FCW Insider: Aug. 15

News, analysis and other updates from FCW's reporters and editors.

Steve Kelman looks at how the Coding it Forward program is building opportunities for budding government techies -- especially in the burgeoning field of data science.

Officials from the Departments of Homeland Security, Justice and State agree that hybrid infrastructure is the answer for the foreseeable future. Troy K. Schneider reports on the stubborn persistence of federal data centers.

Blockchain is a buzzy tech term with unclear application to government agencies, but at the Department of Health and Human Services, CIO Jose Arrieta is using the distributed ledger technology to support an acquisition system designed to deliver price transparency and discounts to government buyers. Mark Rockwell has more.

The Trump administration won an appeal overturning a lower court verdict that blocked the implementation of three workforce-related executive orders that limited union "official time" and made it easier to fire federal employees. But the orders can't go into effect, according to an injunction issued Aug. 14 by the same court that decided in favor of the administration. Adam Mazmanian explains.

Quick Hits

*** The Department of Energy released a new draft of its Cybersecurity Capability Maturity Model for public comment Aug. 14, unveiling a number of updates and revisions designed to make the guidance more relevant to a broader swath of organizations. The newest version incorporates guidance from cybersecurity-focused Executive Orders 13800 and 13636 and, unlike previous iterations, was developed to focus on descriptive (not prescriptive) advice. The department removed all sector-specific references and terminology from the document in the hopes that it will be more widely adopted.

"The model content is presented at a high level of abstraction so it can be interpreted by organizations of various types, structures, sizes, and industries," the document reads. It also attempts to better align with the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Cybersecurity Framework, includes more feedback and involvement from stakeholders in government, industry and academia and is designed to be rapidly and easily adopted by energy-sector organizations.

Public comments and feedback are due by Sept. 13.

*** U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service released a rule change taking effect Oct. 15 that puts sharp restrictions on legal U.S. residents seeking citizenship and immigrants seeking legal status based on their anticipated use of social safety net programs. This category of inadmissibility is called "public charge."

Acting USCIS Director Ken Cuccinelli drew criticism when he suggested in an interview with National Public Radio that the poem inscribed on the Statue of Liberty should be redrafted to read, "give me your tired and your poor who can stand on their own two feet, and who will not become a public charge."

The new policy also drew criticism from state, local and institutional officials, who noted that the new policy will create unfunded mandates involving the reprogramming of IT, hospital admission forms and work processes.

In the lengthy rule text which includes a discussion of public comments, it was noted that application and intake websites are not equipped to process the new rule and that some are designed to expressly note that applications for public assistance will not impact immigration. Another commentator proposed delaying the implementation of the rule because the 60 days institutions have to prepare does not allow enough time for public agencies and others to contract for reprogramming services or train workers to explain the policy changes to service recipients.

The Department of Homeland Security, USCIS' parent agency said it agrees that "some entities may incur costs related to the changes commenters identified and describes these costs in the economic analysis based on the data provided by commenters" but doesn't have answers for how to pay for those costs. DHS also is standing firm on the 60-day implementation.