A federal court in Texas sentenced retired Air Force Brig. Gen. Scott Bethel to 12 months in prison for wire fraud and filing a false tax return. Bethel retired from active duty in 2012 and started working both as an adviser to the Air Force and for a government contractor. During that time, Betel falsified records for government reimbursements and recorded false charitable contributions to avoid paying taxes. In addition to the prison sentence, he was ordered to pay $154,000 in restitution for unpaid taxes and reimbursements improperly charged to the government.

The Postal Service vows there will not be any employee layoffs as part of an ongoing network consolidation. USPS said its workforce won’t see layoffs and the public won’t see post office closures as part of its plan to build Sorting-and-Delivery Centers (S&DC) across the country. Those centers will bring mail processing and mail delivery operations all under one roof. USPS opened its first S&DC last fall in Athens, Georgia and opened another five centers this year. USPS is now two years into a 10-year reform effort and said even after years of net losses, it is still on-track to fully break even by 2030.

The Office of Personnel Management has an opportunity to help agencies looking to hire political appointees. A new law requiring OPM to create an online roster of political appointees can help agencies better identify those who apply for career positions. Agencies must receive OPM approval before appointing these applicants to a permanent civil service job, a practice commonly called “burrowing.” But agency leaders have historically had trouble identifying which job applicants were formerly political appointees. To clear up confusion, the Government Accountability Office said OPM should help agencies use the new online resource, called the PLUM book, once it is available.

The Interior Department has joined the growing movement to reach the next generation of cloud services. The Interior Department is developing a new contract for cloud-hosting services and wants to open it up to all agencies. It released the draft solicitation for the Foundation Cloud Hosting Services 2 (FCHS2) multiple-award contract. The proposed 10-year vehicle seeks innovative vendors to act as system integrators to improve business processes and enable services across multiple platforms. Interior joins the General Services Administration and the Agriculture Department as early cloud adopters moving to the next generation of cloud services. Interior awarded the first version of FCHS in 2013.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is previewing a crucial tool for ensuring the government uses secure software. CISA is seeking comment on a new secure software development attestation form that will be used across the federal government. CISA published the common form yesterday. Agencies are expected to use the form before procuring any commercial software. It requires vendors to attest to following secure development practices published by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. CISA is accepting comments on the form through June 26.

Lawmakers are turning up the heat on the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for more information about what they are doing to lower their improper payment rate. House Oversight and Accountability Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) and Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) wrote to CMS Administrator Chiquita Brooks-LaSure seeking answers to the same five questions they had in April 2022. Comer and Johnson said they were not satisfied with the answers CMS provided in June of that year. They said while the improper payment rate dropped in 2022 to over $80 billion, it is still too high and may be under reported, as a result of eligibility errors. The lawmakers want answers from CMS by May 11.

The Veterans Benefits Administration is gearing up for another record-breaking year for claims processed. So far this fiscal year, VBA has received 31% more benefits claims than in the year prior. But last week, VBA processed more than 9,000 claims in a single day, a new record for the agency. VBA has more than 28,000 employees, its largest workforce ever. The agency’s workforce has grown by 15% over the past year and a half.

The Office of Personnel Management is amending its guidance on hiring for certain types of term appointments. Required OPM approval of political appointees that agencies want to hire for career positions also applies to newly available temporary positions. The announcement was made after OPM finalized regulations for term hires in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM. As of January, agencies are now able to make 10-year appointments for STEM-related jobs.

The Department of Homeland Security is turning to several startup companies to help advance software security efforts. DHS’s Science and Technology Directorate awarded other transaction agreements to seven companies for software supply chain visibility tools. The awards were coordinated by S & T’s Silicon Valley Innovation Program. The companies will work together to develop tools, including a Software Bill of Materials translator. The goal is to use SBOMs to better understand risks and vulnerabilities in software products.

Two Georgia-based soldiers invented a solution for fixing mold issues in Army barracks before the problem starts. 1st Lt. Chris Aliperti and Pvt. Salem Ezz won the Dragon Lair 8 innovation competition in Tampa, Florida for their mold-conditions awareness tool. The device records temperature and humidity conditions that could lead to mold. The results can be monitored with a cell phone or computer. The Army is beta testing the device at Fort Stewart’s barracks in Georgia. The designers hope to get a patent for their invention.