EPA inspector general takes close look at reopening plans

In today's Federal Newscast, some EPA employees say they feel uncomfortable returning to the office as OIG conducts a review.

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  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s reopening plans are getting a closer look from its inspector general. The IG says the reopening review is part of its broader effort to study the pandemic’s impact on the EPA and its operations. Many EPA members of the American Federation of Government Employees say they feel uncomfortable with returning to the office. They’re concerned EPA leadership won’t make accommodations for them to keep teleworking if they are high risk or have children at home. The majority of EPA regions have entered some phase of reopening.
  • Pregnant active duty service members may be able to get free maternity uniforms if one provision of the House defense authorization bill makes it into law. An amendment added by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) starts a “Rent the Camo” program, which creates a bank of uniforms pregnant women can use. Haaland says it takes a financial burden off women and may help with retention. “They’re only pregnant for nine months and we just felt this was a logical program that would support our active duty women service members,” Haaland said. The bill gives the Defense Logistics Agency $10 million to fill the bank. The uniforms will also be free of chemicals that may be harmful to fetuses. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service is getting another shot at funding from Congress. A House-passed infrastructure bill would give the Postal Service $25 billion to upgrade its facilities and vehicle fleet. The $1.5 trillion Moving Forward Act would require the agency to spend $6 billion on replacing most of its delivery trucks with electric or zero-emission vehicles. The bill would also require USPS to make nearly a third of its medium and heavy-duty vehicle fleet zero-emission by 2030. (Federal News Network)
  • Agriculture Department employees say they’re concerned about the possibility of returning to the office under phase three of the agency’s reopening plan. The union that represents employees at the Food and Nutrition Service says the workforce hasn’t been reassured they’ll get telework and flexible work-schedule options in the upcoming phase. The National Treasury Employees Union says FNS workers with children or high-risk family members at home are worried they’ll have to come into the office regardless of their concerns. USDA isn’t anticipating any changes to its current telework policy. (Federal News Network)
  • Senate lawmakers are continuing to push for federal IT modernization. The Modernization Centers of Excellence Program Act would codify the Trump administration’s IT modernization initiative started in 2018. Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) introduced the bill last week. The legislation details the baseline CoE responsibilities and harmonizes their roles to strengthen the government’s technology expertise. Portman says the bill would ensure agencies have the insight and resources they need to better understand the benefits and pitfalls of current and emerging technologies.
  • The Office of Management and Budget is trying to lighten the load on agencies when it comes to financial reporting deadlines and other audit requirements. In a memo from acting deputy director for management Michael Rigas, OMB tells agencies to apply a risk-based framework when deciding which due dates they will meet while balancing the workload coming from the coronavirus pandemic. Rigas says agencies must document and track the rationale for all reporting delays, and be prepared to report and communicate them.
  • Over 100 facilities at the Department of Veterans Affairs are offering at least one in-person service now. VA put many of its in-person medical services on hold in the early days of the pandemic. VA is prioritizing those services for veterans with the greatest clinical needs, while keeping emergency room and urgent-care facilities open. VA Sec. Robert Wilkie says the department will continue to rely on telehealth and reevaluate what in-person services should stay open as the pandemic evolves.
  • The General Services Administration has cancelled the solicitation for a governmentwide acquisition contract populated by small businesses. GSA’s Alliant 2 Small Business program is kaput. It’s been trouble all along. GSA had to rescind awards last year after protests. Officials, citing a changed market, now say they will try a new approach to bringing small, information-technology services companies to federal agencies. In the meantime, acting assistant commissioner Laura Stanton says GSA will expand its Stars III program, with a new, $7 billion higher ceiling.
  • The Air Force Recruiting Service and the Air National Guard Recruiting and Retention organization are combining resources and integrating staff to enhance marketing and advertising. The initiative is part of the Air Force’s attempt to create a total-force enterprise to bring in the best talent. The total-force recruiting also encompasses Air Force Academy admissions, the Air Force Civilian Service, Air Force ROTC and bringing in people to the Space Force.
  • GSA is calling on industry to build a bot that can read the fine print on software license agreements. GSA has set up a challenge to build an artificial intelligence or machine-learning solution that can look over end-user license agreements and flag terms and conditions that agency doesn’t approve. This process takes an employee one-to-two weeks to complete. GSA will give $1,500 for first prize. The contest begins July 6 and closes August 20. GSA expects to pick winners in September.

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