federal

Federal Contractors Argue Cyber Insurance Isn’t a Safe Bet for Better Security

A broad range of federal contractors fear a watchdog report on the government’s role facilitating coverage of cybersecurity risks—included in the House-passed National Defense Authorization Act—will lead to a mandate that their companies hold related insurance policies.

In a recent letter to leaders of the House and Senate Armed Services committees, the Professional Services Council opposed a provision in the House bill calling for the Government Accountability Office to produce recommendations after studying the state of the insurance industry and the extent to which it’s tied to minimum standards for cybersecurity.

The provision—Sec. 1710A—doesn’t require federal contractors to have cyber insurance policies, but it is grouped together in the letter with a number of other proposals around cyber threat hunting and intelligence sharing that are based on recommendations of the public-private, nonpartisan, congressionally established Cyberspace Solarium Commission. 

The commission’s lawmakers—who represent the political spectrum—are trying to get as many of its recommendations as possible to survive conference negotiations and make it into the final annual defense authorization bill.  

“PSC appreciates the extensive work of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and believes that the report and many of its recommendations will significantly improve cybersecurity and cyber hygiene,” the group wrote. “That said, the inclusion of these specific provisions would require significant contractor community investments while providing few if any benefits to cybersecurity.” 

The commission proposes a whole new ecosystem of government and government-adjacent structures based on its preference for financial incentives instead of regulatory mandates. For at least a decade, policy makers on both sides of the aisle have posited that given a boost, cybersecurity insurance could perform the same role of government regulations in improving organizations’ cybersecurity practices. One way they saw of helping the market along, then and now, is to use the government’s purchasing power. 

“Insurers will require a

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Some states raising doubts about federal tests sent to nursing homes

Several states have curtailed using coronavirus testing equipment in nursing homes that was provided by the Trump Administration after concerns were raised about the results, including false positives that risk mistakenly sending vulnerable seniors into special COVID isolation wings that could ultimately expose them to the virus.



a plastic bag: A medical center worker holds an antibody tests kit in White Plains, N.Y., April 29, 2020.


© View Press/Corbis via Getty Images, FILE
A medical center worker holds an antibody tests kit in White Plains, N.Y., April 29, 2020.

Since July, the administration had been rushing out the machines from manufacturers Becton, Dickinson and Company and Quidel to more than 14,000 facilities around the country in an attempt to identify outbreaks faster and stem the tide of the virus, which has taken a particular toll on the elderly, especially those in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

“We have a real crisis around testing,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We don’t have the capacity to supply every facility with … the more reliable and accurate tests and the tests we do have are not accurate and unreliable.”

The machines process cheaper-to-produce kits known as antigen tests — which can yield results in 15 minutes. While other diagnostic tests for COVID-19 like PCR tests look for genetic material from the virus, antigen tests look for molecules on the surface of the virus, diagnosing an active coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests.

Although they are not perfect, many experts view these tests as an important component in the effort to fight COVID-19. The rapid turnaround time means they can be used in bulk to screen dozens of people in quick succession, with any potentially positive cases later confirmed with a more accurate PCR test. These are the tests, for instance, that the

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Some states raising doubts about federal tests sent to nursing homes, citing shaky reliability

Several states have curtailed using coronavirus testing equipment in nursing homes that was provided by the Trump Administration after concerns were raised about the results, including false positives that risk mistakenly sending vulnerable seniors into special COVID isolation wings that could ultimately expose them to the virus.

Since July, the administration had been rushing out the machines from manufacturers Becton, Dickinson and Company and Quidel to more than 14,000 facilities around the country in an attempt to identify outbreaks faster and stem the tide of the virus, which has taken a particular toll on the elderly, especially those in nursing homes and other assisted living facilities.

“We have a real crisis around testing,” said Dr. Michael Osterholm, an epidemiologist and director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy at the University of Minnesota. “We don’t have the capacity to supply every facility with … the more reliable and accurate tests and the tests we do have are not accurate and unreliable.”

