USCIS employees may still face furloughs

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  • Furloughs are still a real possibility for employees at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. The union representing USCIS employees is disappointed Congress left town for August recess before passing emergency funding for the agency. USCIS said it needs $1.2 billion to begin and maintain operations at the start of the new fiscal year. Otherwise it’ll have to furlough more than 13,000 employees. Congress was poised to include the emergency funding in whatever coronavirus relief package it passed this month. But lawmakers never agreed to a deal. The American Federation of Government Employees said it seems like luck has run out for their USCIS members. Furloughs are supposed to begin Aug. 31 if Congress passes a deal.
  • After months of President Donald Trump calling on the Postal Service to increase prices for its commercial package customers, the agency will seek rate hikes that will last through the end of the year. The Postal Service has seen a surge in package delivery during the coronavirus pandemic, but that side of the business has only accounted for about 30% of its total revenue for the past few years. The Postal Regulatory Commission needs to approve the request for higher prices to go into effect. (Federal News Network)
  • Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee say a hearing with Postmaster General Louis DeJoy can no longer wait until September. Committee Chair Carolyn Maloney (D-N,Y.) is inviting DeJoy to an emergency hearing later this month to discuss delivery standards ahead of the November election. The hearing follows reports that the Postal Service sent letters to 46 states warning it can’t guarantee on-time delivery with current mail-in ballot deadlines in place.
  • Federal employees will see few changes to their daily travel allowances next fiscal year. The General Services Administration isn’t raising the hotel and lodging per diem for 2021. The meal and incidental rate isn’t changing either. The total daily travel allowance sits at $151. GSA only added Albuquerque, New Mexico, to list of regions that have separate rates from the continental United States standard. Per diem changes go into effect Oct. 1. (Federal News Network)
  • A major agency chief information office is surprisingly on the move. Jose Arrieta, the Department of Health and Human Services CIO, abruptly resigned on Friday. Arrieta said he told senior leadership he would be leaving the agency after only 16 months. Arrieta becomes the second senior technology official to leave HHS in the last month. Todd Simpson, the chief product officer for HHS, left in July to be a deputy assistant secretary for DevSecOps at the Department of Veterans Affairs. Arrieta said he’s unsure when his last day would be, but said he would be flexible to help ensure a smooth transition. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department has received a six-week reprieve from meeting the requirements under an interim acquisition rule prohibiting the use of certain Chinese telecommunications products for some low risk items. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence approved the DoD waiver request that will let DoD continue to buy supplies, equipment, services, food, clothing, transportation, care, and support necessary to execute the DoD mission. The waiver expires Sept. 30. Over the next six weeks, DoD must submit to ODNI information about potential risks, mitigation plans and a strategy to seek alternatives in the future.
  • The Defense Department and Department of Health and Human Services are pairing with the McKesson Corporation to distribute vaccines and supplies related to coronavirus. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are exercising and existing contract option from 2016 to distribute the vaccines. The plan is to develop more than one to ensure immunity. The company was hired by the government in 2009 and 2010 to distribute the H1N1 vaccine. Vaccines for coronavirus are still in research and testing. The plan is to develop more than one vaccine to ensure immunity.
  • The federal government spent more than a $1 billion on artificial intelligence research and development last year, but the Trump administration seeks to double that spending next fiscal year. Reps. Will Hurd (R-Texas) and Robin Kelly (D-Ill.) pushed for the same increase in AI R&D spending in a recent think-tank report. A memo from the Office of Management and Budget and Office of Science and Technology Policy highlights AI as a top area of federal R&D, along with research into treatment and vaccines for the coronavirus pandemic.
  • The Navy is looking into the future of cyber warfare by releasing a new vision for the next five years. Using networks as a fighting platform, conducting cryptological warfare and building cyber forces. It sounds like a video game, but it’s the Navy’s goals for the next five years. The service said cyber warfare is a way of life and the United States’ adversaries are taking full advantage of it. In the strategy the Navy fully admitted it’s slipped up in getting hacked and exposing information. The policy calls for tightening up those weaknesses. The Navy said it also needs to focus more on bringing in the most talented people it can to integrate cyber tactics across the service.
  • Lt. Gen. David Allvin has been nominated to be the next vice chief of staff of the Air Force. Allvin will replace Gen. Stephen Wilson, whose term is expiring. Allvin is currently the director for strategy plans and policy at the Joint Staff. He also worked as the director of strategy and policy at U.S. European Command. Former Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David Goldfein recently stepped down from his position and was replaced by Gen. Charles Brown.