Energy Department takes the title owning the fastest computer in the world

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86% of federal employees say the commute is a big concern for office reentry. In an exclusive Federal News Network survey, traveling to and from work was the most common concern for feds returning to the office. Many also said they’re worried about office safety…

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To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.

  • 86% of federal employees say the commute is a big concern for office reentry. In an exclusive Federal News Network survey, traveling to and from work was the most common concern for feds returning to the office. Many also said they’re worried about office safety measures and work-life balance. With more flexibility, no commute and limited distractions many say remote work is *more* productive than going into the office. Many survey respondents also say they want to maximize telework whenever possible. (Federal News Network)
  • A federal watchdog says the National Security Agency left itself vulnerable to contractor fraud during the height of the pandemic. The NSA Inspector General audited the spy agency’s handling of contractor reimbursements under the CARES Act. The IG found insufficient documentation in many cases, leading it to question $16.4 million in charges. That represented 40% of the CARES Act invoices sampled by the IG. The NSA reported a total of $917 million in CARES Act invoices.
  • A former travel clerk with the Department of Veterans Affairs pleads guilty to stealing almost $500,000 from the agency. Prosecutors charged Bruce Minor of Philadelphia with theft government funds, after they say he created fraudulent travel reimbursement claims in the names of at least three other VA employees. Prosecutors say he then diverted the funds into bank accounts he controlled. This happened between December 2015 and September 2019. The VA inspector general’s office conducted this investigation.
  • The Transportation Security Administration is grappling with a lack of diversity among its senior ranks. TSA expects to bring on a chief diversity equity and inclusion officer within the next month. The individual will be a member of the senior executive service and report directly to TSA Administrator David Pekoske. While more than half of TSA’s workforce are people of color, 53 out of the agency’s 66 federal security directors are white. The new DEI officer is expected to take a hard look at that disparity and spearhead recommendations from TSA’s Inclusion Action Committee. (Federal News Network)
  • A federal AI task force outlines ‘equitable future’ for research and development resources. The task force behind the National AI Research Resource (NAIRR) issues an interim report outlining how the AI data-and-research hub can put federal AI resources in the hands of more U.S. researchers. A final report is expected this November. Lynne Parker, the deputy U.S. chief technology officer and director of OSTP’s National AI Initiative Office, says the interim report marks the “first step toward a more equitable future for AI R&D in America, it’s a future where innovation can flourish, and the promise of AI can be realized in a way that benefits all Americans.” (Federal News Network)
  • Starting tomorrow, the Thrift Savings Plan will make 5,000 mutual funds available to participants. But some lawmakers are concerned about the implications of expanding investment options. Republican senators call on the Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board — the agency that manages TSP — to either cancel or postpone the mutual fund window. The senators ask the board to ensure no funds invest in “dangerous, noncompliant or opaque Chinese securities.” The board says no TSP participant is required to invest in any of the mutual funds.
  • There’s a new website that brings together all technology policies and laws in one place. The goal of the site is to help industry and federal employees become more knowledgeable on these topics and know where to look for answers. The portal breaks down the laws and policies by topic like cybersecurity or data, and by specific name of the mandate. It also provides quick information about the policy or law like name, who it applies to and a link to the official source document. This site was developed by a federal IT executive on his own time and isn’t affiliated with any one agency.
  • The Energy Department’s Oak Ridge National Lab is home to the world’s fastest supercomputer. The lab’s Computing Facility can achieve exascale computing on their Frontier System, meaning they can perform a quintillion calculations per second, that’s one billion, billion. Congressman Frank Lucas (R-Okla.) praised the accomplishment calling exascale the next generation of computing power and that it’s critical that the U.S. leads the way in this space. The U.S. is home to several other supercomputers in the top 10, including another at the Oak Ridge Lab, one at Lawrence Livermore National Lab and one at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.
  • Four key themes emerge about GSA’s commercial platform initiative. The next steps for the General Services Administration’s commercial platform initiative have not yet come into focus, but a few trends came to light. GSA released a request for information earlier this year seeking feedback on what other approaches could be tested. The RFI came after Congress mandated GSA consider other approaches to make it easier for agencies to buy products and services from commercial platforms. One of the findings highlighted industry’s ability to provide different operating models that meet goals like timely product delivery with real-time purchase tracking and rapid response customer service.
  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says 87% of people who drank water contaminated by the Red Hill Bulk Fuel Storage Facility in Hawaii experienced new or worsening symptoms. The self-reporting survey show people suffering from headaches, stomach issues, breathing issues and skin problems. Red Hill leaked jet fuel into Hawaii’s drinking water late last fall.
  • After a year of record suicides, the Defense Department is looking for ways to beef up its mental health resources. The Pentagon’s top health official says the military is starting a new program that will match mental health staffing with demand. The Defense Department wants to add mental health counselors, therapists and other professionals to its ranks in the coming years. DoD wants to significantly increase its telehealth visits and lower the approvals for people on TRICARE to get mental health services. Patients are waiting a little less than two weeks for mental health evaluations, though some waits can be longer than a month.