VA extends smoking ban to employees, irking union

In today's Federal Newscast, the Veterans Affairs Department's smoking ban at medical facilities now extends to its employees, something their union is not happ...

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  • No more smoking for employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs. VA said starting in October, its relatively new policy of restricting smoking by patients, visitors, volunteers, contractors and vendors, will also include VA employees at its health care facilities. VA said it wants to guarantee a fully smoke-free environment. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • That news is drawing the ire of the union that represents most agency employees. The American Federation of Government Employees said the department violated a 2008 agreement that set up designated smoking areas for employees at VA’s health care facilities. The union said the new smoking ban violates portions of its collective bargaining agreement, and it’s asking VA to rescind the smoking policy for AFGE bargaining employees. (American Federation of Government Employees)
  • The National Archives and Records Administration is combing through its files to help VA verify benefits claims for Vietnam War veterans. Later this month, NARA will digitize more than 20 million images from Navy and Coast Guard deck logs, which VA can then use to verify the military of service of people seeking benefits. The VA can then use those ship records to verify the military service of people seeking benefits. NARA will also make those ship records available to the public at (National Archives and Records Administration)
  • Five people are charged with identity-theft and fraud targeting service members and veterans. The Justice Department said one of them was an employee with the Army, in which he stole thousands of military members’ personal information, which he then gave to the other members of the scheme. DOJ, the Pentagon and VA are working together to notify service members and vets affected. (Department of Justice)
  • There’s a new executive in charge of privacy and transparency at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. Benjamin Huebner took over for Alex Joel as ODNI’s new chief of the Office of Civil Liberties, Privacy, and Transparency and Chief Transparency Officer. Huebner comes to ODNI after serving in a similar role for the CIA. He previously also served as counsel for intelligence to the assistant attorney general for national security at the Justice Department. Joel left ODNI in June and held the privacy, civil liberties and transparency position since 2005. (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
  • The chief of the U.S. Park Police is leaving the agency. Chief Robert D. MacLean told his staff yesterday he’ll depart for a law enforcement job elsewhere in the Interior Department. The departure was first reported by Fox 5 D.C. MacLean spent 26 years on the Park Police, six of them as chief. In November of 2017 Park Police officers shot and killed a man just off the GW Memorial Parkway, in a case the MacLean turned over to the FBI but has remained shrouded in silence.
  • After a year-and-a-half fight with Congress, the EPA has closed its Large Lakes Research Station in Grosse Ile, Michigan. About 20 emergency response employees will relocate on Monday to the agency’s vehicle emission testing lab in Ann Arbor. The EPA expects to save more than $500,000 each year by consolidating these facilities. (Environmental Protection Agency)
  • The Trump administration is calling the initial pilot of its Federal Cybersecurity Reskilling Academy a success. Most students in the academy’s first cohort earned two cybersecurity certifications. They graduated in July and had the highest success rate of any group that’s completed the cyber training program from the SANS Institute. Federal Chief Information Officer Suzette Kent said the CIO Council is exploring ways to place new reskilling graduates on cyber details, or in other similar positions throughout government. (Federal News Network)
  • The Census Bureau is getting a new cybersecurity executive just in time for the 2020 count. Beau Houser is leaving the Small Business Administration to join the Census Bureau as its chief information security officer. Houser will start his new position in mid-September. He spent almost two years at SBA shoring up the agency’s technology network and systems and leading innovative approaches to cybersecurity in the cloud. Houser replaced Jeff Ruland, who retired last September. Jeff Harris, SBA’s director of security operations, will be the acting CISO until the agency hires a new permanent executive.
  • Acting Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said the next 18-24 months are critical to the modernization of the service. He said the Army will be working a lot of prototypes that will need the patience and support of leadership, even when they fail. The Army is investing in 31 new systems to modernize the service. Those weapons will take up 80% of the Army’s science and technology budget and will account for more than half of the procurement budget by 2025. (Federal News Network)
  • U.S. Space Command will be up and running next week. That’s according to Vice President Mike Pence, who spoke to the National Space Council on Tuesday. The command will be in charge of operations and exercises in space. The command will also bring together space experts from all the military services to maintain U.S. interests in the domain. Air Force Gen. Jay Raymond is nominated to lead the command. There is still no news on where the headquarters will be based, however the command has components in both Colorado and California.
  • The agency that administers the Thrift Savings Plan is moving on to the next stage of the procurement process for a new record-keeping vendor. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board submitted a final request for proposals to minimally qualified vendors. The vendor will manage the people, processes and systems the agency uses to provide customer services to TSP participants. Records in this system will implement identity, credential and access management capabilities at the FRTIB. (Federal News Network)

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