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With an above normal hurricane season expected this year, lawmakers want to make sure the Coast Guard is ready, even in the middle of a pandemic. Sen. Gary Peters (D-Mich) and Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-Mich) sent a letter to Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Karl Schultz asking eight questions about how the coronavirus is impacting the service. Among the questions the lawmakers want more answers about are how the Coast Guard is ensuring cutters and other ships do not become breeding grounds for the virus and does the service have enough COVID-19 tests and personal protective equipment. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
The Energy Department has released detailed reopening guidance for its employees. Facilities in the national capital region are being closed and cleaned under phase zero of the plan. Managers are determining how many employees need to be in the office under each phase. The department is also preparing a reopening webinar for its supervisors. Energy is also working to install hand sanitizer stations and touchless equipment in high-traffic areas. Masks will be available at Energy entrances for anyone who wants one. But they’re not required for employees. (Federal News Network)
Other agencies also have more details on their reopening plans. The Interior Department has approved reopening plans for individual bureaus. Telework and flexible work schedules are still allowed for eligible Interior employees. Employees with child or dependent care responsibilities can receive up to 20 hours per pay period of excused absences as long as schools stay closed. The Environmental Protection Agency is beginning phase one of reopening for facilities in Atlanta, Seattle and Kansas. Meantime the Merit Systems Protection Board extended mandatory telework through June 12. (Federal News Network)
In-person government-industry interaction is looking less likely for the rest of the calendar year. What is perhaps the largest information technology forum for government and industry, says it will make all of its events through 2020 virtual. The American Council for Technology – Industry Advisory Council, ACT-IAC, says it will have no more in-person events this year. That means its 30-year-old executive leadership conference, scheduled for late October in Philadelphia, will move online. Other groups have pushed virtual to at least the end of July.
House lawmakers are taking another shot at emergency funding for the Postal Service. The Postal Preservation Act would give the Postal Service $25 billion to offset a decline in mail revenue from the coronavirus pandemic. The bill stems from a similar provision in the latest House-passed pandemic spending bill, but that measure isn’t expected to make it through the Senate. The Postal Service last month saw an 8% decrease in first-class mail revenue, but a 38% increase in package revenue.
Inspectors general typically find more than $20 in cost savings for every dollar spent on their budgets. But the Health and Human Services’ Inspector General is scaling up to oversee more than $2 trillion in coronavirus pandemic spending. Acting HHS IG Christi Grimm told the House Oversight and Reform Committee her office has to balance its in-depth reviews with the real-time flash reports requested by the committee. The IG office has more than 14 pending audits, including reviews of the Food and Drug Administration’s rollout of COVID-19 testing, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s distribution of test kits to state public health labs. (Federal News Network)
The number two official in the Pentagon inspector general’s office has resigned after he was effectively demoted by the president. Glenn Fine, the principal deputy inspector general submitted his resignation yesterday. He had been the acting inspector general for the past four years, and also briefly led the new Pandemic Response Accountability Committee. But President Trump removed Fine from both those positions last month. Fine had a long career in federal oversight. He’d previously served for 16 years in the Justice Department’s IG office – 11 of those as the DOJ inspector general. (Federal News Network)
Congress is making a push to keep the national defense authorization bill on track. The leaders of the Senate Armed Services Committee say they are committed to passing the biggest defense policy bill of the year despite interruptions caused by coronavirus. Senators Jim Inhofe and Jack Reed scheduled subcommittee markups of the 2021 defense authorization bill for the second week in June. The full committee will consider the bill on June tenth and eleventh. The senators say the bill is critical to national defense and the well-being of the nation.
The Air Force is sending recruits to basic training in Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi after initial tests to ensure the installation would be conducive . About 60 recruits will arrive at the base a week. The Air Force is adding Keesler as a temporary location for basic training to ease some of the stress put on Joint Base San-Antonio-Lackland caused by coronavirus restrictions. The service says it is on track to come close to its 2020 end strength goal of nearly 333,000 active duty airmen. It is likely the Air Force will end up with about 330,000. (Federal News Network)
The new bargaining terms the Federal Service Impasses Panel imposed on the Association of Administrative Law Judges and the Social Security Administration are on hold for now. The Federal Labor Relations Authority issued a stay of the impasse panel’s decision. FLRA says the constitutional challenge AALJ filed in federal district court presents an “unusual circumstance.” The association sued the impasses panel last month. The FLRA now says the SSA should hold off on imposing new bargaining terms until the federal district court weighs in on the lawsuit.
The Census Bureau is asking industry to look into their crystal balls to see the future approaches to securing data and networks. In a new request for information, the bureau wants help to create an adaptive and proactive cybersecurity environment. Census is seeking details on how vendors could provide support services that include the capability to monitor all technology and information assets on a 24 by 7 by 365 basis. The agency also wants help in moving toward a flexible, secure DevOps and Agile model for system and software development. Responses to the RFI are due July 15.