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July 13, the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey will return. The Office of Personnel Management will send the survey to all federal employees in two waves. It will stay open for six weeks. This year’s survey will include questions on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on employees and their work. OPM says employee feedback on those questions may shape future policies on workforce management during an emergency. OPM had initially delayed the FEVS to give agencies time to focus on their work at the beginning of the pandemic. (Chief Human Capital Officers Council)
The Federal Green Challenge results are in, and agencies saved more than $36 million in 2019. The Environmental Protection Agency says agencies recycled almost 180 tons of electronics, diverted more than 600,000 tons of waste from landfills and added almost 5,000 electric, hybrid or alternative fuel vehicles to the fleet. This nationwide challenge encourages agencies to reduce the government’s environmental impact and improve the efficiency of their buildings.
There’s a little bit more diversity in the workforce at the U.S. Agency for International Development today than there was 18 years ago. Racial and ethnic minorities make up 37% of the USAID workforce, up from 33% back in 2002. But the Government Accountability Office says minorities are far less likely to be promoted within USAID. The odds of promotion are 31-41% lower for racial minorities than white employees. GAO says the USAID office in charge of its equal employment opportunity program is significantly understaffed. And leaders aren’t focused on longstanding diversity challenges.
The Trump administration is out with another attempt to modernize federal hiring. A new executive order from President Trump urges agencies to prioritize skills over college degrees in hiring new talent. Agencies can set minimum education requirements for certain positions where it’s legally required. But Trump wants agencies to place greater focus on a candidate’s skills, instead of their degree. The EO requires agencies to review and revise job classification and qualification standards to reflect those changes. And it encourages agencies to use skills-based assessments and other tools to evaluate a candidate’s expertise. The Office of Personnel Management and agencies have four-to-six months to implement the order and make the changes public. (Federal News Network)
Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling is under new management. Air Force Vice Chief of Staff Stephen Wilson and Vice Chief of Naval Operations Adm. William Lescher signed an agreement transferring responsibility of the base from the Navy to the Air Force. The installation will remain under Navy control until the end of fiscal 2020. The services decided to make the change since more than half of the mission sets at the base were under the Air Force.
U.S. Cyber Command put its prototype cyber training environment to the test this month. The demand for social distancing forced the combatant command to rely on its remotely accessed persistent cyber training environment. More than 500 personnel worldwide took part in a training exercise to protect a fictional air base from cyber attacks. The personnel came from a handful of different countries, government agencies and military branches. (Federal News Network)
The Postal Service donated more than $700,000 to the Department of Veterans Affairs for post-traumatic stress research. USPS raised the money through sales of its PTSD awareness stamp it released last December. VA provides PTSD treatments that include talk therapy and medication. USPS gave the funding to VA in recognition of PTSD Awareness month, and as part of the Trump administration’s initiative to prevent veteran suicides.
Democrats in the House and Senate introduced a bill to ban facial recognition technology in the federal government. The Facial Recognition and Biometric Technology Moratorium Act would also prohibit voice recognition and other tools that rely on a person’s physical characteristics. Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) introduced the bill along with Reps. Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) and Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.). A recent report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology found facial recognition tools were 100 times more likely to misidentify racial minorities than white male faces.
The IRS says the first year of its six-year IT modernization has led to a better taxpayer experience. More than 100,000 taxpayers verified themselves online last year after the agency flagged their tax returns for possible identity theft. IRS employees also handled more than 100,000 text chats to help taxpayers resolve their problems, rather than send them to an automated phone line. A new callback feature also reduced wait times over the phone. More than 75% of taxpayers opted to use the callback feature to check the balance of what they owe the IRS.
The long-awaited, much delayed e-marketplace initiative is ready to take off. Three vendors will help agencies understand whether they can buy better, faster, cheaper and safer online. The General Services Administration picked Amazon, Overstock dot com and Fisher Scientific to test the use of commercial e-commerce portals for purchases below $10,000. Under the e-marketplace proof-of-concept, GSA says the goal is to modernize the buying experience and help gain insights into open-market online spending occurring outside of existing contracts. The pilots could last up to three years. The e-marketplace platform effort has been delayed by protests and other challenges over the last year.