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It has taken five years, but the Pentagon now has a contract structure in place to deliver cloud computing across all the military services, including for its most sensitive data. The Defense Department awarded its long-awaited Joint Warfighting Cloud Computing Contract (JWCC) to Oracle, Microsoft, Amazon and Google yesterday. The contracts are expected to be worth about $9 billion altogether, but no company is guaranteed any particular share of the pie. JWCC is DoD’s replacement for the former JEDI Cloud contract, the controversial single-award contract that was ultimately doomed by years of bid protests. (DoD ends cloud contracting saga with four awards – Federal News Network)

The Defense Department wants lawmakers to know just how badly it needs a federal budget to get passed. Mike McCord, undersecretary of defense and chief financial officer, said DoD has never had to go a full year under a continuing resolution. It would have negative effects, McCord said, on recruiting, new weapons and overall readiness at a time when the department is already straining its resources by helping Ukraine and maintaining a strong presence in the Indo-Pacific region. Under a CR, the Pentagon expects to get at least $60 billion less than it would if a federal budget passes.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is struggling to comply with a litany of laws. The VA’s financial systems have three material weaknesses and two significant deficiencies. This is leading VA to fall well short of the requirements outlined in the Federal Financial Management Improvement Act, the Payment Integrity Information Act and the Federal Information Security Management Act. The VA inspector general said VA also has five Antideficiency Act violations and two more that are pending. The cybersecurity material weakness has been a problem for more than two decades, while struggles with FFMIA have lasted for more than 10 years. The IG said improper payment problems have been a deficiency since 2015. Despite these ongoing challenges, VA said it received its 24th consecutive unmodified or clean audit opinion in 2022.

One provision was noticeably missing from the compromise version of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act. Leaders on the House and Senate Armed Service Committees removed language from the NDAA that would prevent the return of Schedule F. That was a Trump administration executive order that sought to make 50,000 feds at-will employees. Though it’s since been repealed, members of Congress have introduced the Preventing a Patronage System Act to ensure it doesn’t happen again. The bill was included in the draft versions of the NDAA, but didn’t make the final cut.

IBM continues its buying spree. Big Blue intends to buy Octo Consulting, a 1,500-person company in Reston, Virginia that provides digital transformation services. IBM did not disclose the amount of the deal. This is IBM’s eighth acquisition of 2022 and it has acquired more than 25 companies since 2020. Octo received more than $91 million in prime contract awards in fiscal 2021. Its biggest customers are the departments of Interior, Defense and Health and Human Services.

Lawmakers are taking a microscope to the hiring process at intelligence agencies. The annual defense bill would require intelligence agencies to tell Congress just how long it takes to onboard new employees in the intelligence community. The bill also requires agencies to ensure the median timeline stays below six months. Lawmakers have previously expressed concerns about intelligence agencies missing out on talented individuals who can’t wait around for a security clearance. The defense bill would also require a progress report on security clearance reforms being spearheaded by the Biden administration.

The National Archives and Records Administration may soon get more money to address its pandemic-era backlog. The compromise lawmakers reached on the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act would give NARA $60 million to address the backlog of veterans’ requests for military service records at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis. Those records are required for veterans to receive medical treatment, unemployment assistance and other benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. The Defense policy bill also gives NARA 60 days to come up with a plan to reduce the backlog, with the goal of processing 90% of claims in 20 days or less. (NDAA compromise gives NARA $60M to address veteran records backlog – Federal News Network)

Congress is backing a key program for agencies that uses cloud technologies. The compromise NDAA released this week includes the FedRAMP Authorization Act. The bill would authorize and update the Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program used by agencies to vet the security of cloud services. It would direct agencies to use metrics to measure the success of FedRAMP and also establish a Federal Secure Cloud Advisory Committee to help coordinate with industry.

Committee leadership changes continue in Congress. Rep. James Comer (R-Ky.), will serve as the next chairman of the Oversight and Reform Committee. Comer is currently the ranking member of the committee. Comer said finding waste, fraud and abuse in federal spending will be a priority of his as chairman, like reviewing the spending of pandemic relief funds.

The Biden administration is putting its plans for lower-emission federal buildings into focus. Its new Federal Building Performance Standard requires each agency to electrify 30% of its office space through energy efficient, cost-effective upgrades to equipment and appliances. The new standard is part of the administration’s goal of reaching net-zero emissions across the entire federal building portfolio by 2045 and reaching a 50% emissions reduction by 2032.

U.S. Central Command has a winner in its Innovation Oasis contest. Sgt.  Mickey Reeve of the Massachusetts Army National Guard developed his own counter-unmanned aerial system training software program. He is stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia, where he developed the system that can detect various types of drones in different environments. Reeve’s software mimics a specific environment as accurately as possible so that operators learn to stop drones in realistic settings. As the winner of the contest, Reve will get his first choice of a school for further training.