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Emergency funding needed for IT, telework

Several federal agencies are in need of emergency funding to, in part, boost their ability to telework and expand IT operations during the coronavirus pandemic. The $45.8 billion in supplementary requests come in a new letter from the Office of Management and Budget sent to congressional leaders Wednesday. Tens of millions of dollars in the request would go directly to boosting IT services that would ease the strain on federal networks as agencies have moved to maximum telework capacity in recent days. On top of the telework support, some agencies need resources to scale IT operations in response to the pandemic. The Department of Veterans Affairs, for instance, has requested $1.2 billion to support expanded telehealth as the virus spreads. Also, the Treasury Department wants more funding to "enhance IRS information technology capacity to respond and interact with taxpayers." Jackson Barnett has more from the memo.

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OMB limits agencies to 'mission-critical' services

The Office of Management and Budget came out with its most aggressive orders yet telling agencies to minimize face-to-face interactions at government offices and sites to combat the spread of the coronavirus. Mission-critical public health and law enforcement functions aside, operations and services that can’t be performed remotely “may be postponed or curtailed,” Russell Vought, acting director of OMB, wrote in a memo issued Tuesday night. The guidance gives agency heads leeway to limit employees and teams to “higher priority” work. With many federal employees already working remotely, at the urging of OMB Sunday night, agencies are scrambling to ensure the workforce has the bandwidth and tools needs to complete work. This latest order will likely put added stress on that situation. Dave Nyczepir has more on OMB's guidance.

Blockchain, data science modernizing federal grants management

The National Science Foundation has had a breakthrough using tech to bolster how it processes grants proposals. NSF CIO Dorothy Aronson spoke with FedScoop about how the agency is using a creative mix of machine learning, blockchain technology and data science to better evaluate the more than 60,000 grant applications it receives each year. The idea is to give documents the equivalent of “digital fingerprints," Aronson said. “I’m fantasizing here, but if you’re a citizen, you could send any proposal for innovation to a single [government] location and it would be automatically distributed, or suggestions would be made, to various federal organizations,” she said. “We’re just starting off with little experiments. But there’s a lot of benefits that could come from this.” Wyatt Kash spoke with Aronson.

DOD names permanent head of new background check agency

The Department of Defense will soon have a permanent official to head its new security clearance agency. William Lietzau will start as director of the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA) at the end of the month, replacing Charlie Phalen Jr., who has been the acting director of the agency since July 2019. During that time, DCSA has consolidated about 95% of the federal background check and security clearance process under a single agency. Lietzau is currently director of the Pentagon's Office of Personnel Vetting Transformation. Jackson has more on Lietzau.

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