To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
Federal employees may be getting a stronger voice in what it means to return to the office during the coronavirus pandemic. Six Democratic Senators introduced the Federal Labor-Management COVID Partnership Act. The bill would create formal task forces across government to review policies that impact employee safety during the pandemic and make sure agencies consult with their employees on issues such as telework, leave, cleaning protocols and training.
The State Department has brought more of its workforce back to the office in the Washington, D.C. metro area. The agency has moved the region to Phase Two of its “Diplomacy Strong” reopening strategy, which allows up to 80% of employees to return to the office. But the American Foreign Service Association has asked the agency to reconsider. Is says the DC area hasn’t seen a 14-day decline in new coronavirus cases, and five of the seven elements on the agency’s pandemic dashboard don’t support bringing more employees back. (Federal News Network)
As service member coronavirus cases continue to spike, the military is improving its testing and capacity. The Defense Department’s top doctor says the Pentagon can now conduct 200,000 tests a week. The military services are trying to continually test and quarantine troops as needed. Currently there are more than 38,000 people affiliated with DoD who have been diagnosed with COVID-19. About 27,000 of them are service members. DoD saw service member cases more than double over the last three weeks. (Federal News Network)
One Defense Department nomination is on hold in the Senate. The Senate Armed Services Committee canceled the nomination hearing of Anthony Tata to be the next Defense undersecretary for policy. Tata’s nomination was met with controversy from the beginning after it surfaced that he shared right-wing conspiracy theories on social media accounts. Committee Chairman Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) says the committee canceled the hearing because too many Democrats and Republicans did not know enough about Tata to consider him for the position at this time. The committee also did not get the required documentation for the hearing in time. He added the hearing would not serve any useful purpose before the August recess.
The Army picks five civilians to lead an independent review of Fort Hood nearly a month after the body of Army Specialist Vanessa Guillen was found outside the base. Guillen was sexually harassed by fellow soldiers and later murdered. The panel will review the command climate at Fort Hood and ensure the soldiers live and work in environments where they feel safe and respected. The panel includes Chris Swecker, a lawyer and former FBI official, and Carrie Ricci, an assistant general counsel at the Agriculture Department.
The Air Force’s software development service is now an enterprise service for all of DoD. Any and all military services and Defense agencies can use Platform One tools and contracts to develop applications. Defense Department chief information officer Dana Deasy says the Air Force’s dev/sec/ops offering is now considered a DoD enterprisewide service. “They have done a lot of work in the entire software develop process and various tools and techniques that we are advocating as part of our agile workforce.” Deasy says the tools include a reference architecture and design templates to make discovery and reuse easier. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees working in IT know that rapid change is a constant, which is why the General Services Administration has launched an online training site to help feds keep up with the latest innovations. It’s called the IT Acquisition University or ITAU and GSA created it for IT project managers and acquisition professionals. Training topics include cybersecurity, cloud migration and federal IT modernization. Many of the sessions will earn employees continuous learning points, allowing them to maintain a number of certifications. ITAU is up-and-running on GSA’ Acquisition Gateway and will eventually offer live webinars.
Federal employees with ideas to improve technology can get startup funding. GSA is offering up seed capital through its 10x investment fund. 10x is looking for projects that improve citizen services, enhance how agencies build technology, or bring in big or rapidly growing hardware or software. Past projects include U.S. Web Design System, the Federalist, and the TTS Bug Bounty Program. Deadline to submit applications for the funding is August 5.
Despite no confirmed members of the Merit Systems Protection Board, House lawmakers want to make sure the organization remains viable for the next five years. Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Gerry Connolly (D-VA) introduce the Merit Systems Protection Board Empowerment Act that would reauthorize the board through 2025. It also would require training of administrative law judges on whistleblower protections and authorize a survey of federal employees.
A Democratic push for banking services at post offices moves further in Congress. The House approved an amendment to one of the fiscal 2021 spending bills that would give the Postal Service $2 million to launch a postal banking pilot program. Reps. Bill Pascrell (D-NJ) and Marcy Kaptur (D-OH) introduced the amendment. They said banking services at post offices would serve the 90% of ZIP codes that lack a bank or credit union.