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An effort to reclassify transportation security officers as Title 5 employees is moving forward. The House Homeland Security Committee passed the Rights for Transportation Security Officers Act. The bill would move screeners at the Transportation Security Administration under the General Schedule. The move would likely mean pay and salary increases for TSA workers. Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) says implementing the bill will cost around $700-million over five years. But higher salaries will help TSA better recruit and retain top talent. The bill now heads to the House for a vote. (House Homeland Security Committee)
The House Homeland Security Committee has also approved two bills aimed at reforming the Homeland Security’s Department Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. The Cybersecurity Vulnerability Identification and Notification Act would give the agency administrative subpoena power. That authority would require internet service providers to turn over contact information for entities that CISA has identified as having critical cyber vulnerabilities. The committee also passed a bill that would limit the tenure of the CISA director to five years. (House Homeland Security Committee)
A bipartisan group of senators is trying to honor the first African American to serve as the secretary of Transportation. Members of the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee are leading an effort to change the name of the Transportation headquarters to recognize William Coleman, Jr.’s accomplishments. While at DOT, Coleman spearheaded the first comprehensive national transportation policy study and led multiple reform efforts. He also argued 19 cases before the Supreme Court, including Brown versus the Board of Education. (Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee)
The House will vote next week on a bill to repeal the Postal Service’s mandate to pre-fund health benefits for future retirees. The USPS Fairness Act, if passed, would undo one of the central provisions in the 2006 Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act. The bill, introduced by Congressman Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.), now has more than 300 co-sponsors and the support of the postal unions.
Lawmakers will need to watch what they post. The House Ethics Committee has sent out a memo, warning members of congress about posting fake videos or pictures or “deepfakes” to their social media accounts. Doing so could warrant a violation of the Code of Official Conduct for misleading the public. They also remind members that they are held responsible for the actions of the people who work for them inside and outside the capitol. So they should ensure their staff are complying with this rule as well.
The Office of Special Counsel called out a Merit Systems Protection Board judge. The judge denied a retaliation claim because the Homeland Security Department employee first complained to the computer security incident response center, instead of to the inspector general or the OSC. But the OSC says the judge misinterpreted an amendment to the whistleblower law that was meant to widen the scope of places to which whistleblowers can bring their claims. (Office of Special Counsel)
The Tennessee Valley Authority is reducing the size of its technology staff by 108 people over the next few months. A TVA spokeswoman confirmed the agency told its IT staff that it would be handing out notices of a reduction in force or RIFs sometime between April and June. TVA says it hasn’t changed its IT management model since 1989, making the goal of the RIFs more about modern practices and less about cost savings. In late 2019, TVA also laid off 12 employees from the IT staff bringing the total number of RIFs to 120 people by the middle of this year. The Chattanooga Times Free Press first reported the decision to reduce staff.
210 U.S. evacuees are residing at March Air Reserve Base in California after they fled China in the wake of the Coronavirus outbreak. The Defense Department says the base stands ready to support Health and Human Services as they handle the evacuees, which include State Department employees. DoD says the support will not harm readiness. If any of the evacuees show signs of illness, HHS has procedures to transport them to a local civilian hospital.
There may be a change coming to the way combatant commands are classified. Combatant commands are military organizations in charge of domains or areas of responsibility. The military may update its Unified Command Plan to change the classification of functional and geographic combatant commands to just combatant commands. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten says the term functional command caused morale issues by assuming troops were a function of other commands and not part of the warfighting mission. He says the terms also cause confusion when multiple commands are supporting each other in integrated global exercises. (Federal News Network)
The Pentagon released more updates as part of a broader effort to rewrite its key acquisition policies. DoD publicly released a new version of its core acquisition guidebook – DoD Instruction 5000.02. The department says it’s meant to move Defense procurement toward what officials are calling an “Adaptive Acquisition Framework” that matches an acquisition strategy with the product or service the military is buying. Most of the documents that outline those specific pathways are still works in progress, but DoD has published guidelines on a few of them, including service acquisition and business IT systems.
Wall Street analysts say Microsoft’s win of the Pentagon’s JEDI Cloud contract played a role in higher-than-expected earnings in the firm’s cloud portfolio. The company reported fiscal second-quarter profit of $11.6 billion, up 36% from the same period last year. None of that revenue is directly tied to the JEDI contract, but analysts say it was a “game changer” in how its cloud offerings are perceived amongst government agencies and companies. (Federal News Network)
The Army has picked 20 companies to move to the next level of its xTechSearch 4.0 out of a field of 48 businesses. The competition is focused on finding American tech entrepreneurs and small businesses with defense and commercial applications. The 20 companies are moving on to the third phase of the competition and will receive $5,000. The final winner will be selected in the fall and get a $250,000 prize. Some of the companies that were selected include FLITE Material Services of Somerville, Massachusetts and NanoSystems Laboratory of Chicago. (Army Research Laboratory)