CORRECTION: The National Contract Management Association is not postponing all in-person events. An earlier version erroneously said they had.
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As the Census Bureau gears up to fight disinformation about the 2020 decennial count, House Democrats have introduced a bill that would make spreading this false information a crime. Violators of the Honest Census Communications Act would face up to $11,000 in fines, and up to five years in prison for spreading knowingly false information to prevent others from participating in the census. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) introduced the bill Thursday.
The General Services Administration has cancelled its FAST 2020 conference scheduled for mid-April in Atlanta. The National Contract Management Association’s DC-chapter has postponed all in-person events for the foreseeable future. These are just two of the latest casualties in the federal market because of the growing concerns over the coronavirus. GSA broke the news to contractors yesterday, saying the decision was based on ensuring the safety and well being of all participants. GSA said it’s exploring virtual options to potentially deliver training in April.
The Smithsonian is shutting its doors in response to coronavirus. The institution said it will close all of its museums in Washington and New York, plus the National Zoo. The closures take effect on Saturday. Officials aren’t yet willing to say how long they expect the shutdown to last.
Two of the largest federal employee unions say efforts to protect the federal workforce from the coronavirus are falling short. The American Federation of Government Employees said three transportation security officers at the San Jose International Airport tested positive for the virus. AFGE is calling on TSA to provide better protective gear for frontline workers. And the National Treasury Employees Union said agencies need to step up and expand telework to more employees. NTEU National President Tony Reardon said, “telework is the best answer and too many agencies are still being far too stingy with it.” (Federal News Network)
U.S. European Command is scaling back its Defender-Europe 20 exercise activities due to the coronavirus outbreak. The command is reducing the number of U.S. participants in the training exercise. Defender Europe is a United States led multinational exercise that includes NATO. It involves deploying 20,000 service members directly from the United States to Europe. A statement from U.S. European Command says the health protection of U.S. and allied forces is a top concern.
Members of the Coast Guard may have to rethink their travel plans. The Coast Guard is restricting the travel of its service members within the United States due to the coronavirus outbreak. Coast Guardsmen are not allowed to travel to areas in the United States with sustained community transmission unless it is mission essential. They are also restricted from traveling to countries the Centers for Disease Control advise against. Civilian employees are highly discouraged from traveling to areas in the United States with sustained infections. (Federal News Network)
Households across the country received their first invitation in the mail yesterday to participate in the 2020 census. But as coronavirus fears ramp up, the Census Bureau has launched an internal task force to continuously monitor the situation nationwide. Officials said they’re prepared to delay non-response follow ups until later this spring if necessary. The pandemic won’t likely impact current operations, but bureau officials said they’re prepared to delay non-response follow-up to communities hardest hit by the coronavirus later this spring. Households that have yet to receive a 2020 census notice in the mail will get one later this week or next week.
Another attempt to level the playing field for federal retirees and their Social Security benefits. Two Senate Republicans are pushing for reforms to the Windfall Elimination Provision. The WEP reduces Social Security benefits for some retirees who worked in both the public and private sectors. The Equal Treatment of Public Servants Act would replace the old formula for calculating Social Security benefits. Some retirees would get a rebate to offset the impacts of the WEP. Others would receive Social Security benefits under an entirely new formula. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Bill Cassidy (D-La.) are the original co-sponsors behind the Senate companion bill.
President Trump has signed legislation designed to eliminate Huawei and ZTE equipment from American telecommunications networks. The package will deliver up to a billion dollars in reimbursements to network providers who need to replace gear they’ve already installed. It follows up on an FCC rule that banned phone companies from using government subsidies for equipment from the two Chinese companies. The legislation is mostly aimed at smaller, rural network operators with fewer than 2 million customers. (Federal News Network)
A well-established federal program to move people quickly through airports now faces a lawsuit. Saying it’s concerned about mission creep, the ACLU sued the Homeland Security Department and three of its components. At issue is Customs and Border Protection’s use of official recognition to verify identities of international travelers. The group, which boasts having served the Trump administration with 169 lawsuits, seeks records about how CBP implemented the technology, and its plans for it, including contracts with airlines and airports.
The First Responder Network Authority or FirstNet tapped a familiar face to be its new executive director. The board yesterday removed the “acting” title before Edward Parkinson’s name and made him permanent. Parkinson has been acting executive director since October 2018. During his time as acting executive director, Parkinson led efforts to help FirstNet achieve several important milestones under this nationwide public safety broadband network initiative. These include the release of the FirstNet Authority Roadmap and the first set of investment opportunities for expanding and enhancing the network.
The desire for a continuous cybersecurity approval process for systems is growing across DoD. The Defense Department’s chief information officer has brought together a cross-services working group to develop rules for a fast track or continuous authority to operate (ATO) process. The goal is to model the fast track ATO after the Air Force’s processes. The Air Force released a memo establishing the continuous ATO approach last March with a goal of reducing the burden and time to get applications on the network without sacrificing any security rigor. The fast track ATO would especially benefit software projects using the dev/sec/ops approach.