Senator pushing to help USCIS avoid furloughs

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  • The top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations Committee is calling for another delay to employee furloughs at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) said he’s committed to resolving USCIS’ financial challenges. He said he and other members of Congress want to address funding challenges before Oct. 1. But Leahy said USCIS will start the new fiscal year with a sizeable carryover balance. That should be enough to pay USCIS employees through the rest of the fiscal year. USCIS said it’ll have to furlough over 13,000 employees on Aug. 31 without emergency funding from Congress.
  • The number of Veterans Health Administration employees with active coronavirus cases is down in recent weeks. A total of 265 VHA employees have active cases. Forty-eight employees have died since the beginning of the pandemic. VA is caring for over 3,400 veterans and 185 non-veterans with active coronavirus cases today. Nearly 35,000 veterans have recovered from the virus.
  • The American Federation of Government Employees said it’s still in the dark over the Social Security Administration’s reopening plans. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge against SSA. AFGE said the agency rejected a demand to bargain over its reopening plans. It also denied the union’s request for more reopening information. Some SSA employees have been gradually returning to their local field offices to handle dire-need appointments and other activities since April. But the union said it doesn’t know many employees are back at the office. (Federal News Network)
  • A large group of lawmakers are trying to expand child care for service members and their families. A bipartisan and cross-committee group of legislators are urging Defense Sec. Mark Esper to work with community leaders, veteran organizations and state and local governments to develop creative child care solutions. The lawmakers, led by Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), say active duty troops will likely be even more desperate for child care in the fall as schools remain closed due to the coronavirus pandemic. The officials estimate that about 1.2 million children under the age of 13 will need child care services in the coming months.
  • The Postal Service said it’ll hold off on longstanding plans to cut costs until after this November’s election. Plans on hold include changes to post office hours, consolidating mail-processing facilities and removing mail-sorting equipment and mailboxes. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said the agency will still approve overtime as needed. The agency is also staffing up its election mail task force that works with state and local officials. DeJoy will testify before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee this Friday about the agency’s operational changes. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department’s Joint Artificial Intelligence Center and the Energy Department are teaming up with Microsoft on an AI project for first responders. Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory is scaling up a prototype deep-learning algorithm developed by the JAIC aimed at giving emergency personnel more real-time information. The project is focused on wildfire prediction, hurricanes and tornadoes, and search and rescue efforts. The project stems from a White House executive forum earlier this year focused on humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
  • The Air Force’s top acquisition officer is answering all of the public and industry’s pressing questions about one of the service’s most futuristic weapons systems. Next week, Will Roper will explain how the Advanced Battle Management System is coming along in the COVID-19 world, after it faced delays in testing. The ABMS is supposed to seamlessly connect sensors, weapons and troops through a secure network for rapid decision making. The Air Force has had to delay some of its testing in previous months due to coronavirus concerns.
  • Another key Office of Management Budget technology executive is on the move. Grant Schneider, the federal chief information security officer, is leaving government. Schneider is joining the Venable law firm as a senior director of cybersecurity services. His last day will be the end of August and it’s unclear who will replace him as there is no deputy federal CISO. Schneider, who also is the co-chairman of the Federal CISO Council, joined OMB as deputy Federal CISO in 2016 and has been in government since 1993. He was dual-hatted as senior director of cybersecurity policy for the National Security Council for almost three years. He left that NSC role in February. (Federal News Network)
  • The Northern Virginia Technology Council has a new leader. Jennifer Taylor will become the new president and CEO of the the trade association representing the technology community in Northern Virginia and the Greater Washington Area. Taylor comes from the Consumer Technology Association, where she served as vice president of industry affairs. Taylor replaces Bobbie Kilberg who retired in June after 22 years leading NVTC.
  • For at least the foreseeable future, the Bureau of Land Management will continue to be led by a political appointee who hasn’t been able to earn the support of Congress. It’s the second time this month the administration has decided to vest someone with the authorities of a Senate-confirmed official even after concluding they couldn’t win Congressional support. The White House withdrew William Perry Pendley’s nomination for BLM director over the weekend. He’s a former oil industry attorney who currently holds a deputy director position at BLM. Pendley signed an order last May that makes that position BLM’s default leader when the director’s job is vacant. It’s been vacant since the start of the Trump Administration. (Federal News Network)