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COVID-19 has forced the cancellation of yet another government conference – this time, the largest in the country. The Association of the U.S. Army announced this week it will hold the massive annual conference it normally hosts in Washington D.C. as a virtual event instead. As in past years, it had been scheduled for early October. The AUSA event dwarfs most other federal conferences. Officials had expected 33,000 attendees this year. The association says cancelling the event was a “tough call,” but the restrictions on large gatherings that are expected to continue into the fall made it impossible to hold in person.
The National Treasury Employees Union has a wish list for the next coronavirus relief package. The union says Congress needs to ensure agencies are taking steps to safeguard the federal workplace for employees once they return. NTEU is looking for guaranteed weather and safety leave for employees who can’t safely report to work or telework from home. It’s also pushing for premium payments for federal employees who are working on the frontlines of the government’s pandemic response. (Federal News Network)
The Environmental Protection Agency has released more details on its phase three reopening plan. Employees are expected to return to the office. But those with children at home or who have personal or family health concerns can ask to continue telework. EPA regional managers are looking at their office floor plans and developing social distancing schedules. Employees who work in enclosed shared office spaces can telework a minimum of five days a pay period. EPA says it will review all telework agreements and social distancing plans every eight weeks. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees may get a few new safeguards against discrimination and retaliation at the workplace. The House version of the 2021 defense authorization bill includes the Federal Employee Anti-Discrimination Act. The bill requires agencies to set up equal employment opportunity programs separate from their human resources or general counsel offices. Agencies would also have to create a complaint tracking system and publish findings of discrimination and retaliation on their websites. Non-disclosure agreements barring employees from reporting waste, fraud, abuse and retaliation are also prohibited. (Federal News Network)
A bill increasing the transparency of senior agency leadership has made it through the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. The 2020 Plum Book Act requires the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration to create a website with information on senior leaders in government. The bill would also require the OPM director to work with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel to keep information on the website current. The bill takes its name from the document Congress prints after every president election, detailing more than 9,000 federal leadership positions.
The Pentagon’s top legislative official is leaving the Defense Department at the end of the week. Robert Hood, the assistant defense secretary for legislative affairs, is the latest in a slew of officials to leave. With his departure, there will be 21 vacant Senate-confirmed positions. Earlier this month the top two research and engineering officials left DoD. The Pentagon’s acting comptroller also left in mid-June.
The Defense Department and Lockheed Martin are in a battle over extra labor costs associated with the F-35. The Defense Department is out at least $300 million because Lockheed Martin did not deliver spare parts with the proper electronic information attached. The Pentagon is now negotiating with the defense contractor to get its money back. However, Lockheed Martin told lawmakers yesterday it won’t commit to paying the money back. The Defense Department Inspector General says the faulty information on the spare parts may cause squadrons to miss alerts on legitimate aircraft issues. (Federal News Network)
For the first time in its 112-year history, the Army Reserve will be led by a woman. The Senate has confirmed Maj. Gen. Jody Daniels for a promotion to a third star, and to be the next Chief of the Army Reserve. Daniels’ comes to the top job from her previous assignment as commander of the Army’s 88th Readiness Division. She’ll replace Lt. Gen. Charles Luckey, who is retiring this year.
New ideas to recruit tech talent in government are coming into focus. The National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence urges Congress to stand up a Digital Service Academy to develop new AI talent, and a National Digital Reserve Corps to tap into private-sector expertise. Digital service academy graduates would serve a five-year stint in federal civilian government after graduating. The reserve corps is modeled after the National Guard. Volunteers would work at least 38 days a year as short-term advisers, developers and instructors within the federal government. (Federal News Network)