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What's old is new again

As government unemployment systems struggle to process millions of new claims due to the coronavirus pandemic, IBM and the Linux Foundation are offering assistance to states in scaling state IT systems built on COBOL, the once-common but now-arcane programming language that still powers many government benefit programs. The U.S. has seen nearly 17 million people file for unemployment in the last three weeks as the coronavirus pandemic closes non-essential businesses, and officials like New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy have publicly called for help from COBOL programmers who can scale state IT systems to meet growing traffic. Working with the Linux Foundation, IBM last week launched employment and volunteer forum and a technical forum where COBOL programmers can be matched with state agencies struggling to keep their aging infrastructure from collapsing under an unprecedented surge of requests. Ryan Johnston has more.

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Google builds a website for government — for real

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Thursday that he’s simultaneously managing stresses to the state’s health care system and mitigating threats to an economy increasingly composed of unemployed residents. In New York, as in many other states, this has largely meant ensuring that the government’s aging computer systems can withstand the barrage of applications for unemployment benefits. Cuomo said that the state's Labor Department, which has logged more than 810,000 new unemployment claims since March 9, worked with Google to launch a new website to handle the surge in requests for economic assistance. Cuomo aide Melissa DeRosa said that as many as 200,000 of those applications had gone unprocessed because of overwhelmed computer systems and a shortage of operators at call centers. “Look, the technology at the Department of Labor, the system just crashed because of the volume,” Cuomo said. Colin Wood has more.

Room for improvement

The DOD still needs to sharpen the basic cybersecurity skills of its workforce to defend against the most common and pervasive cybersecurity risks, according to a new Government Accountability Office report. The report details the department missing several deadlines to implement a variety of cybersecurity initiatives and a critical lack of accountability among DOD leadership for cyber hygiene. The watchdog recommends that the CIO take action to implement previous recommendations and find better ways of ensuring participation in cyber training. The report said without “decisive action,” the DOD is left with a substantial risk of a successful cyberattack. Jackson Barnett has more.

House balks at electronic fixes

Speaker of the House Rep. Nancy Pelosi remains opposed to remote hearings and voting during the coronavirus pandemic. With social distancing in place, it means the House's legislative efforts have effectively skidded to a halt. The chamber continues to hold twice-weekly, in-person pro forma sessions while the larger body is on recess. But those meetings do not allow official House business, and are attended by only a handful of members or less. That said, Pelosi did recently welcome staff members to begin electronically submitting all floor documents to a “dedicated and secure” email system for the chamber's consideration. Dave Nyczepir has more.

A new DOD workforce

The Department of Defense has taken rapid measures to deliver better network capabilities to its teleworking workforce during the coronavirus pandemic. And now that those measures are in place, many of them are here to stay, a pair of top DOD IT officials said Monday. “The way we work has changed dramatically,” said DOD CIO Dana Deasy. He later added: “There is going to be an enhanced teleworking capability that will be sustained at the end of COVID-19.” Deasy and Lt. Gen. Bradford Shwedo, CIO for the Joint Chiefs of Staff, delivered updates on the military's move to telework Monday, highlighting how quickly the large department has been able to rise to the occasion. “It is a different type of war, but it is war none the less,” Shwedo said. Jackson Barnett has more.

Job of the Day

Deputy CISO | Election Assistance Commission

The Deputy Chief Information Security Officer provides policy, leadership and direction, and serves as a key contributor to the EAC's strategy regarding achieving mission goals; ensuring that all IT functions are integrated, prioritized and executed within agency priorities and allocated resources; and working closely with EAC's service providers. Apply here.

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