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House Democrats are making a significant push to improve whistleblower protection rights for federal employees. A new bill would give certain federal whistleblowers access to a jury trial. It would also expand whistleblower protections to all non-career appointees in the Senior Executive Service, and limit the disclosure of an employee’s identity. The legislation came from House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) and House Whistleblower Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act would also limit the disclosure of a federal employee’s identity.
The Office of Personnel Management reorganized a few dozen of its employees into a new directorate. OPM says the new Human Capital Data Management and Modernization Directorate will allow the agency to better manage federal employee data. But the American Federation of Government Employees says it’s a back-door effort to advance the OPM merger with the General Services Administration. The union says employees in this new directorate will be placed in a working group with GSA. AFGE also says the moves will impact employees’ work and responsibilities. OPM disagrees. (Federal News Network)
Federal employees are still not allowed to support or oppose impeaching the President or cite the “resist” movement against President Trump while at the workplace. A district judge threw out the American Federation of Government Employees lawsuit, challenging the Office of Special Counsel’s 2018 opinion outlawing such activity. (Justia)
The Trump administration is taking another shot a reskilling the federal workforce. A governmentwide data science reskilling pilot will launch in September after the Office of Management and Budget kicked around the idea late last year. OMB is looking for up to 60 federal employees for the first round of training, which will be conducted entirely online. Employees will complete a capstone data project before graduating from the program. OMB is looking at theming those projects around coronavirus pandemic response. The Census Bureau ran its own pilot and wrapped up its training last month. (Federal News Network)
99% of all federal vendors on the General Services Administration’s schedule program have moved to a consolidated contract. GSA says the initiative to make buying easier for agencies now moves into the final phase. Phase 3 is where vendors will consolidate their multiple contracts down to one per unique entity identifier, which is replacing the Dun and Bradstreet number. GSA says these changes will reduce vendor overhead costs and make it simpler for agency customers to find all the products and services a vendor offers.
The Census Bureau says it’ll wrap up 2020 field operations at the end of September, a month earlier than it projected. Director Steven Dillingham says the bureau is looking to submit its apportionment data to Congress and the president by December 31, a statutory deadline Census officials already said they can no longer meet because of delays from the coronavirus pandemic. House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) is requesting briefings from census leaders about the change, and has introduced a bill that would keep the bureau on track to submit apportionment data in April 2021.
The Patent and Trademark Office purposely took its Patent Application Locating and Monitoring or PALM database offline. It was a way to test the failover capabilities that PTO installed after a 2018 mutli-day outage. PTO CIO Jaime Holcombe wrote in a blog post that the redundant systems at the offsite locations took over virtually uninterrupted to support system users. The test outage focused on some of PTO’s largest, most important, and most accessed IT applications used for reviewing, filing, and prosecuting patent applications. Holcombe says the next step is to fully automate the failover system, and continue to upgrade various other hardware and data infrastructure.
Gen. C.Q. Brown is set to take over as Air Force chief of staff later tomorrow. He’ll replace Gen. David Goldfein. Brown will be the first Black chief of staff in Air Force history. President Trump marked the milestone with a ceremonial swearing-in in the Oval Office yesterday. (Federal News Network)
At least two members of Congress are questioning the Pentagon’s decisions on its multibillion dollar moving contract. Responding to bid protests, U.S. Transportation Command first said it would take corrective action on the more than $7 billion award to American Roll-On Roll-Off Cargo, but then re-awarded the contract to the same company two weeks later. In a letter to DoD leadership this week, Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) requested a more thorough review by TRANSCOM officials. In a separate letter to the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. David McKinley (R-W.V.) asked that panel to conduct an independent investigation. (Federal News Network)
National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien is back at the White House after recovering from a mild case of COVID-19. A spokesman for the National Security Council says O’Brien has had two negative coronavirus tests in recent days. He first tested positive late last month. He’s been working in a secure location away from the White House since then. (Federal News Network)
The Smithsonian’s Zoo and Air and Space Annex reopenings are also test beds for the rest of the system. Lonnie Bunch, the secretary of the Smithsonian, says those two reopened first partly because they have large parking areas, so visitors can avoid public transit, and the zoo is mostly outdoors. He says the learnings about cleaning, foot traffic control and ticket-issuing will help govern how the rest of the museums open. Bunch said the zoo animals like the human interaction, even if humans are masked. (Federal News Network)