The machines process cheaper-to-produce kits known as antigen tests — which can yield results in 15 minutes. While other diagnostic tests for COVID-19 like PCR tests look for genetic material from the virus, antigen tests look for molecules on the surface of the virus, diagnosing an active coronavirus infection faster than molecular tests.

Although they are not perfect, many experts view these tests as an important component in the effort to fight COVID-19. The rapid turnaround time means they can be used in bulk to screen dozens of people in quick succession, with any potentially positive cases later confirmed with a more accurate PCR test. These are the tests, for instance, that the White House requires everyone to take before they enter the complex.

MORE: Faster, cheaper COVID-19 tests in danger of creating blindspot in data collection

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More than $1.5M in federal funds to go to improvements at parks on Oahu, Kauai and Maui

  • STAR-ADVERTISER / 2015
                                Beachgoers enjoyed Waimanalo Beach Park on Oahu. Hawaii is set to receive more than $1.5 million in federal funding to support improvements to city and state parks on Oahu, Kauai and Maui, according to U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.

    STAR-ADVERTISER / 2015

    Beachgoers enjoyed Waimanalo Beach Park on Oahu. Hawaii is set to receive more than $1.5 million in federal funding to support improvements to city and state parks on Oahu, Kauai and Maui, according to U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.

Hawaii is set to receive more than $1.5 million in federal funding to support improvements to city and state parks on Oahu, Kauai and Maui, according to U.S. Sen. Mazie K. Hirono.

The funding comes from the Land and Water Conservation Fund.

On Oahu, a total of $653,036 has been awarded to the City and County of Honolulu to update playgrounds and make other renovations at Geiger Community Park, Lanakila District Park, Aina Koa Neighborhood Park and Waimanalo Beach Park.

On Kauai, a total of $500,000 has been awarded to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources to make improvements to walkways, parking areas, and other facilities at Fort Elizabeth State Historical Park, and on Maui, another $500,000 for additional accessibility routes and restroom upgrades at Makena State Park.

“Hawaii has benefited from more than $260 million in funds from the Land and Water Conservation Fund over the last five decades,” said Hirono, a member of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee, in a news release. “We know how vital our outdoor spaces have been during this pandemic. Funding these projects across our state will keep these parks well maintained so they can continue to be enjoyed.”

In June, Hirono voted to pass the Great American Outdoors Act, bipartisan legislation to address the National Park Service deferred maintenance backlog, and permanently and fully fund the LWCF.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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Federal Official Threatens Nevada for Halting Rapid Tests in Nursing Homes

The leader of the nation’s coronavirus testing efforts condemned Nevada’s health department on Friday for ordering nursing homes to discontinue two brands of government-issued rapid coronavirus tests that the state had found to be inaccurate.

“Bottom line, the recommendations in the Nevada letter are unjustified and not scientifically valid,” Adm. Brett Giroir, an assistant secretary of Health and Human Services, said in a call with reporters on Friday. The state’s actions, he said, were “unwise, uninformed and unlawful” and could provoke unspecified swift punitive action from the federal government if not reversed.

The rapid tests, which were distributed to nursing homes around the country in August by the federal government, were supposed to address the months of delays and equipment shortages that had stymied laboratory-based tests.

“The important issue is to keep seniors safe,” Admiral Giroir said in an interview on Friday. Antigen tests, he added, were “lifesaving instruments” that had been called “godsends” by some nursing home representatives. About 40 percent of the country’s known Covid-19 deaths came from nursing homes, according to a New York Times analysis.

But Nevada officials had discovered a rash of false positives among two types of rapid tests, manufactured by Quidel and Becton, Dickinson and Company, that had been used in the state’s nursing homes. Both tests look for antigens, or bits of coronavirus proteins, and had been advertised as producing no false positives.

Among a sample of 39 positive test results collected from nursing homes across the state, 23 turned out to be false positives, the state reported. (The bulletin did not specify whether negative results from the antigen tests, of which there were thousands, had been confirmed, leaving the number of false negatives unknown.)

“I would consider that to be a significant number of false positives,” said Omai Garner, a clinical

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