Hospitals get extra equipment from an unlikely agency

In today's Federal Newscast, four preservation and conservation specialists at the National Archives and Records Administration did some quick thinking and real...

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  • Four preservation and conservation specialists at the National Archives and Records Administration did some quick thinking and realized the equipment they use to deal with records damaged by floods, fires, or mold could help doctors and nurses fighting the coronavirus. Motion picture preservation specialists Heidi Holmstrom and Audrey Amidon and Conservation Lab employees Rachel Bartgis and Vicki Lee asked NARA leadership about donating supplies to the pandemic. Late last month, NARA sent N-95 masks, nitrile gloves, gowns, and Tyvek suits to the Washington D.C.’s Emergency Management Response Team, which is working with the Department of Health and Human Services to distribute and reallocate the donated supplies.
  • Federal retirees are eligible for coronavirus stimulus checks. The IRS will automatically send them to Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns in 2018 and 2019. Social Security beneficiaries in that boat were originally supposed to submit a shortened tax return to get a stimulus check. But the Treasury Department decided to waive that step. $1,200 stimulus checks will go out to all Americans under a $75,000 salary threshold. Checks will be smaller for those who make more than that. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division is warning taxpayers about a rise in scams mentioning coronavirus stimulus checks. The agency warns fraudsters may send phishing emails asking for banking information to speed up the processing of stimulus payments. In most cases, the IRS will direct-deposit funds into the account on file for those who have filed their tax returns. The IRS will also have a secure portal online by mid-April who taxpayers who have filed, but not yet provided direct deposit information.
  • Good government groups are urging the president and Congress to take new civil service recommendations seriously. The congressionally-chartered National Commission on Military, National and Public Service says it has deep concerns about the federal workforce. They recommended changes to federal hiring, pay and benefits. Now, the Volcker Alliance, Partnership for Public Service and others say the current civil service system is “simply unsustainable.” They say the current health crisis makes it clear, the federal government lacks a long term strategy to recruit and retain top talent. (Volcker Alliance)
  • 28 Federal Executive Boards got high marks from the Office of Personnel Management in 2019. FEBs trained over 18,000 federal employees last year on emergency response, planning and their own retirement benefits. These training exercises saved agencies over $8 million. FEBs also hosted job fairs and recruiting events. They partnered with the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to host alternative dispute resolution training. FEB-sponsored programs resolved over 180 cases and saved over $10-million. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
  • A new proposed rule that will impact more than 22,000 contractors is out. The second piece to update Section 508 accessibility standards in acquisitions is almost ready. The Federal Acquisition Regulations Council issued a proposed rule to incorporate the revised requirements into the FAR. The new 508 standards includes 19 major changes and will apply to any technology bought after January 18, 2018. This is when the US Access Board issued the new standards. One big change will require contracting officers to more clearly identify the 508 standard that is required in the solicitation. The council estimates that more than 22 thousand large and small vendors provide information and communications technology to the government. Comments on the proposal are due by June 1.
  • A bipartisan group of lawmakers and a handful of military advocacy groups want the Pentagon to help families financially strapped by the Defense Department’s stop move order. In a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, the lawmakers ask DoD to issue guidance allowing commanders to use the greatest breadth of relief efforts for families. The letter asks to empower commanders to use non-profits, charities and government resources to help families paying rent in more than one place or in risk of losing their homes. DoD’s stop move order keeps service members from moving to their next orders until at least mid-May. (Federal News Network)
  • Military families want more information from the Pentagon on COVID-19. A coalition of military communities is calling on the Defense Department for more transparency in its response to the COVID-19 outbreak. The Association of Defense Communities , which represents more than 300 military groups, sent a letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper outlining the need to balance transparency with the operations security imperative of the military. The military is leaving much of the coronavirus response to individual commanders, which can lead to conflicting or confusing policies. (Federal News Network)
  • The Navy has fired the captain of the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt, saying he showed poor judgment. Capt. Brett Crozier’s name leapt into public view earlier this week when a letter he sent, raising alarms about coronavirus issues on the carrier, was published in the San Francisco Chronicle. Navy officials stopped short of accusing him of leaking the letter. But acting Navy Secretary Thomas Modly says Crozier distributed the message to too many people. Navy officials say it raised unnecessary alarm for families and the public, and mischaracterized the steps the service was already taking to help disembark the crew. (Federal News Network)
  • Defense industry advocates are asking Congress to extend the deadline on a law that prohibits the government from doing business with companies that use ZTE or Huawei equipment. In a letter, the National Defense Industrial Association and the Professional Services Council say the law’s language is too broad and does not explicitly state critical definitions and compliance requirements. They add that abiding by the law may be difficult as many companies are putting their resources into the COVID-19 response. (Professional Services Council)
  • National security contractor workers are getting continued attention from Capitol Hill. Senator Mark Warner (D-Va.) is asking the Office of Management and Budget for clarification contractors and their workforces won’t be hurt. He says contractors got pretty good language in the stimulus bill, but he’s concerned with the difficulty of working remotely on classified material. He says he doesn’t want that community to be lost. He wants some of a $17 billion chunk ot the stimulus money to help ensure security cleared contractor workers don’t scatter to other industries.
  • The Army National Guard finished the initial roll out of its Integrated Personnel and Pay System – Army. The program digitizes human resources, pay and benefits actions for more than 330,000 Army Guard members. Soldiers can now submit documents, track the progress of personnel actions and see who is supervising those actions all from their phones. The Army is now focusing on expanding the system to the reserve and active-duty components. The service plans to finish that by the end of 2021. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Departments is looking to build workforce collaboration on artificial intelligence. DoD’s Joint AI Center has stood up a Responsible AI Champions pilot that’ll train its personnel on the ethical use of AI on and off the field of battle. Employees in the pilot come from a wide swath of disciplines – from design and development, to acquisition, to evaluation and verification of AI products. The pilot comes a little more than a month after Defense Secretary Mark Esper adopted AI principles that the Defense Innovation Board recommended last October. (Federal News Network)

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