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The House Armed Services subcommittees will conduct their work on the 2021 defense authorization bill from June 22 to June 23. The full committee will meet on July first to mark up the whole bill. The House Armed Services Committee is working on its bill later than its Senate counterpart this year. The Senate begins its markup process this week.
One of the biggest federal employee unions is asking the House Armed Services Committee for protection. The American Federation of Government Employees wants Congress to add a provision in the 2021 defense authorization bill that will protect Defense Department workers’ bargaining rights. The legislative proposal comes in response to a memo President Donald Trump signed earlier this year. The policy gave the defense secretary the authority to exclude DoD civilian employees from the Federal Service Labor-Management Relations statue. That law allows unions to bargain with agencies on behalf of federal workers. AFGE asks that Congress prohibit the appropriation of funds to exclude DoD or any agency from the statute.
Unions still aren’t thrilled with the way the Social Security Administration is handling emergency paid sick leave. Federal unions filed a grievance over SSA’s handling of emergency paid sick leave. The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act allowed for federal employees who meet certain requirements to receive up to 80-hours of extra paid or partially paid sick leave. SSA has said challenges with its payroll provider mean employees can’t request the new leave in their time and attendance system. SSA instead is giving employees a written form to request leave. Signing it means employees recognize they may be overpaid for the leave, and SSA won’t waive the overpayment. (Federal News Network)
Veterans Affairs will resume committal and memorial services tomorrow at most of its national cemeteries. VA says national cemeteries will call families who weren’t able to schedule a service during the pandemic. Most cemeteries have been open during the pandemic. But VA stopped committal and memorial services back on March 23. Upcoming services will be limited to small groups of family members. Cemetery employees and visitors will be required to wear masks.
There’s no longer a place for the Confederate flag in the Marine Corps. The Corps is ordering the removal of the battle flag – and even most depictions of it – from its installations. The new directive applies to all public displays of the flag, including in individual workspaces, and commanders are being told to inspect those workspaces to make sure. Officials say the flag is such a divisive symbol that it represents a threat to the service’s core values. The removal order does allow for some exceptions, such as in works of art or historical displays.
The coronavirus pandemic has canceled in-person internships, but agencies still seek interns to work remotely. The Virtual Student Federal Service last year matched 1,200 students to projects at 55 agencies, and the number of applicants this year is expected to increase. Federal employees have until June 10 to sign up as mentors. Agencies must also submit project ideas by the deadline. Students can apply for the program starting in July. Virtual internships began more than a decade ago at the State Department, and the agency still plays a coordinating role in the program. (Federal News Network)
The IRS is expanding its virtual outreach program for households behind on their taxes. The agency’s chief counsel set up virtual settlement days, where taxpayers without lawyers can get free tax advice from Low Income Taxpayer Clinics and pro-bono attorneys. Taxpayers can also speak with members of the chief counsel’s office to settle tax issues without having to go to trial. The virtual settlement days take place over videoconferencing platforms, and began last month. Regional IRS offices will hold more events later this month.
Mittal Desai is back for a second tour at the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s Office of the chief information officer. This time as its CIO. He takes over for Dr. Christina Handley, who became the CIO of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency in the Treasury Department in January. Desai has been a senior advisor and risk analyst in FERC’s Office of the Executive Director since April 2019. He also worked at FERC for 11 years rising to become the chief information security officer before leaving to join the FDIC as its deputy CISO in 2018.
The long-time chairman of the Thrift Savings Plan board is resigning. Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board Chairman Michael Kennedy will resign effective June 30. President Trump named three people to replace Kennedy and two other board members last month. The Senate is expected to confirm them at any time, because the nominees don’t need a confirmation hearing. Board member David Jones will serve as acting chairman if the Senate doesn’t confirm the president’s new members before the end of the month. The board recently fielded some controversy for its original plans to expand the international fund. (Federal News Network)
Fewer federal employees retired in May as compared to April, and as well as May 2019. But the time it takes the Office of Personnel Management to process a claim rose by 15 days. It now takes on average 83 days to complete the paperwork. OPM’s latest data on retirements shows more than 6,600 employees filed retirement claims. OPM also says its backlog of claims is at the lowest point in five months.
Even software can get a in trouble with the Office of Special Counsel. No, you don’t have to be a human retaliator or office campaigner. OSC told the Treasury department about a software logic flaw that let employers with federal safety violations off the hook, to the tune of $92 million in fines from 11,000 companies. OSC said the flaw also hindered collection by a dozen agencies besides OSHA. The Bureau of the Fiscal Service has fixed the software, but there’s a lot of cleanup left to do.