Veterans Affairs lays out reopening plan for facilities

In today's Federal Newscast, Veterans Affairs has a new plan to eventually resume normal operations for its hospitals, cemeteries and benefits offices.

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  • The Department of Veterans Affairs has a new plan to eventually resume normal operations for its hospitals, cemeteries and benefits offices. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the agency ‘s facilities will first follow the lead of states and local authorities. Medical centers will think about resuming elective surgeries and other in-person appointments during phase one. Other postponed appointments and activities will resume at phase two. VA may allow visitors back in its medical facilities at phase three. Wilkie says most employees will return to the office during this phase.
  • The pandemic is forcing agencies to rethink their recruitment and onboarding strategies. Agencies are hosting virtual jobs fairs and recruitment webinars to find new talent. The departments of Housing and Urban Development and Homeland Security are actively recruiting returned Peace Corps volunteers. DHS is also planning a virtual hiring session for military spouses in August. The Office of Personnel Management said applications on were up 2% Friday compared to this time last year. Candidates have started over 161,000 applications for at least 500 coronavirus-related jobs. (Federal News Network)
  • Three congressionally-appointed panels are calling on the Armed Services Committees to create ways to quicken the federal hiring process. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, the Cyberspace Solarium Commission and the National Commission on Military, National and Public Service all want Congress to find ways to reform how the government recruits, trains and educates its workforce. The commissions want provisions in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act that will allow the government to recruit beyond normal methods and maximize the use of existing authorities to attract and retain world-class talent.
  • If you’ve been in the hospital for the coronavirus, it may be harder to join the military. The Defense Department said anyone who has been hospitalized for COVID-19 will need a special waiver to join the military. The new protocol is only temporary as the Pentagon figures out the long-term effects of the coronavirus on the pulmonary system and other organs. The military services are already taking precautions to prevent the spread of the disease among new recruits. Future service members must undergo a 14-day quarantine and be monitored for symptoms before starting basic training. (Federal News Network)
  • The National Archives and Records Administration saw a spike in the number of volunteers tagging and transcribing historical records during the coronavirus pandemic. The agency reports that its corps of citizen archivists have tagged and transcribed more than three times the number of pages that are normally completed in a week. NARA said that work has helped make tens of thousands of historical records easier to search on its online catalog.
  • The Transportation Security Administration moved to add a layer of protection to its airport screeners. TSA now requires officers working at airports to wear what it calls facial protection. Employees are not required to wear specific eye protection. The agency said the new measure is to prevent virus spreading, especially where the nature of the work precludes social distancing. Passengers are not required to have face masks. As of yesterday, 534 TSA employees have tested positive for COVID-19. Six have died.
  • DHS spends about 76% of its procurement budget, almost $15 billion, on services, but is falling short in overseeing those contracts. The Government Accountability Office reviewed DHS service contracts between 2013 and 2018 and found shortcomings in its internal controls. Auditors said among DHS’ biggest challenges are ensuring contractors don’t perform inherently governmental work and retaining internal capabilities to monitor the contracts. GAO made six recommendations to improve oversight of these contracts.
  • The chairman and ranking member of the Senate Judiciary Committee are making a push to move the Secret Service out of DHS. The two senators introduced a bill that would move the agency back into the Treasury Department. The Secret Service was part of Treasury until Congress created DHS back in 2003. The Secret Service Mission Improvement and Realignment Act would make good on a proposal from the Trump administration to move the agency. (Sen. Dianne Feinstein)
  • The Postal Service will need more than just cash in the short-term to stay afloat. USPS can’t keep running under its old business model, but the Government Accountability Office said there’s no consensus on how to move forward. The Postal Service has tried to close retail facilities and reduce work hours over the past few years, but GAO said it’s up to Congress to pass long-term postal reform legislation.
  • For the second time this week, an agency signs up for GSA’s IT modernization help. The Food and Drug Administration becomes the ninth agency to jump on the Centers of Excellence’s IT modernization bandwagon. The General Services Administration announced yesterday that FDA’s Office of Information Management and Technology will partner with the CoE. The goal is improve the FDA’s people-centered approach to IT modernization and help the workforce adopt new technologies and processes. Earlier this week, NIH’s National Institute of Child Health and Human Development joined the CoE ranks as well.

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