FCW Insider: December 10, 2021

The latest news and analysis from FCW's reporters and editors.

Vaccination rates tick up slightly among federal employees

The number of vaccinated feds has increased, although there are still thousands of pending exception and extension requests to the mandate.

Pentagon adds new top AI role

The Pentagon is creating a new position to lead its artificial intelligence efforts across the enterprise.

The Biden war on administrative burdens

Steven Kelman calls attention to new efforts to reduce red tape.

ICYMI: Biden executive order calls for 65% drop in federal government emissions by 2030

A new White House executive order looks to leverage the purchasing power of the federal government to support clean energy goals, and sets ambitious targets for a carbon neutral government by 2050.

Quick Hits

*** Kurt DelBene, the former senior Microsoft executive who is the Biden administration’s pick to lead tech at the Department of Veterans Affairs, said at his Senate confirmation hearing on Wednesday that VA could have a role to play in helping bring a new level of accuracy to the Federal Communications Commission’s much-disputed broadband maps. Those maps will help determine the distribution of $65 billion in funding under recent infrastructure legislation to areas identified as in need of higher broadband speeds.

DelBene, under questioning from Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), said that VA’s telemedicine use could serve as a proxy for broadband access.

“Basically, look at where we have gaps in service, where we can’t go in in telehealth, and contrast that with where the map is and identify those places where maybe a change in the priority needs to exist so we can get that coverage,” DelBene said.

DelBene also told lawmakers that his appointment for one of the few CIO jobs in government requiring Senate confirmation grew out of his previous relationship with VA Secretary Denis McDonough. DelBene worked on the 2014 push to fix the troubled HealthCare.gov website during the Obama administration when McDonough was White House chief of staff.

*** The House of Representatives passed the Protecting Our Democracy Act by a vote of 220 to 208 on Thursday. The package includes a measure intended to increase the independence of inspectors general with a provision that they only be removed for-cause. The bill also has provisions meant to strengthen whistleblower protections and others to bolster enforcement of the Hatch Act, which prevents certain executive branch officials from politicking on the job.

*** Digital vaccine credentials and exposure notification apps have unrealized promise in helping track the progression of COVID-19 and individuals’ safe integration into society, according to Government Accountability Office research on the efforts to date. GCN has more on this story.