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Environmental Protection Agency operatives are taking the subway to test anti-microbial cleaners. Not literally, but the agency has teamed up with the New York and Los Angeles mass transit systems. It’s looking into products for hard surfaces, such as the grip bars on subways and buses, that keep them disinfected even after they’re touched by human hands, or other body parts, and that don’t require multiple steps to the cleaning process. Researchers are also looking into ultraviolet light and electrostatic spray technologies.
A draft 2021 appropriations bill will make another attempt to restrict agencies from enforcing the president’s 2018 workforce executive orders. The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Financial Services wants to stop agencies from restricting official time and banning unions from occupying federal office space. The bill also includes new language restricting the merger of the Office of Personnel Management with the General Services Administration. It also gives the IRS $606 million more for taxpayer services and enforcement next year. The GSA Federal Buildings Fund would get more than $9 billion. (Federal News Network)
A 1% federal pay raise looks more likely for civilian employees next year. House appropriators released the draft version of their financial services and general government bill for next year. And the bill is silent on federal pay for civilian employees in 2021. That means House appropriators are essentially deferring to the president’s proposed federal pay raise. President Donald Trump introduced a 1% across-the-board raise for federal employees as part of his 2021 budget request. The plan includes no locality pay adjustments. A 1% raise will likely go into effect starting Jan. 1 unless Congress acts in some other way. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Homeland Security moved one step closer to a consolidated headquarters. The House Appropriations Committee would give the General Services Administration $200 million to continue work on the DHS campus at St. Elizabeths. The campus has been under construction for more than a decade, and several DHS components have walked away from plans to relocate there. GSA has given the National Capital Planning Commission an update on its master plan for the campus. (Federal News Network)
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency may have the opportunity to expand its budget. A provision in the Senate defense authorization bill asks CISA how expanding its budget could help meet its mission priorities. The bill asks CISA to submit a report on how additional resources could improve pubic and private sector cybersecurity and increase situational awareness of threats. The bill also requires an assessment of whether existing personnel have what they need to hunt threats and respond to cyber incidents. (Federal News Network)
The first pass to fund federal IT modernization doesn’t offer much excitement. The Technology Modernization Fund, the Federal Citizen Services Fund and the IT Oversight and Reform Fund aren’t getting a lot of love from House lawmakers in the initial version of the 2021 spending bill. The House Appropriations Subcommitee on Financial Services and General Government allocated $25 million for TMF, the same as this year. It would give the Federal Citizen Services Fund $55 million, which matches this year’s allocation. And subcommittee members cut the ITOR fund down to $11 million from $15 million in 2020.
Four State Department passport offices moved into the next stage of reopening. Offices in Boston, Buffalo, Connecticut and New York reached Phase Two of reopening on Monday, and brought more employees back to work. These offices will accept customers by appointment only, and will continue to prioritize life-or-death emergencies. The Bureau of Consular Affairs is processing cases on a first-in, first-out basis, and issued more than 230,000 passports last week.
A federal union is concerned about a Customs and Border Protection plan to temporarily redeploy 800 CBP officers from their current ports to the Texas border. The National Treasury Employees Union said CBP officers would work on one of two 60-day deployments. The goal is to help the Border Patrol along the southern border. But NTEU said it’s concerned CBP isn’t taking enough precautions to keep its members safe from coronavirus during their deployments. NTEU wants CBP to commit to testing its officers while on deployment.
The Postal Service is giving employees new face coverings to help beat the heat during the pandemic. These face coverings wick moisture away from the skin and can help employees stay cool during the summer months. USPS began distributing these face coverings to mail carriers and vehicle maintenance employees in June, and will continue distribution later this month.
The Navy is doing away with physical fitness assessments for the rest of the year because of concerns about coronavirus. The service says all of its personnel will be excused from the next cycle of fitness assessments. As a practical matter, it means they won’t have to meet weight standards or pass physical tests that measure push-ups, sit-ups or running for the rest of 2020. Officials say sailors still need to be ready to pass the next cycle of fitness tests. Those are scheduled to start in January of next year.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (D-Vt.) wants to help make the Defense Department’s audits more successful. An amendment by Sanders inserted into the Senate defense authorization bill will allow DoD to provide incentives to agencies and military services for improving on their audit status. Only a small fraction of the Pentagon’s components have passed their audits in the two years they have been conducted. The provision would leave it up to DoD as to how it would incentivize its agencies. (Federal News Network)
Two new political jobs at the Census Bureau raised questions from the Commerce Department’s inspector general. The watchdog office asked the bureau for position descriptions and resumes for its deputy director for policy, and his senior adviser. The IG has also asked how much each position pays, and whether the bureau has any justification for creating these political jobs. The bureau announced these hires last month, and said they would help oversee decennial operations.
A new cross-agency priority goal aims to make acquisition easier and encourage more innovation. The Office of Management and Budget launched the frictionless acquisition CAP goal detailing 24 milestones it wants to accomplish over the next 18 months. Frictionless acquisition, which is led by the Office of Federal Procurement Policy, DHS and Commerce, is focused on helping agencies buy commercial items at the same speed as the private sector, manage customer expectations and break down barriers to entry.