what OSCAL – Open Security Controls Assessment Language means if you care – but what agencies and contractors need to know is that because NIST released the first version of it. ‘OSCAL, preparing, authorizing and reusing cloud services requires less time and resources. Using the standards, vendors will be able to create their system security plans faster and more accurately, validating much of their content before submitting them to the government for review. NIST has been working on the first version of OSCAL since 2017.
  • Members of Congress are pressuring the White House for answers on its anti-ransomware strategy. Senators Gary Peters (D-Mich.) And Rob Portman (R-Ohio) want to know what agencies are doing to thwart attacks like the one that shut down Colonial Pipeline last month. The chairman and senior member of the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs is also looking for suggestions when drafting legislation to tackle the threat of ransomware. In a letter to the White House, both senators requested responses within 30 days.
  • A Biden administration task force to spur breakthroughs in artificial intelligence is focusing. The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy is working with the National Science Foundation to lead a new national AI research resources working group. Under the 2020 National AI Initiative Act, the task force will consider how to expand access to AI education and other essential resources. The task force includes members from NIST, the Department of Energy, and top universities.
  • FBI leaders pledge to take sexual harassment within its ranks more seriously. It introduces a 24/7 hotline to report abuse and also creates a senior management task force to review policies and procedures on harassment and victim support. Officials say they want to be faster when investigating the allegations and imposing penalties on those who commit such acts. (Federal Information Network)
  • Medical research at the Department of Veterans Affairs will not go to dogs or cats. VA released a report it submitted to Congress in December. It details the department’s five-year strategy to eliminate where possible, or otherwise reduce, the use of dogs, cats and monkeys in medical research. Congress mandated the reduction as part of an appropriation bill last year. But that’s not necessarily the end of animal testing. VA states that he is able to replace using rodents or agricultural creatures. (White coat waste)
  • Another sign that things are slowly returning to normal: The Transportation Security Administration has said it now checks more than two million people a day at airports. This is the highest passenger volume since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, and the first time it has reached that number since March 2020. Just to show how bleak things have gotten, the number the lowest daily passenger was just over 87,000 in April 2020.


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