New tool to help contractors comply with federal workplace discrimination rules

In today's Federal Newscast, the Labor Department's Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has launched the Contractor Assistance Portal.

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  • Federal contractors have a new tool to ensure they’re complying with federal rules and regulations around workforce discrimination. The Labor Department’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs has launched the Contractor Assistance Portal. It’s a virtual online helpdesk to answer contractors’ questions and find reference materials. Labor said the Contractor Assistance Portal concept came from feedback during a series of town hall meetings starting in 2017. (Department of Labor)
  • The General Services Administration released an explainer to help agencies and vendors understand a big change that’s coming to federal contracting. GSA is planning on shutting down the website and moving all the data to the new portal in early fiscal 2020. Ahead of that major transition, the agency released a fact sheet to help federal customers and contractors know what to expect. GSA said the new contracting opportunities site will have seven major improvements, including a more user-friendly design and the ability to search for opportunities by number, keyword, or location through easy-to-use search filters. The current site is a relic of websites from the 1990s. (General Services Administration)
  • Contractors watch, with some nervousness, the possibility of a budget claw-back vote later this month. They expect the Trump administration to submit a package to Congress for rescission of $4 billion in 2019 foreign aid. The package is expected Aug. 20, just five weeks before the end of the fiscal year and while Congress is on recess. Members may not have time to vote the package up or down within the statutory 45 days. Contractors carry out many of the security, peacekeeping and food programs these funds pay for.
  • A small contracting firm reaches a False Claims Act settlement with the Justice Department. The company Classic Site Solutions reached a million-dollar settlement, after investigators from GSA and the Small Business Administration Inspector General offices found the company fraudulently certified as a HUBZone contractor, then competed for government contracts. SBA’s HUBZone program aims to give disadvantaged businesses a leg up in the federal contracting bidding process. (General Services Administration Office of Inspector General)
  • The Pentagon’s inspector general says it’s created a “multidisciplinary team” to examine alleged improprieties in DoD’s JEDI Cloud contract. In the IG’s first statement officially acknowledging the inquiry, the office says it’s brought together investigators, auditors and attorneys to look into possible ethics and other violations that were raised both by the Pentagon itself and by members of Congress. Officials say they’re looking into the entire acquisition process leading up to the solicitation for the up-to-$10 billion dollar contract, but that the probe has made “substantial progress.” The IG plans to write a report once the inquiry’s finished, but it’s not yet clear whether that document will become public. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department plans to spend more of its future funds on 5G research and development. Michael Griffin, DoD’s research and engineering undersecretary, says 5G is enormously important for the Pentagon’s future. Griffin says his office will also invest in microelectronics along with 5G. For the past year, Griffin’s office has focused on hypersonics technology growth. (Federal News Network)
  • Maxwell Air Force Base in Alabama becomes one of the early adopters of the service’s new medical squadron reorganization. The 42nd Aerospace Medicine Squadron split into two new organizations. The 42nd Operational Readiness Medical Squadron and the 42nd Health Care Operations Squadron. The goal is to assign one medical group to active-duty airmen on base to deal with operational and readiness health issues, while the other squadron will take care of families and be less military medicine focused. (Maxwell Air Force Base)
  • The American Federation of Government Employees is suing the Office of Special Counsel over recent Hatch Act guidance. AFGE said OSC’s November 2018 guidance on the Hatch Act illegally prohibits federal employees from expressing opinions on impeachment if words like “resist” or “resistance” are used. Attorneys at the American Oversight organization and law firm Arnold and Porter filed the suit on behalf of the union. They argue the OSC guidance is a violation of federal employees’ First Amendment rights. (American Oversight)
  • Tony Reardon won his re-election to be national president of the National Treasury Employees Union. He ran unopposed. This will be Reardon’s second term as national NTEU president. He’s been an NTEU member for 30 years. Jim Bailey was also re-elected to another term as national executive vice president. Union members held elections at NTEU’s 57th national convention this week. (National Treasury Employees Union)
  • Officials at the National Institute of Standards and Technology are looking to build a common foundation of cybersecurity best practices for Internet of Things devices. They say the upcoming baseline would build off some of the standards outlined in its cybersecurity framework, as well as its upcoming privacy framework. The agency’s IOT baseline would also serve as a jumping-off point for further industry-specific IOT standards. (Federal News Network)

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