VA facilities up capacity amid coronavirus pandemic

In today's Federal Newscast, patient capacity at Veterans Affairs medical facilities is up within the last month.

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  • Patient capacity at Veterans Affairs medical facilities has gone up in the last month. VA says its facilities can take in over 12,000 patients. That’s better than the 9,800 patients they could handle back in March. The department says its medical supply chain is strong with the recent acquisition of 4.5 million masks. VA also hired over 9,300 medical professionals between late March and April. More staff are expected to join the department in the next month. (Department of Veterans Affairs)
  • FEMA is out with a new guide designed to help organizations resume operations during the pandemic. FEMA says agencies and other organizations should plan for additional coronavirus waves in the future. Plans should address social distancing guidelines at offices and other common work spaces. Agencies should also work to find cleaning supplies and set up testing procedures for employees. FEMA says organizational leaders may need to address physical and psychological impacts to their personnel and will likely have to reestablish communications and other IT equipment.
  • The General Services Admnistration has relaunched its cloud website. More a refresh than a new site, the Cloud Information Center now sports what GSA calls a human centered design. And that it supports best practices for federal digital services, something GSA helps other agencies achieve. That includes enhanced accessibility, fashioning around users’ tasks, and more mobile friendly, among other qualities. The year-old site collects in one place what agency IT people need to know about cloud computing.
  • GSA’s next great governmentwide IT contract remains mired in protest. Three vendors filed new protests over the General Services Administration’s Second Generation Information Technology or 2GIT $5.5 billion blanket purchase agreement. Force 3, Red River Technology and Blue Tech sent complaints to the Government Accountability Office earlier this week. GAO has until mid-August to decide these new cases. Since the launch of 2GIT program, GSA has now faced 13 protests over the BPA. GSA initially awarded 2GIT in November to 75 vendors, including 56 small firms, only to pull it back for corrective action in December after several unsuccessful bidders filed protests.
  • Federal buildings management remains a top concern for the General Services Administration. The Government Accountability Office particularly points to the new headquarters being built for the Homeland Security Department. GAO finds the agency has yet to meet recommendations tied to its work building a consolidated campus for the Department of Homeland Security over the last decade. GAO says GSA should take inventory of gaps between the current capabilities of the St. Elizabeths campus and what it needs to fully operate. The agency also recommends GSA update its cost and schedule estimates for the project.
  • Planned changes to the TSP’s international fund have been put on hold amid pressure from the White House. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board deferred plans to transition the I fund to a new emerging markets index. The White House issued a direct warning to the board to stop its plans to move to a China-inclusive index. The TSP was supposed to start moving the I fund at the beginning of June. But the board unanimously voted to pause the transition. The board says President Trump’s three FRTIB nominees should have a chance to weigh in and set their own path forward for the I fund. (Federal News Network)
  • The acting director of national intelligence has tapped a career intelligence official to be his acting deputy. Richard Grenell yesterday appointed Neil Wiley as the principal executive at ODNI where he will take on the role of the Principal Deputy Director of National Intelligence until a Presidential nominee is confirmed by the Senate. He most recently served at ODNI as the chairman of the National Intelligence Council. Wiley previously served as the director for analysis at the Defense Intelligence Agency. (Office of the Director of National Intelligence)
  • Yet another leadership change for the Postal Service. A month out from the next postmaster general taking office, the Postal Service sees its second-in-command leave the agency. Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman will leave the agency in June, leaving its Board of Governors without a quorum. But the four remaining Senate-confirmed governors and the postmaster general can select a new deputy and restore that quorum by a majority vote. Stroman during his tenure managed international postal issues and worked with other agencies to detect the shipment of illegal drugs. (Federal News Network)
  • Navy Vice Adm. Stuart Munsch has been appointed director for operational plans and joint force development at the Joint Staff. Munsch currently serves as the deputy chief of naval operations for warfighting development. Munsch also spent time as the deputy chief of naval operations for operations plans and strategy. He will take over his new position from Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Daniel O’Donohue. (Department of Defense)
  • Coronavirus is causing the Air Force to rethink the way it trains its airmen. The Air Force’s rigorous survival courses are usually 26 days long. But with the coronavirus, airmen entering Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape training needed to be quarantined for 14 days before starting. The Air Force decided to use that time to allow airmen to work on the academic part of the course at their own pace during that time. The concept is changing how the Air Force looks at training and it plans to integrate self-paced academic work into future courses after the outbreak to shorten training. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force says it’s moving ahead with a challenge that will ask white hat hackers to hack satellite systems – but it’s moving online. The Air Force says it wants to use the challenge to spot vulnerabilities in military satellite systems that could put troops at risk. The Hack-a-Sat contest was set to take place at the annual DEFCON conference, but officials have decided to conduct it virtually instead because of COVID-19. An initial qualifying round is set to start next Friday. In the final competition in early August, hackers will be asked to reverse engineer simulated satellites and ground based systems.

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