13,000 jobs in jeopardy at USCIS

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  • The Trump administration is reminding Congress of budget challenges at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The Department of Homeland Security and Office of Management and Budget wrote to congressional appropriators. They want Congress to give USCIS $1.2 billion dollars in emergency funding to avoid employee furloughs. Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf says USCIS needs additional funding by August to ensure the agency can function past the summer. USCIS has said it’ll send out furlough notices to 13,000 employees near the end of June or early July to comply with a 30-day advance-notice period set under law
  • Federal CIO Suzette Kent made a surprise announcement yesterday. After more than two years, Suzette Kent is leaving as the federal chief information officer. Kent told her staff that her last day would be in July. Her decision to leave is somewhat surprising as many political appointees are expected to stay through November, but Kent felt like the time was right to move on. One factor may have been that Maria Roat recently joined as deputy federal CIO so there is an experienced, career executive in place. Among Kent’s biggest accomplishments are rewriting and eliminating major technology policies that hindered IT modernization. (Federal News Network)
  • The White House cybersecurity czar may be ready for a return engagement. A bi-partisan group of six House members are fulfilling one of the recommendations of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission by creating a National Cyber Director within the White House. The National Cyber Director Act details the director’s role of serving as the President’s principal adviser on cybersecurity and associated emerging-technology issues. The Senate-confirmed position also would lead national-level coordination of cyber strategy and policy.
  • There is bicameral support to correct the federal paid parental leave program with next year’s defense policy bill. The House will include a provision to extend 12 weeks of paid parental leave to employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs, Federal Aviation Administration, and other agencies inadvertently left out of the 2020 law. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) is introducing a similar amendment that will extend paid parental leave coverage to all federal employees. Both the House and Senate are expected to consider their own versions of the annual defense authorization bill in the coming weeks.
  • Military service members appear all but certain to get a 3% pay raise starting in January. The 2021 Defense authorization bill the Senate is debating this week includes the pay hike. And a draft of the House version of the bill includes an increase of the same amount. President Trump also proposed a 3% increase for uniformed members in his 2021 budget.
  • House Democrats are making another attempt to secure child care subsidies and hazard pay for federal employees working on the front lines of the coronavirus pandemic. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) introduced two new bills. One would create an account that agencies could draw from to extend hazard pay to certain federal employees. It would also codify policies on weather-and-safety leave and telework during the pandemic. A second bill would require agencies to publish their reopening plans 30 days before employees reenter government facilities. They must describe agencies’ plans to provide personal protective equipment and cleaning supplies to the workforce. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service expects to withstand the financial impact of the coronavirus better than it anticipated a few months ago. But the agency warns it could still run out of cash before the end of 2021 without long-term reform from Congress. USPS now estimates it will run out of money in April 2021, if package volumes return to pre-coronavirus levels. But if package volumes stay 15% above pre-pandemic levels, the agency says it can keep operating through October 2021. The Postal Service a few months ago warned Congress it would run out of cash by this September. (Federal News Network)
  • Reopening disagreements continue between the Environmental Protection Agency and its union. The American Federation of Government Employees has been accusing the EPA of failing to communicate with the union throughout much of the pandemic. But now the EPA is accusing AFGE of failing to communicate with its own members and stoking fear among agency employees about returning to the office. The EPA says it has briefed union officials multiple times about its reopening plans. AFGE says those briefings aren’t the same as collective bargaining negotiations.
  • The IRS and Treasury Department rushed to get millions of pandemic payments out to the public in the weeks after Congress passed the CARES Act. But they also sent more than a million payments to people who have died. IRS officials told the Government Accountability Office the agency didn’t have the legal authority to deny payments to people who filed recent tax returns, but in doing so paid out more than a billion dollars to the deceased. The IRS posted instructions online about how to return improper payments, but agency officials told GAO they don’t plan to take further steps to notify ineligible recipients about how to return payments. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is conducting a national hiring event from June 30 to July 2. During that time the service is asking active duty Army soldiers and veterans to reach out to people they know who might be interested in serving. Army Recruiting Command is hoping to sign up 10,000 people in the three days. The sign-ups do not directly translate to actual contracts. The Army is currently 4,000 recruits behind its goal for 2020.
  • After the Defense Department announced it is looking into how it handles race, the Army is following suit with its own review. The Army is starting a new program called Project Inclusion, which it hopes will improve diversity and equity in its ranks. The effort will include a series of listening sessions for soldiers and civilians. The Army is also removing photos from its officer promotion boards starting in August 2020. The Army will conduct an examination of racial disparity within its judicial system. The changes are in response to the Black Lives Matter protests continuing around the nation. (Federal News Network)