An Army contracting officer is facing up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine after pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy and 10 counts of theft of government funds. The Justice Department said Thomas Bouchard of Uxbridge, Massachusetts, will be sentenced in June. Bouchard was a contracting officer for the U.S. Army Natick Contracting Division in Massachusetts, and between 2014 and 2018, used a relationship with a contractor to get co-defendant Chantelle Boyd a no-show job. The two also took as many as 31 government-paid trips to Orlando together. Boyd’s no-show job cost DoD more than $490,000, for which she performed little if any useful work.

The Department of Veterans Affairs’ new Electronic Health Record has hit another snag. The Oracle-Cerner EHR running at five VA sites experienced a systemwide outage for more than three hours on Tuesday. Clinicians treating patients reported the system running slowly and freezing. The outage also affected the Defense Department and Coast Guard. The outage occured just days after the VA announced an indefinite pause of the EHR rollout until it fixes problems at sites already using the Oracle-Cerner system. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said the pause will likely alter the agency’s fiscal 2024 budget request for nearly $2 billion for the system. “The bottom line is, I think it stands to reason, that that request will look different,” McDonough said.

The Government Accountability Office named 37 high-risk areas, but more than half of them come from the same problem. Critical skills gaps at agencies are a root cause for many federal challenges, including broad ones like cybersecurity. Comptroller General Gene Dodaro said agencies not having enough people, or not having the right kind of people, is negatively impacting 22 of GAO’s high-risk list items. Strategic human capital management — or the ability for agencies to address these skills gaps — has remained a high risk for more than 20 years.

The FedRAMP program has hit a major milestone. The number of authorized cloud service providers (CSPs) reached more than 300 under the Federal Risk Authorization Management program (FedRAMP). This milestone caps off continued growth over the last two years. Of the 304 total authorized CSPs, agencies have done the bulk of them, approving 252 with the Joint Authorization Board sanctioning the rest. FedRAMP has seen a 50% increase in the number of cloud services providers in process, as well as a 50% increase in the number of CSPs authorized to work at the high-impact level.

Customs and Border Protection is spearheading a new homeland security initiative to leverage artificial intelligence. DHS’s new AI Task Force is considering how artificial intelligence can be used to screen cargo coming into the United States. Earlier this month, CBP released a solicitation seeking anomaly-detection algorithms that could be embedded in its screening systems. “All those billions and billions of packages coming in, we want AI/ML to tell us which container to look at,” CBP Chief Information Officer Sonny Bhagowalia said. A key goal of the CBP program is to speed up processing times at ports of entry while also improving security.

Lawmakers are reviving a bill that would withhold the salaries of federal employees who don’t pay their taxes. Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) reintroduced the Federal Employees and Retirees with Delinquent Tax Debt Initiative, known as the FERDI Act. Braun said the legislation aims to hold feds more accountable. This is the third time he has introduced the bill. The FERDI Act is co-sponsored by Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa).

The Air Force plans a multi-part strategy to fix its pilot shortage. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Wednesday, Air Force officials said they plan to offer more bonuses and incentives to recruits. And to retain pilots, training programs will be expanded. The Air Force fell about 1,900 pilots short of its goal for manned aircraft last year, which represented a greater deficit than the previous year. In part, the continuing shortage is caused by competition from commercial airlines and a shortage of flight instructors.

The Air Force has a new way to get top cybersecurity talent into its ranks. The Cyber Direct Commissioning Program allows experienced cyber professionals to commission at a rank commensurate with their experience. The Air Force adopted the program to fix a shortage in its cyber workforce. Qualified subject matter experts fill the ranks of lieutenant to colonel to meet current mission needs by using a system called Constructive Service Credit. A new officer’s rank-at-commissioning would be based on experience and college degrees, without a requirement of prior military service.

The National Institute of Standards and Technology is seeking comment on draft guidelines for organizations moving to quantum-safe cryptography. NIST said the document will demonstrate automated tools for identifying potentially vulnerable public-key algorithms. It is the latest step in the migration to post-quantum cryptography. Agencies have been directed, by this May, to compile an inventory of information systems that would be vulnerable to quantum decryption. NIST is also working to finalize standards for quantum-resistant cryptographic algorithms.

The Department of Veterans Affairs is getting new leadership to oversee benefits. The Senate confirmed Joshua Jacobs to serve as Under Secretary for Benefits, after holding the job in an acting capacity. The VA said this is the first time since 2014 that it has Senate-confirmed leadership at the Veterans Benefits Administration, Veterans Health Administration, and the National Cemetery Administration. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) had put a hold on Jacobs’ nomination and sought answers about claims of whistleblower retaliation at the agency.