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The Defense Department has been getting so many requests for medical equipment, it set up a special task force just to deal with them. Ellen Lord, the Defense undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment, says the requests are coming from all over the government, including FEMA, other parts of Homeland Security, and Health and Human Services. Lord says the task force will synchronize how the DOD acquisition staff responds. She hinted contracting offers will use rules for contingencies, under the Defense Production Act invoked last week by the White House.
Federal employees offered mixed reviews of the decision-making process to let them telework as fears of the coronavirus spread. A new exclusive survey by Federal News Network found a majority of respondents say they are working remotely now. But those that aren’t say it’s a combination of factors, including management resistance, having jobs that don’t allow them to telework and a lack of necessary technology either at home or from their agency. Find all the results of the survey on (Federal News Network)
Senators have opened the government’s wallet to help agencies address IT and teleworking challenges. Senate lawmakers provide the first look at the extra money expected to come to agencies for technology upgrades in the coronavirus stimulus bill. The legislation is expected to pass the upper chamber later today. GSA would receive an additional $18 million this year for the Federal Citizen Services fund. This money would help agencies improve their networks, including expanding the use of digital signatures and virtual private network technologies. GSA already received $55 million for the fund in December through the 2020 spending bill.
The now passed Senate conronavirus emergency spending bill would allow the Postal Service to borrow another $10 billion from the Treasury Department. A significant departure from a bill House Democrats introduced Monday to give USPS $25 billion to spend in the next two years. The House bill would have also wiped $11 billion in debt and allowed the Postal Service to borrow another $15 billion. House Oversight and Reform Committee leaders say USPS will run out of money to operate this summer if Congress fails to act.
Agencies are now able to delay collecting fingerprints if they have to during the coronavirus pandemic. OPM says some agencies are struggling to vet new employees and contractors because they can’t collect fingerprints. OPM says these agencies can move on with onboarding anyway, if the benefits outweigh the risks. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency will also grant security clearances if an agency can’t submit fingerprints.
The Department of Homeland Security’s research and development branch is stepping up efforts to answer unknown details about the coronavirus. Its National Biodefense Analysis and Countermeasures Center and Countering Weapons of Mass Destruction Office are working to determine which materials serve as the best disinfectant to fight the virus. They’re also looking to identify how conditions like temperature and humidity affect the virus’s survival in the air and on surfaces. These offices played a leading role in mitigating the 2014 outbreak of the Ebola virus.
The Defense Department is offering incentives and relaxing some rules in order to keep companies cash positive during the coronavirus pandemic. DoD is calling on companies to build goods and provide services deemed essential by the government. Congress is also proposing to provide extra funds to buy needed goods under the Defense Production Act. DoD is paying more money upfront for costs incurred by companies on contracts to keep businesses more liquid. (Federal News Network)
A congressionally-mandated commission has some big recommendations for military and public service programs. The National Commission on Military, National and Public Service is out with 124 recommendations to Congress and the president. The big one, is a recommendation that would include women in the Selective Service System. The commission also suggested changes to the federal hiring process, an overhaul of veterans preference rules and more flexible benefits for new federal employees. The goal of the commission’s review was to find ways to make military, national and public service more attractive to more Americans. (Federal News Network)
Retired Army soldiers in the healthcare field are being asked to suit up again to join the fight against coronavirus. Military.com reports a message from Defense Finance and Accounting Services asks troops who had previously served in specific health care specialties to consider “re-joining the team” to address the current pandemic crisis.
Troops expecting to move over the next few months are hamstrung between orders as the military halted permanent changes of station until at least May. Nearly 30,000 troops are now stuck in limbo due to the military’s stop move order. The Army estimates 11,000 soldiers are waiting to move to their next orders and the Air Force says 18,000 airmen are in the same situation. Some of the troops are forced to extend their leases, move to temporary housing or live in hotels until they can move. The Defense Department implemented the two-month stop move order to limit the spread of coronavirus. (Federal News Network)
The IRS relaxed its collections and enforcement activity, as taxpayers face financial hardship from the coronavirus pandemic. The agency will suspend liens and levies for most delinquent taxpayers between April 1 and July 15, and won’t refer new cases to its private debt collectors. The IRS also encourages taxpayers behind on their tax filings to catch up. More than a million households that haven’t filed tax returns in last three years are actually owed refunds … and can still claim this money if they file.
The Thrift Savings Plan will create several new lifecycle funds by this summer. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board is building new L funds in five year increments, instead of ten year increments. New L-funds will run from an L-2025 through an L-2065. The TSP will launch those new funds in July. It will also retire the L-2020 fund. Participants enrolled in that fund will automatically roll over into a new L-income fund.
CGI-Federal is buying TeraThink Corporation in an effort to expand its technology consulting business. In purchasing the Reston, Virginia-based TeraThink, CGI-Federal is getting more experience in digitization, enterprise finance, risk management, and data analytics services. TeraThink has won more than 100 prime contracts worth more than $178 million since 2016 with its biggest federal clients being DoD and the Agriculture Department. The deal is expected to close this month.