Bills to protect federal employees, interns from sexual harassment pass House

In today's Federal Newscast, bills to improve agency oversight of sexual harassment and give federal interns the same protection as employees pass the House.

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  • The House passed two bills to protect federal interns and employees from discrimination and sexual harassment. The Federal Employee Antidiscrimination Act would require federal equal employment opportunity programs operate independently of human resources and general counsel offices. Agencies would also be required to establish a system for tracking each complaint of discrimination. If they find it does take place, they then would refer them to the Office of Special Counsel. The intern protection act would give interns the same protections as federal employees. Both bills head to the Senate now.
  • President Trump signs legislation guaranteeing back pay for furloughed and excepted employees during the government shutdown. The Government Employee Fair Treatment Act also instructs payroll providers to start processing checks as soon as the government reopens, regardless of the next scheduled pay period. The new law would also restore annual leave to excepted employees after the shutdown ends. (Federal News Network)
  • A group of 33 Senate Democrats want the Office of Management and Budget to find a way to ensure back pay for low-wage and middle-income federal contractors after the government shutdown ends. Senators wrote to acting OMB Director Russell Vought, asking it to help agencies modify the terms of their contracts to provide back pay for contractor employees. Senators fear contractors will look for other jobs if they don’t get back pay after the shutdown. (Sen. Chris Van Hollen)
  • Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue announces USDA is temporarily reopening many Farm Service Agency offices. It’s recalling about 2,500 FSA employees to work today, Friday and next Tuesday. Perdue said they’re needed to assist farmers and ranchers with existing farm loans and to provide proper tax documents. (U.S. Department of Agriculture)
  • There will be a legal review into the General Services Administration’s lease with the Trump Hotel. The agency’s inspector general made the recommendation, saying the agency ignored the Constitution’s emoluments clause when it approved the Trump Organization’s lease for the Old Post Office site in Washington. GSA’s general counsel said it’ll also follow the IG’s recommendations about the lease “in the future.” (Federal News Network)
  • GSA looks to ramp up its work on robotic process automation, or RPA. Ed Burrows, a senior adviser to GSA’s chief financial officer said the agency has stood up 10 RPA bots since February 2018. On average, it’s been releasing a new one each month, and aims to have 25 bots developed before the end of fiscal 2019. (Federal News Network)
  • More details emerge about GSA’s plans for an $8 billion contract. The Defense Enterprise Office Solutions or DEOS program will be a single award blanket purchase agreement. The General Services Administration detailed its acquisition strategy to provide DoD with back-office services in the cloud on Tuesday. GSA said on FedBizOpps that it will release the draft request for quotes on Schedule 70 by Jan. 31. It will then release the final RFQ in late February or early March. GSA and OMB said DEOS will be a model for civilian agencies to follow with its cloud smart email program. (FedBizOpps)
  • Housing and Urban Development Deputy Secretary Pam Patenaude is due to leave the agency today after disagreeing with the Trump administration’s decision to block recovery funds to Puerto Rico. Patenaude told the Washington Post her reasons for leaving are personal though. She submitted her resignation on Dec. 17. (Washington Post)
  • Top Army and Navy officials said their services have nearly restored readiness, after years of saying it was slipping, Army Chief of Staff Mark Milley said modest growth, increased training and new equipment have the service prepared for the global threats of today. Similarly, Vice Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Bill Moran said his service is on a better trajectory as it makes a dent in its maintenance backlog. (Federal News Network)
  • The Navy extended its contract with General Dynamics IT to support the Naval Enterprise Network for as much as 16 more months. The one-base contract with a four-month option will continue IT services as the Navy transitions to the Next Generation Enterprise Network, which provides new features and faster IT service. The contract could be worth up to one hundred and sixty eight million dollars through May 2020.
  • The Navy is dipping its toe into the world of commercial multi-factor authentication. As part of a new beta test, the Navy is letting sailors access their personnel records via a mobile app that verifies their identities with commercial technologies. It’s the first time sailors have been able to access those sorts of records without using DoD’s Common Access Card. The Navy said the MyRecord app will operate in read-only mode for now, but developers will continue to improve it based on sailor feedback during the beta test. (Department of the Navy)
  • A Georgia man was arrested for plotting to use an anti-tank rocket to storm into the White House. The FBI said Hasher Jallal Taheb was arrested after trading his car for guns and explosives. A source told the agency he was looking to carry out an attack on the White House and the Statue of Liberty. (WTOP)
  • Health and Human Services claimed a victory in the never-ending battle against identity theft. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said it’s sent out millions of new Medicare cards, with no Social Security Numbers. 61 million to be exact, three months ahead of a deadline imposed by Congress. Instead of the SSN, the new cards have another randomly-generated, alpha-numeric string CMS calls the Medicare Beneficiary Identifier. Officials said half of incoming claims use the identifier.

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