OPM recommends telework to prevent coronavirus spread

In today's Federal Newscast, the Office of Personnel Management has more ideas to help the federal workforce prevent the possible spread of the coronavirus.

  • Agencies should enter into telework agreements with as many eligible employees as possible, to help the federal workforce prepare for and maintain operations in case of the potential spread of the coronavirus. OPM made several recommendations to agencies, like also granting weather and safety leave to employees if they’re at risk of exposure to the virus. OPM said its own working group discussions with other agencies prompted new coronavirus guidance. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • The White House is expected to issue another joint budget request for the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration. It’s one of a few signs the administration still wants a merger, despite recent legislative language instructing the opposite. Sources also tell Federal Network the administration is still hosting meetings to plan and review the merger. The president’s 2021 budget request is expected later today. (Federal News Network)
  • The Trump Administration’s 2021 budget reportedly includes another proposal to cut back civilian agency spending. Details of today’s budget proposal first obtained by the Wall Street Journal show overall domestic spending would fall by 5%. The Defense budget, meanwhile, would get a modest 0.3% boost. Some nondefense agencies would see major increases, however. According to figures the newspaper reported yesterday, the Department of Veterans Affairs’ budget would rise by 13%, NASA would get a 12% boost, and the Department of Homeland Security would see a 3% spending increase.
  • Another top defense personnel official is on their way out. Veronica Daigle, the assistant secretary of Defense quietly resigned just over a week ago. Her departure leaves another gap in DoD’s Personnel and Readiness organization. Out of five senate-confirmed positions in the office, all but one are now being fullfilled by acting officials. (Federal News Network)
  • The Pentagon is working on a new space strategy based on former Defense Secretary Jim Mattis’ National Defense Strategy. Steve Kitay, Defense Department deputy assistant secretary for space policy, says the new strategy is evolving. He added that the plan will build off of the 2018 Pentagon space strategy. The new plan will focus on maintaining space superiority, ensuring stability through space and providing support from space.
  • The Air Force is turning to data to help with its pilot selection. Air Education and Training Command is working with the University of Texas-San Antonio to break down large swaths of information on pilots in order to refine and validate its candidate selection method. The hope is the program will target candidates with specific skills based on 10,000 sets of individual raw data like GPA, previous pilot experience and flying hours. The Air Force plans on using the program to help pare down its pilot shortage. (Air Force)
  • A pilot to give more information to unsuccessful bidders proved its worthiness. The General Services Administration is expanding its initiative to tell vendors more about why they lost a contract bid. GSA says it will apply the IN-depth Feedback through Open Reporting Methods or INFORM, approach to as many as 300 acquisitions starting in April. The initial pilot began in October 2018 and applied this approach to 50 acquisitions. The test cases showed both federal and industry representatives found INFORM valuable. A strong majority of federal contracting officers thought INFORM was preferred over the traditional approach and it didn’t cause any additional delays, including protests. (General Services Administration)
  • The General Services Administration launches a new contracting opportunity for support of robotics. A draft request for proposals comes from its Federal Systems Integration Management Center, or FEDSIM. Bloomberg Government and others say the program will provide a very large dollar opportunity over 10 years. GSA is looking to populate a multiple-award contract called ASTRO on behalf of the Defense Department, for research, development and sustainment of unmanned and optionally-manned systems. Industry has been waiting for the RFP for nearly a year. Awards are expected in June.
  • A draft executive order would make classical architectural styles the default for new federal buildings. The draft EO, first obtained and reported by Architectural Record, specifically forbids the construction of new buildings in Brutalist and modern designs. The order requires the General Services Administration to consider redesigning existing federal buildings during renovations. It would also stand up a President’s Committee for the Re-Beautification of Federal Architecture, led by the commissioner of GSA’s Public Buildings Service and at least one member of the Commission of Fine Arts. (Federal News Network)
  • A bipartisan bill to track the cost and performance of agency programs passed the House last week. The Taxpayers Right-to-Know Act, introduced by Senators James Lankford (R-Okla.) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.), would require the Office of Management and Budget to keep track of spending data and performance metrics for agency programs. The bill would also require OMB to post that data on a public website. Lankford and Hassan said the bill, if passed, would increase transparency and curb wasteful spending. (Sen. James Lankford)
  • Agency financial management and grant management executives should take a closer look at how grantees are spending money on administrative costs instead of programmatic goals. In the CFO Council’s first alert in almost three years, agencies are reminded to utilize the discretion in the Uniform Grants Guidance to better manage programs. The means agencies should consider excluding certain types of costs that it deems are not “necessary” or “reasonable” for the successful completion of a program, and make clear what costs would not be allowable in the federal award.
  • Over 100 members of Congress made another appeal to the Health and Human Services Department to return to the bargaining table with the National Treasury Employees Union. An independent arbitrator determined back in September HHS had bargained in bad faith. NTEU had appealed to the department to return to negotiate a new contract. House members say HHS hasn’t responded to NTEU’s requests to renegotiate. (National Treasury Employees Union)

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