AFGE members say they don’t feel safe returning to the office

In today's Federal Newscast, American Federation of Government Employees members say they're not ready yet to return to their offices.

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  • A majority of American Federation of Government Employees members say they’re not ready yet to return to work at their offices. 79% of AFGE members still working from home said they don’t feel safe returning to the workplace. 73% working on site say their agencies are not taking the right precautions to keep them safe, while a little over half said their agencies have personal protective equipment and other supplies on hand.
  • The General Services Administration has filled two key technology executive roles. Laura Stanton is removing the “acting” title from her new job as assistant commissioner for the office of information technology category in the Federal Acquisition Service. She had been serving as acting commissioner since June when Bill Zielinski left government. GSA also named Uchenna Moka Solana as the new acting director of its 18F organization. She has been with 18F for two years and replaces Brian Whittaker, who moved to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau earlier this month.
  • The Defense Department has lifted travel restrictions on 20 more bases since July. Troops can travel to-and-from 94 greenlighted installations without any special permission. The restrictions were put in place to stem the spread of coronavirus. There are still more than 120 bases with some kind of travel limitations. Nearly 50,000 people in the military, or related to DoD, have been infected with COVID-19.
  • Vendor hardware problems are causing the continuous diagnostics and mitigation cybersecurity program to fall short of its goals at least at three agencies. The Government Accountability Office found the Small Business Administration, the Federal Aviation Administration and the Indian Health Service struggled to implement industry tools to give them and the Department of Homeland Security full visibility into their networks. In one case, SBA said the vendor’s tool to manage its software inventory caused its devices to malfunction and crash. GAO made six recommendations for DHS and the three agencies to get more out of the CDM program.
  • New competency assessment tools are coming soon. The Office of Personnel Management wants to set up a new records system that will manage and make new competency tools available to federal agencies. The tools are designed to help measure and manage the skills of agency program managers. But OPM says the rest of government can use these tools too. They’ll help agencies assess current staffing, skills and other competencies, and then guide agencies in developing new training and development options. OPM says these tools will also help agencies set new career paths for their employees.
  • The rise of 5G networks is driving the intelligence community to refine its cyber threat information sharing practices. 5G networks deliver information 100 times faster than current-generation networks, but National Counterintelligence and Security Center officials claim the technology also creates new vulnerabilities for national critical infrastructure. NCSC officials say they are in the process of streamlining how the federal government shares threat information with its industry partner and encouraging them to only use trusted IT vendors for 5G technology. (Federal News Network)
  • Nearly 100 former and current experts say the Department of Homeland Security should refocus its mission to better handle short and long term non-military threats. Like the September 11th terrorist attacks, they say the ongoing pandemic is another inflection point for DHS. Two former DHS officials say the department needs to pay special attention to longstanding morale issues and resolve engagement challenges at DHS’s two largest subcomponents. They say DHS headquarters and its 22 subcomponents still are not unified and largely operate as separate entities without a view into their common goals. (Federal News Network)
  • Scrutiny over Postal Service operations has intensified. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) says the Postal Service has no intention of replacing mail-sorting equipment or mailboxes it has already removed. Pelosi said that’s based on her most recent conversation with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who will appear before multiple congressional committees in the coming days. The Postal Service says it will hold off on removing additional equipment until after the November election.
  • The top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee is calling on the IRS to hold off on sending unpaid-tax notices to households. Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) says the agency should first process payments it has already received, but hasn’t processed yet because of a longstanding backlog in mail. The IRS had 12 million pieces of unopened mail this summer, because fewer employees were coming into the office under mandatory telework. Neal has also urged the agency to avoid charging penalties for payments it has been delayed in processing.
  • The Air Force Academy is back in session with about half of its classes being held in person. But the school has already started to see some positive coronavirus cases amongst cadets. Officials won’t disclose exactly how many, but a spokesman told Air Force Magazine that fewer than 1% of the student population tested positive over the past weekend. The academy is testing about 750 students each week to help spot outbreaks.
  • The Army’s 18th Airborne Corps is joining other parts of the military in listening to lower-ranked troops for ideas to better the force. The corps created the Dragon Innovation Program, which presents challenges for soldiers and their family members to solve, like how to improve training ranges. The website also offers a way for soldiers and civilians to propose innovative ideas about anything in the Army. The service hopes the program will improve the quality of life for soldiers and cut back on inefficiencies. (Federal News Network)

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