Teleworking NARA employees stay busy making Black history records accessible

In today's Federal Newscast, National Archives and Records Administration employees have spent the pandemic making Black history records more accessible to the ...

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  • National Archives and Records Administration employees have spent the pandemic making Black history records more accessible to the public. Employees have tagged more than 5,000 records on Black history during the pandemic, making them easier to search for online. Many teleworking employees have worked on this project to make up for tasks they can’t complete with federal facilities closed. Some of those include records of Martin Luther King Junior and Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.). (National Archives and Records Administration)
  • The Presidential Rank Awards are canceled this year. The Office of Personnel Management said it will recommend canceling the awards and associated cash bonuses to the White House. OPM cited the ongoing pandemic and the government’s reopening and recovery efforts as the reason for the cancellation. It will continue to accept this year’s candidates for the next award cycle. The PRAs are considered the highest honor for career senior executives. Distinguished Rank Awards go to the top 1% of senior executives, and Meritorious Rank Awards to the top 5%. The Obama administration last suspended cash bonuses for the PRAs back in 2013. (Federal News Network)
  • Some agencies are making plans to bring employees back to the office, but one agency is still relatively quiet. Field and local offices at the Social Security Administration are still closed to the public and most employees. SSA hasn’t indicated when it may ask large groups of employees to return to their offices. Small groups of SSA managers and employees are handling in-person requests on a case by case basis. SSA employee unions said they’ve heard little about SSA’s reopening plans. They’re optimistic employees are continuing to telework for now, but they’re also concerned about what they don’t know about the agency’s plans. SSA was one of several agencies to make cuts to its telework program before the pandemic began. (Federal News Network)
  • Don’t expect a quick response from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ombudsman during the possible upcoming furlough. The USCIS ombudsman said it will continue to accept requests for help with agency services during the furlough. But it will have a limited capacity to respond. Response times from USCIS offices will all vary during the furlough. The ombudsman said furloughs will also prevent it from reviewing and recommending solutions to systematic problems with immigration benefits. Furloughs are supposed to begin Aug. 3 for some 13,000 USCIS employees, unless Congress comes through with emergency funding.
  • House Democrats have called on the Commerce Department to remove two political hires from the Census Bureau. Lawmakers told Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross to justify or remove two new political appointees at the Census Bureau: Nathaniel Cogley serves as the deputy director for policy, and Adam Korzeniewski is his senior adviser. House lawmakers said these positions expand the influence of political leadership at the bureau. Earlier this month the Commerce inspector general asked the agency for descriptions on the new positions, as well as qualifications for the officeholders.
  • Current U.S. Chief Technology Officer Michael Kratsios will serve as acting defense undersecretary for research and engineering. Kratsios took over for Michael Griffin who left his post last week. As U.S. CTO, Kratsios launched the COVID-19 High Performance Computing Consortium. He also stood up the National Quantum Coordination Office. Mark Lewis will serve as the deputy undersecretary of defense for research and engineering. He is taking over for Lisa Porter, who left with Griffin. (Department of Defense)
  • The defense industrial base is moving again, but that doesn’t mean everything is back on track. Almost all of the defense companies that closed down due to coronavirus are now reopened. However, the Defense Department is concerned about what effects a second wave might have on the supply chain and services offered by contractors. Assistant Defense Secretary for Acquisition Kevin Fahey said industry has learned to operate under a new normal by cleaning more and using equipment. Things could close up again and Fahey said DoD is watching it closely. Some operations, like weapons testing, still have not ramped back up. That’s because those type of activities are not yet conducive to a COVID-19 world. (Federal News Network)
  • The Government Accountability Office rejected a protest of a solicitation because it is using lowest-price technically acceptable or LPTA. GAO said the Defense Information Systems Agency met the statutory and regulatory interpretation for using the LPTA approach as the evaluation criteria for a task order under the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions or EIS program. GAO said the pre-award protest by Verizon was more of a disagreement of the agency’s rationale than violation of policy or law.
  • Adoption of cloud email is at an all-time high across government. The departments of Labor and State became the latest agencies to reach the long-standing goal of getting at least 95% of all email boxes in the cloud. Updated metrics under the President’s Management Agenda show these two agencies are among the 15 that met the milestone. Overall 81% of all federal email boxes are in the cloud, up from 79% the quarter before. Eight agencies still haven’t reached the 95% mark with the two biggest laggards being Treasury coming in at 4% and OPM at 31%. (
  • The website for the Thrift Savings Plan has a new look. The TSP said the new version of its website should make it easier for participants to find the resources they need. TSP participants helped with user testing and interviews. A beta version of the new TSP site launched back in February. Participants made over 1,500 comments about the new site. (Federal News Network)

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