Telework hasn’t hampered HUD operations says inspector general

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  • Good news from one of the first audits on how agencies are fairing under the mandatory telework requirement. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s inspector general says the agency was generally well prepared for the change. The limited audit of 37 people found many of the survey respondents said switching to mandatory telework had no negative impact or only a slight impact on their work. The IG said there were some network and connection issues, and remote working made those jobs that required paper more difficult.
  • The Agriculture Department says it should be able to provide parking to most employees in the national capital region during the first two phases of its reopening. USDA reopening documents describe an effort to open up parking for initial waves of returning employees who don’t want to take public transportation. USDA says it will also provide reusable cloth masks to employees during much of the reopening. But it won’t provide testing or temperature checks for employees. USDA leaders are supposed to keep an ongoing list of employees who do have confirmed or presumed coronavirus cases. (Federal News Network)
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs had admitted to shortcomings with its plans to provide coronavirus testing for employees. VA told House appropriators last week testing was available for any employee who wanted one. But the Veterans Health Administration’s executive-in-charge say VA lacks all the supplies it needs to conduct on-demand employee testing. Congress and VA employees themselves say they see testing inconsistences. VHA’s Richard Stone to Senator Jon Tester (D-Mont.), “You are exactly right, we’re not there yet. Although we’ve tested over 12% of our employees and it is our intent to have on-demand testing for all of our employees, we’re not there yet.” Stone says VHA experienced some supply shipping problems the week it told employees they would have on-demand testing. (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS keeps rolling out pandemic stimulus payments, but some households may still have to wait months. The agency has sent out 159 million payments so far, and more than 75% of them through direct deposit. People eligible for payments, but not required to file a tax return can submit their information to the IRS through an online portal until October 15. The agency says those who meet the deadline will get their stimulus payments by the end of the year.
  • Congressional Budget Office director Philip Swagel extolled the accomplishments of his 260-member staff, nearly all working from home now, and many dealing with children and other family members. Swagel points to the IT staff for enabling telework almost overnight. Congress’s pandemic response bills cause extra work for CBO in evaluating the future economic consequences. Swagel says he couldn’t have imagined all this, a year ago.
  • Postal Service nominees see common ground to restructure the agency. If confirmed, Board of Governors nominees Donald Lee Moak and Bill Zollars have two top priorities, long-term postal reform and redefining the agency’s obligation to deliver mail to every address in the US six days a week. They’d also restore the board’s quorum, which was lost this week with Deputy Postmaster General Ron Stroman stepping down. Both see common ground for reform in recommendations from a White House postal task force led by Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. (Federal News Network)
  • The Government Accountability Office says three of the president’s friends and members of his private Mar-a-Lago club had shadow sway over some decision-making at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Bruce Moskowitz, Isaac Perlmutter and Marc Sherman inserted themselves into five VA initiatives between 2016 and 2018. The three private citizens were otherwise known as the “Mar-a-Lago crowd.” They weighed in on VA’s electronic health record contract with Cerner, veterans suicide prevention initiatives and the development of new VA mobile apps.
  • The Justice Department is joining the false claims act lawsuit against AECOM. The department says it has intervened in a whistleblower lawsuit against AECOM and certain disaster relief applicants, alleging that they submitted false claims to FEMA for the repair or replacement of facilities damaged by Hurricane Katrina. The lawsuit alleges that, between 2007 through 2013, AECOM knowingly submitted false claims on behalf of applicants seeking public assistance funds. The complaint alleges the company used inflated repair estimates and other false information that improperly increased funding for applicants. The lawsuit further alleges that, by 2011, AECOM management was aware of systemic problems concerning the provision of false and inaccurate information to FEMA but failed to notify the government.
  • The Cyberspace Solarium Commission is drafting a legislative proposal setting security standards for Internet of Things devices. The legislation would set baseline requirements for routers, and would require additional authentication steps for devices when they connect to a network. The commission would also ensure IOT devices can receive software updates and patches remotely, to reduce their vulnerability to cyber threats. The legislative proposal stems from a report with 75 recommendations the commission released in March.
  • The Space Force may be up and running, but what would it cost for a Space National Guard? A separate component of the Space Force could cost nearly $1.5 billion depending on how the Defense Department decides to implement it. One option would be to create an organization a third of the size of the active duty component. That would have about 4,900 to 5,800 service members and cost on the upper end of the scale, according to the Congressional Budget Office. A less expensive option would transfer 1,500 National Guard members to the Space Guard and cost about $120 million.
  • The D.C. National Guard has launched a formal investigation into the use of one of its helicopters in low-flying maneuvers over protests this week. The D.C. adjutant general, William Walker, says he ordered the immediate investigation because he holds his guardsmen to the highest of standards. Defense Sec. Mark Esper told reporters earlier in the day that he’d also directed an investigation. Esper said the operation appeared to be unsafe, but wasn’t ready to concede that it looked like an effort to intimidate protesters. The medevac helicopter reportedly flew low enough to spray protesters with rotor wash. (Federal News Network)
  • Seven new military installations have been chosen by the Defense Department to conduct 5G communications technology and testing. Those include Naval Base Norfolk, Virginia; Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii; Joint Base San Antonio, Texas; the National Training Center at Fort Irwin, California; Fort Hood, Texas; Camp Pendleton, California; and Tinker Air Force Base, Oklahoma. The roles in testing range from spectrum sharing to augmented reality support. The bases were selected for their ability to provide streamlined access to spectrum bands and wireless infrastructure. Other factors were the ability to conduct controlled experiments and new infrastructure.
  • The Small Business Administration didn’t wait long to name a new chief information officer. Keith Bluestein is coming back to SBA to take over for Maria Roat. Roat left at the end of May to become the federal deputy CIO. Bluestein, who served as SBA’s deputy CIO and acting CIO for about 17 months starting in 2015, is coming over from NASA where he was the associate CIO for enterprise service and integration for the past three-plus years. Sources confirmed Bluestein starts at SBA on June 8.
  • Hiring flexibilities and new workforce incentives for the Intelligence Community are just some of the provisions that made it into the Senate Intelligence Committee’s version of the intel authorization act. The bill would allow agencies to share some information about their cleared contractors with private companies to enhance existing insider threat programs. It would also set new guidelines to prevent agencies from denying or revoking a security clearance for political beliefs or retaliation.

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