MSPB extending mandatory telework until next month

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  • Many agencies are setting reopening dates in early to mid-June to bring an initial wave of employees back to the office. But the Merit Systems Protection Board is extending mandatory telework through July 3. The MSPB’s current operating posture may have an impact on its ability to accept filings submitted through mail or fax. But the MSPB’s e-Appeal Online system is open and accepting electronic filings. The agency is also working with filers to continue adjudications and other hearings remotely.
  • The coronavirus underscores risks in the 2020 census that the Government Accountability Office had raised before the pandemic. The Census Bureau has extended field operations through the end of October, and asked Congress to push back statutory deadlines to deliver apportionment and redistricting data. But GAO said success hinges on households self-responding to the 2020 census. That will determine how many enumerators will need to go door-to-door starting in August. The bureau expected to have at least 60.5% of households self-respond to the 2020 census by June 10, and has exceeded that goal.
  • The Social Security Administration discovered, a big increase in online transactions doesn’t mean the telephone or the doorbell ring any less. The Social Security Advisory Board reports online transactions in 2019 rose to 184 million. That’s up by ten times versus 2010. But the rate of (800) Number calls has been steady at above 50 million per year since 2007. Field office visits have fallen just slightly, to 43 million last year. The board notes, multiple transactions might take place in a single office visit. Numbers relayed by the blog site Social Security News.
  • A union local representing Customs and Border Protection agents scored a win in court. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia says the Federal Labor Relations Authority was wrong to uphold a CBP memo that changed certain conditions of employment for vehicle inspection agents. The American Federation of Government Employees said CBP changed conditions of employment without bargaining with the union. An arbitrator originally ruled in favor of the union. But the FLRA later argued the union couldn’t bargain over the CBP changes. The court now says FLRA misinterpreted prior case law. The court remanded the FLRA’s decision back to the authority for a new ruling.
  • About 8,500 enlisted and officer airmen chose to transfer over to the Space Force after current members of the Air Force were asked to join its ranks. Airmen in 13 job categories ranging from space operations to developmental engineer will move over to Space Force. Only 6,000 will actually complete the process. Transfers in space specialized fields will begin in September. Common jobs moving over to the Space Force will not start until next year.
  • The Senate voted unanimously to confirm the Air Force’s next chief of staff, he’s the first black military service chief in the nation’s history. Gen. Charles Brown Jr. comes to the Air Force’s top uniformed job after having been the commander of Pacific Air Forces. The veteran fighter pilot’s confirmation vote was presided over by Vice President Mike Pence, who called the moment “historic.” Brown was considered well-qualified for the job, and his confirmation was never in doubt. But he gained additional attention in recent days after posting a video on social media that described the challenges of being a minority in the Air Force and in American society. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs earns reasonably high praise from the Government Accountability Office about its efforts to configure the new electronic health record. VA set up 18 councils throughout the country to discuss workflows for the EHR. But all the right people weren’t always involved. GAO says VA runs the risk of not configuring the new electronic record to meet the needs of its clinicians and stakeholders. VA made many EHR decisions on schedule throughout 2019. But the pandemic paused the initial EHR rollout. And it’s unclear when implementation will occur.
  • VA is struggling to implement a key technology management law. The Department of Veterans Affairs fell well short of implementing the 2015 Federal IT Acquisition Reform Act or FITARA, particularly in giving its CIO the proper oversight authority. The agency’s inspector general found the CIO did not approve approximately 70% of IT acquisitions worth approximately $1 billion during the first three quarters of fiscal 2018. VA’s policies also did not require the CIO to approval all IT acquisitions. VA attempted address some of the problems when the CIO and the chief acquisition officer signed the December 2019 FITARA Compliance memo that provides consistent requirements for reviewing IT acquisitions.
  • The military services have done a good deal of work to improve the conditions of privatized housing on their bases, but there’s more to be done. That’s according to a followup audit by the Pentagon’s inspector general. The IG said the services have dealt with six of the 16 recommendations auditors made in previous reports, but still haven’t fully grappled with some of the more pervasive problems, like mold and radon contamination.
  • The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency outlined the next steps for the Continuous Diagnostics and Mitigation program. CISA will establish an information exchange between agency dashboards and the new federal CDM dashboard in the second quarter of fiscal 2021. 23 CFO Act agencies and 36 non-CFO Act are already reporting their data to the federal dashboard. But CISA won’t let an algorithm that assigns an agency’s CDM score go live until it goes through a data quality management certification process. (Federal News Network)
  • The Interior Department’s Interior Business Center is out $300,000 after paying the wrong contractor and then that vendor went out of business. The agency’s inspector general found the contractor changed its default bank account information, which caused the improper payment. The IBC also is at fault for paying the wrong entity because it did not enter the correct information in its own contract management system. The IBC still had to pay the correct contractor, meaning it cost $600,000 for $300,000 worth of work.