Industry pushes back against WH order on diversity and inclusion training

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  • Eleven industry associations are calling on the Trump administration to rescind the executive order on diversity and training. The associations wrote to the Office of Management and Budget and the Labor Department laying out their concerns. They said the EO will create confusion among the government contractors when it comes to the administrative and oversight burdens of determining compliance. The group told OMB that they do not agree that there is anything divisive about providing information that encourages their employees to treat all of their colleagues equally and with respect.
  • Two inspectors general gave reasonably high marks on their agencies’ reopening plans during the pandemic. The IG for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission said the agency met most best practices regarding health and was quick to adjust reopening plans. The IG for the Government Publishing Office surveyed agency employees about GPO’s handling of the pandemic. Ninety-three percent were satisfied with the GPO director’s communication. Most were satisfied with the technical resources they received to telework. But 30% of those who returned to GPO offices say they felt unsafe. But 80% are satisfied with GPO’s safety precautions at the office.
  • Senators now have a bill to make the payroll tax deferral optional for federal employees. Maryland Democratic Sen. Chris Van Hollen introduced the Protecting Employees from Surprise Taxes Act. The bill would allow employees and servicemembers to choose whether they want to participate in the president’s tax deferral policy. The bill has 15 co-sponsors and a long list of endorsements from federal employee unions and organizations. The legislation would specifically require employees to sign a written waiver indicating they want to participate. The Senate has little time to consider the bill before the year ends. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies struggle to replace retiring IT workers to manage mainframes. The new crop of graduates and tech workers don’t use the same programming languages or have the same experience. But Lt. Col. Kristin Saling, chief analytics officer for the ite technology is a good way to attract younger talent and stop the brain drain to Silicon Valley. Saling also said the pandemic forced a culture change away from the more hands-on squad-centric approach, and in favor of using mission command to power down decisions to lower levels. (Federal News Network)
  • Defense Information Systems Agency got big kudos for the design of its systems engineering, technology and innovation, or SETI, contract. DISA received the 2020 Verdure award from DoD for its innovative approach and focus on small business. Chris Riley, the SETI program manager, said the design of the contract was a leap of faith. “When we first built the construct of SETI what we were trying to do had never been done before. It was either going to be a use case of what not to do or set the new standard for driving innovation in large scale acquisitions in the department. Thankfully, SETI and the tenets and tactics are the new standard bearer of the Department of Defense.”
  • The Naval Academy is changing its class schedule in hopes of keeping students safe from COVID-19. The school announced it will lengthen its winter break and completely eliminate spring break this year. Spring semester classes are set to start on Jan. 19, 2021. The academy said the longer winter break will allow a phased return to the school and will also accommodate travel restrictions. The spring semester will now end at the beginning of May.
  • The Air Force is pairing up one of its oldest game-changing technologies with one of its newest. Air Force officials said they’ve successfully demonstrated the use of the Kubernetes software containerization platform aboard the U2 spy plane – an aircraft that first flew in 1955. It’s significant, because it shows the service can run new software that handles tasks like artificial intelligence and machine learning on the same flight-certified on-board computers that handle flight and mission systems, without jeopardizing the functions those computers were originally designed for.
  • The Air Force’s top enlisted airman made a direct appeal to troops regarding harassment. Air Force Chief Master Sergeant JoAnne Bass is the first woman to hold her position and she’s making a statement about respect among airmen. On social media, Bass told airmen that respect is non-negotiable when it comes to harassment. She added that the Air Force embraces diversity and is deliberate about inclusion. The posts were in response to an op-ed published by two women airmen who were mocked and harassed on social media and in the comments section.
  • Add another voice to the discussion about the ethical use of artificial intelligence. The industry group ACT-IAC released a new white paper outlining an ethical AI framework focused on five factors: Bias, fairness, transparency, responsibility and interpretability. The framework aims to let users establish a consistent measure to help qualify and quantify components used to create, operate and improve AI capabilities. This white paper follows the DoD’s adoption of five principles for AI ethics and the White House’s release of principles for AI regulations.

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