As coronavirus cases spike, lawmakers want to know how DHS is keeping employees safe

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  • Cases of the coronavirus are spiking at the Customs and Border Protection directorate and the Transportation Security Administration. House lawmakers say in the past two weeks, CBP saw a 52% increase in positive COVID-19 cases while TSA saw a 43% increase. And now Homeland Security Committee chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) wants to know what DHS is doing to keep all of its employees safe. In a letter to Acting DHS Secretary Chad Wolf, Thompson urges the agency to do more to protect its employees, including mandating face coverings for all people who fly.
  • The Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey is delayed again. The Office of Personnel Management is pushing the survey back to September 14. OPM says the delay will allow agencies to continue to prioritize their mission during the pandemic. Federal employees usually get the survey in May. But OPM pushed it back to July, and now again to September. This year’s survey will include questions on the coronavirus pandemic and its impact on employees and their work.
  • Some House members say a 1% federal pay raise isn’t good enough. A bipartisan group of ten lawmakers say civilian federal employees should have pay parity with the military next year. They’re calling on House appropriators to give employees a 3% pay raise in 2021, not the one percent bump President Trump proposed. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Brian Fitzpatrick (D-Penn.) and other Maryland and Virginia Democrats are leading the effort. Members are considering an amendment to a House 2021 spending bill that could give federal employees a 3% raise. (Federal News Network)
  • Two House members have a new bill to give U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services the funding it says it needs to avoid employee furloughs next month. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Neb.) are the bill’s main sponsors. The bill will give USCIS $1.2 billion in funding through the end of 2020. It would also raise certain USCIS fees. USCIS will have to furlough over 13,000 employees on August 3 unless emergency funding comes through. Potential furloughs are expected to last over 30 days.
  • A new effort to bring the IRS modern technology is ready for the next step. The IRS released details of its plans to acquire modern technology to address data and coding challenges. After an overwhelming response to its requests for information issued in January under its Pilot IRS initiative, the tax agency expects to put out a series of procurements in the coming months. The first one scheduled for release in the next month is for procurement data visualization, while two others for synthetic testing and for code-free testing tools are expected in fiscal 2021. The IRS wants industry feedback on two other new initiatives around cyber crime data and cryptocurrency.
  • 17 sailors and four civilians are recovering after an explosion and massive fire on board a ship at Naval Base San Diego. It happened aboard the USS Bonhomme Richard, an amphibious carrier that was undergoing maintenance at the time of yesterday’s fire. The cause is still under investigation. About 160 sailors and officers were on board at the time — far fewer than the 1,000 who are usually on the ship. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Health Agency is inheriting a $14.8 billion maintenance, restoration and modernization backlog as it takes over medical treatment facilities from the services. The Defense Department Inspector General said some outstanding unfunded requirements at some hospitals could cause major injury or even death. The IG recommended that DHA establish a plan to prioritize unfunded requirements. (Federal News Network)
  • The House Appropriations Committee approved its military construction and veterans affairs spending bill by a vote of 30-20. The bill gives the Defense Department $10.1 billion for building new facilities. The Veteran Affairs Agency would get $105 billion from the bill. The legislation bars funding infrastructure projects at bases named for Confederates and prohibits the Trump administration from using the money to build a border wall.
  • The Army is setting up a task force to investigate the command climate at Fort Hood, Texas. The new review is a response to criticism about the Army’s handling of the disappearance and death of Spc. Vanessa Guillen. Army Sec. Ryan McCarthy ordered the investigation after meeting on Friday with the League of United Latin American Citizens. The task force will be made up of four consultants the Army will hire as highly-qualified experts. Investigators believe Guillen was murdered at Fort Hood by a fellow soldier who later took his own life.