Senate Democrats want to secure hazard pay for frontline VA health workers

In today's Federal Newscast, Senators say they're still fielding complaints from VA health employees who say they don't have enough support to work safely.

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  • A group of Senate Democrats are making the case for hazard pay for frontline health workers at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Senators say they’re still fielding complaints from VA health employees who say they don’t have enough support to safely continue working during the pandemic. VA got over $19 billion through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. Senators say that funding should help cover hazard pay for VA employees directly treating coronavirus patients. (Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee)
  • After more than 8,500 airmen asked to join the Space Force, the nation’s newest military service has narrowed down the field and accepted 2,400 members. Those who have been officially accepted will receive messages later in July and most transfers will happen on September first. The airmen moving over to the Space Force are part of 13 career fields including cyberspace operators, developmental engineers and fusion analysts.
  • The Army is moving closer to using partly electric vehicles in combat. The service’s Rapid Capabilities Office awarded a contract to prototype electric drives used in commercial cars, buses and trucks for military use. The Army will use the A2 Bradley fighting vehicle as the surrogate test vehicle. The Army is paying BAE Systems $32 million to retrofit prototypes with the electric batteries and updated engines. The Army says the technology will reduce maintenance costs and fuel consumption.
  • Federal investigators believe a Texas couple defrauded the Army out of millions of dollars in a scam involving the federal mass transit subsidy program. So far, the Army has seized 20 vehicles as part of the investigation, which authorities say drained up to $11 million dollars out of the mass transit program illegitimately. According to a search warrant affidavit, authorities believe the two Army veterans used their prior access to Army databases to fraudulently enroll soldiers in a vanpool program at Fort Hood without their knowledge and kept the subsidies for themselves. Some of the soldiers had never even been stationed at the fort, according to court documents. (Federal News Network)
  • House lawmakers are calling on the State Department to clear through its backlog of passport applications more quickly. The bipartisan Passport Backlog Elimination Act would require the agency to give Congress a plan of how it expects to process the 1.3 million applications in the pipeline. The legislation would also require the agency’s inspector general to complete an audit of its backlog reduction efforts. The State Department issued nearly a quarter-million passports in the past week. (Federal News Network)
  • A Virginia congresswoman wants to change federal vetting guidelines to make sure those involved with violent extremist groups aren’t getting a security clearance. Congresswoman Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.) introduced an amendment to the annual defense authorization bill that would add new suitability standards to weed out those involved with hate and violence-based extremist groups. Wexton says anyone with that kind of experience shouldn’t have access to classified information.
  • Timeliness goals for security clearances are nearly within reach. The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency cut secret and top secret background investigation times in half from a year ago. Today it takes an average of 89 days for a secret background investigation, and 135 days for a top secret clearance. DCSA has 205,000 background investigations in its inventory. DCSA says the inventory has seen a slight uptick during the pandemic, but the total is still within DCSA’s steady state goal of 200,000-225,000 investigations. Progress is partly due to the Defense Department’s reliance on continuous evaluation. Over two million clearance holders are enrolled in DoD’s continuous evaluation program. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies face a quick turnaround to address a known vulnerability in Windows Domain Name System servers. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is giving agencies until Friday afternoon to patch software for Windows Servers running DNS. CISA warns the vulnerability is wormable and can spread to other vulnerable systems. CISA will follow up with chief information officers and senior risk management officials at agencies that have yet to meet all the requirements of the emergency directive by mid-August. (Federal News Network)
  • The Small Business Administration has made a slew of high level appointments. Administrator Jovita Carranza named Christopher Gray as the SBA deputy chief of staff. Chief of Staff William Manger keeps that title and gains associate administrator for the office of capital access. Keith Bluestein becomes the chief information officer, and Brittany Biles general counsel. Other associate administrators include Loretta Greene for the Office of International Trade, Francis Spampinato for the Office of Government Contracting and Business Development, and Sery Kim for the Women’s Business Ownership and Entrepreneurial Development.

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