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Agencies have until October 16 to send the Office of Management and Budget information about any funds going to Seattle, Portland, New York City, and Washington, D.C. OMB Director Russ Vought issued guidance that details how the administration will implement President Donald Trump’s September 2 memo to withhold funds from states that he says are permitting anarchy, violence and destruction. The data agencies must submit includes grants, loans, contracts and other monetary award data in fiscal 2018, 2019 and 2020, as well as any estimated amounts for 2021.
Postal Service employees are getting a break from the president’s payroll tax deferral. USPS told employees it reviewed guidance on the deferral from the IRS and Office of Management and Budget. USPS decided it wouldn’t implement it after considering its impact on employees and the organization. USPS handles its own payroll and doesn’t use one of the four main federal providers. The four federal providers started deferring Social Security taxes for the military and civilian federal employees last week. The payroll tax deferral is not optional for them.
The recent White House memo on diversity and inclusion training promised agencies more guidance on the subject later. That guidance is out now, in the form of a new executive order. The EO restricts federal contractors from implementing training that the administration describes as race or sex stereotyping. Agencies must insert those stipulations into federal contracts. The EO also lets agency officials discipline federal employees and supervisors for authorizing or approving training that, in administration’s words, promote concepts that one race is inherently superior to another.
A new report says eliminating the White House Cybersecurity Coordinator role did indeed leave a big hole. The decision to get rid of the cybersecurity coordinator role in the White House in May 2018 meant no one was ultimately responsible for the implementation and oversight of the National Cyber Strategy. The Government Accountability Office found in a new report that National Security Council staff didn’t have a consistent approach to engagement and therefore had no way to know for sure that agencies met the goals of the strategy. GAO recommended that Congress consider legislation to create a leadership position in the White House to oversee the cyber strategy.
The Office of Personnel Management has a few reminders for federal agencies ahead of the upcoming presidential election. Agencies must get approval from OPM before appointing a current or former political appointee to the career civil service in the lead-up to the election. OPM will continue to review potential selections of political appointees to the Senior Executive Service. And it will temporarily stop reviewing the qualifications for applicants to the Senior Executive Service during agency head transitions. These policies date back to 2010.
Plans for a new cyber office leaves agencies in the dark. The State Department has been planning to stand up a Bureau of Cyberspace Security and Emerging Technologies, but the Government Accountability Office said it hasn’t coordinated this work with six other cyber-focused agencies. Officials with the Department of Homeland Security told GAO they would like State to keep them in the loop with its plans for the bureau. The Justice Department says coordination among agencies is key to tackling emerging cyber threats. The State Department says its plans for the bureau have gotten pushback from Congress.
The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service is looking to help agencies save millions of dollars by doubling down on automation. The bureau is working with two agencies to digitize and automate entire business processes around billing and travel as part of its Digital End-to-End Efficiency initiative. The bureau said its program will have a bigger impact on cost savings than one-off pilots with robotic process automation or artificial intelligence. The bureau has also launched an effort looking to make federal grants more transparent through blockchain.
The Air Force said coronavirus is changing the way it teaches its airmen. Service members in the Air Force may find themselves learning from home more often. Like telework, COVID-19 is forcing the service to rethink the way it teaches, and it’s taking lessons from the new way of doing things. The commander of the Air University says the Air Force is assessing how effective telelearning is and then will evaluate how much to implement it in future courses. Regardless, the telelearning options made available are coming in handy for everything from inclement weather to student personal emergencies. (Federal News Network)
Pentagon planners expand their research into a program for a pandemic early warning system. The Defense Threat Reduction Agency and the Defense Innovation Unit said that, together with Philips Corporation, they’ll add thousands of military members to a test of artificial intelligence to help contain the spread of infectious diseases. The project is called Rapid Analysis of Threat Exposure, or RATE. It takes in data from commercial devices people wear and processes it in a cloud application to see trends in bio indicators. A prototype has been working since June.
The Defense Department is giving service members, their families and civilian employees an opportunity to ask top brass questions about coronavirus, race and inclusion. On Thursday morning, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, along with the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the senior enlisted advisor, will hold a virtual town hall. The event will be streamed on the DoD website and also on Facebook. DoD employees and family members from anywhere in the world will be able to ask questions.
The Combined Federal Campaign is back for the fall. The national capital region officially launched the 2020 campaign yesterday with a virtual kickoff. Organizers in the region say it may be tough to meet fundraising goals this year during the pandemic. But the goal is to raise $30 million this year. Employees can make one-time donations online or via payroll deduction through January 15, 2021. (Federal News Network)