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The Census Bureau has little more than a month until it wraps up 2020 field operations, but it never came close to hiring the number of enumerators officials said were needed to complete the job. Bureau officials told the Commerce Department’s inspector general they planned to hire about 300,000 temporary workers for field operations, but only 220,000 are trained and ready to work. Nearly half of area census offices are less than 75% of the way toward reaching their hiring goals. Bureau officials tell the IG that temporary hires have failed to show up for training or background checks.
A new audit highlights serious ongoing problems at the Navy’s four government-operated shipyards. According to the Government Accountability Office, 51 of the Navy’s aircraft carriers and submarines were scheduled for major maintenance over the last four years, and in 75% of those cases, the maintenance took longer than it should have. GAO says one main reason for the delays is insufficient shipyard workers. Another is that the Navy consistently underestimates how much work its vessels will actually need to get them back to sea.
The Defense Department approved five companies to build drones for military and civilian use. The companies providing small aerial drones include Altavian, Parrot SA, Skydio, Teal and Vantage Robotics. The United States is trying to wean itself off the use of Chinese products. DoD acquisition chief Ellen Lord says China decimated the United States’ drone production by making cheaper products. The approved drones will be available for agencies to buy in September. (Federal News Network)
Two vendors that were disqualified from bidding on a 10-year, $2-billion-dollar program from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will remain on the sidelines after their protests failed before the Government Accountability Office. GAO lawyers found PTO’s use of a request for information under its special acquisition authorities to determine which vendors could bid on an upcoming solicitation doesn’t fall within their jurisdiction. CGI Federal and Ascendant Services alleged that PTO’s use of the RFI to conduct a downselect constituted an initial phase of its selection process.
The Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency is losing a top official to the private sector. Brian Harrell, the assistant director for infrastructure security, is leaving the agency after 21 months at CISA. A CISA spokesperson confirmed Harrell would return to the private sector and deputy assistant director Steve Harris will take over on an interim basis starting on August 24. Harris served in the interim role in 2018 as well. During his tenure, Harrell led CISA’s soft-target security efforts, helped launch SchoolSafety.gov, and enhanced agency’s collaboration with public and private sector partners. (Federal News Network)
Airmen have a new way to stay in shape and to do it safely. Air Force Materiel Command released a guidebook to help airmen complete their conditioning goals without causing musculoskeletal injury. Problems with muscles and bones are the top threats to service members’ readiness and leathality. The guide shows proper body movement skills from warm ups to cool downs and shows airmen how to gradually ramp up their fitness.
A former senior member of the Postal Service’s Board of Governors says the Trump administration challenged the agency’s independence in ways that led him to resign. David Williams, the board’s former vice president, said Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin repeatedly sought to influence USPS labor agreements, postage pricing and volume discounts given to some of its largest customers. He says Treasury tried but failed to gain authority over postal business decisions in negotiations for a $10-billion-dollar loan guaranteed under the CARES Act. (Federal News Network)
Eventually the U.S. Space Force will be 6,700 strong and they all will have to be digitally fluent. That means all employees must pass a minimum level of training to prove their knowledge, skills and capabilities. Air Force Maj. Gen. Kim Crider, the mobilization assistant to the Chief of Space Operations, is developing a strategy that leans on the service’s Digital University to create that minimum level of education Space Force servicemembers and civilians will need to have. Crider’s plan is due to Space Force Commander General John Raymond later this fall. (Federal News Network)
An interagency rapid acquisition office set up to procure medical supplies during the coronavirus pandemic is writing a playbook for future emergencies. The Joint Acquisition Task Force will create a set of enduring policies so it can be quickly set up when the government needs to respond to a disaster and buy materials as needed. The Defense Department plans to dismantle the task force in the fall and pass along the long-term buying of medical supplies to Health and Human Services and FEMA.
The Commerce Department has stood up a new federal advisory committee to promote evidence-based policymaking. The Advisory Committee on Data for Evidence Building, stems from a requirement in the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act. The committee reports to the agency’s undersecretary for economic affairs and will advise the Office of Management and Budget on data-sharing best practices.
A number of defense organizations are working to bring artificial intelligence to the battlefield through drones. The Army’s AI Task Force is using AI to increase autonomy in unmanned vehicles, as is the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s Gremlins program. And the Air Force’s in-house technology incubator, AFWERX, is applying the same principles to its flying car program, Agility Prime. Each organization is exploring ways to build trust between the AIs and the vehicle’s operators. (Federal News Network)