To listen to the Federal Newscast on your phone or mobile device, subscribe in PodcastOne or Apple Podcasts. The best listening experience on desktop can be found using Chrome, Firefox or Safari.
The Small Business Administration’s inspector general raised red flags over $78 billion in Economic Injury Disaster Loans during the coronavirus pandemic. The IG found SBA approved nearly $63 billion EIDL loans where the same IP addresses, email addresses, bank accounts and business names were used to apply for multiple loans. The agency also approved $14 billion in loans that went into different bank accounts than what was listed on the loan applications. SBA since July approved more than 14 million EIDL loans worth nearly $170 billion.
Civil rights groups are suing the Trump administration over the president’s executive order banning certain kinds of diversity and inclusion training. The NAACP Legal Defense Fund, National Urban League and the National Fair Housing Alliance filed suit in federal district court. They argue the executive order limits First Amendment rights on them and current and prospective federal contractors and grant recipients. They also say the EO provides no objective way to determine what activities are permitted or prohibited.
Federal employee unions are trying every trick in the book to block the president’s latest executive order. Employee groups are asking for help from Democratic appropriators. They want Congress to write language into the next continuing resolution or omnibus budget package that would block implementation of the president’s Schedule F executive order. They say the EO is an attempt to burrow political appointees into the career federal workforce. House Democrats introduced new standalone legislation earlier this week that would nullify the executive order. (Federal News Network)
House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Calif.) said if the Democrats take the White House they may change the Defense Department’s National Defense Strategy. Currently, the strategy focuses on fighting two great power competition wars with China and Russia. Smith said the assumption of two simultaneous cold wars is expensive and he doesn’t buy the idea that the United States has the means to overpower both China and Russia in direct conflict.
A new bill aims to help prepare American workers for emerging tech jobs and persuades contractors to keep those jobs here. Congressman Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) calls his bill a 21st Century Jobs Act that would create a Federal Institute of Technology with approximately 30 locations nationwide. It would also allocate $900 billion in research and development for emerging technologies like advanced manufacturing, synthetic biology, artificial intelligence, biotechnology, and cybersecurity. The bill also funds STEM education and includes tax incentives to federal contractors who locate part of their workforce in rural or untapped parts of the country.
The SANS Institute is launching its largest public service effort to date. It wants to encourage more students to join the cybersecurity field. CyberStart America will let about 100,000 U.S. high school students play a cybersecurity game where they solve realistic challenges while playing the role of cyber protection agent. The game will run through the end of February, and students who complete at least 20% of the challenges will be eligible to enter a scholarship round where $2 million will be available to help pay for college.
The Chief Financial Officers Council is developing a strategic plan for the workforce of tomorrow. CFOs working on the strategic plan expect to complete their work in early 2021. CFOs have spent nearly a year on the strategy, and reviewed more than a thousand papers and articles on emerging trends in the financial workforce. The strategy will look at what skills federal financial professionals will need in the next 15-to-20 years. This year is the 30th anniversary of the CFO Act, and several good government groups have marked the occasion with reports looking at how emerging technology has reshaped this line of work. (Federal News Network)
Some agencies say they’re advertising or considering fully-remote positions now. Customs and Border Protection and Immigration and Customs Enforcement said they’re open to hiring new employees who live and work far away from their physical office buildings. The National Nuclear Security Administration is making similar arrangements. Agencies say fully remote arrangements have opened new recruitment possibilities and broadened their talent pools. It’s also allowed agency supervisors to focus more on managing tangible performance outcomes. (Federal News Network)
The Army had to completely rethink recruiting with coronavirus this year, but it still met some of its goals. It was supposed to grow to 485,000 active duty soldiers this year. It hit that benchmark, but it also lowered its standard for how many recruits it would bring in. The service originally wanted to ink contracts with 65,000 new soldiers. It revised that to 62,150 and met that goal by the October first deadline. A high retention rate helped the Army meet its end strength. However, the lower than expected number of recruits mixed with continued effects of coronavirus means the service may be digging itself out of a hole for 2021. (Federal News Network)
A allegation of whistleblower retaliation by the U.S. Geological Survey director has merit, the Interior Department Inspector General’s Office says. The claim was brought against Director James Reilly by a USGS employee who filed a complaint about the director’s conduct and says they were reassigned as a result. The employee said they did not request the reassignment, were not notified beforehand, and that their new position had different responsibilities and working conditions. The OIG likewise determined the reassignment resembled whistleblower retaliation and referred the matter to the Secretary of Interior’s Office.
Quietly, the government has a new federal chief information security officer. Without any fanfare or official announcement, Camilo Sandoval has been named as the new federal chief information security officer. Sandoval has been an advisor in the Federal CIO’s office for the last several months and was rumored to be moving into the federal CISO role. Neither OMB nor the White House announced the appointment, but the CIO Council’s website now lists Sandoval as the federal CISO. OMB later confirmed that earlier this month, Sandoval officially replaced Grant Schneider who left at the end of August to join the private sector.
The General Services Administration has a new general counsel. Trent Benishek joined GSA as general counsel yesterday. He moves over from the White House, where he was special assistant and associate counsel to the president. There, he oversaw a variety of topics including federal advisory committees, the ethics in government act and the freedom of information act. Earlier, Benishek worked at the law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher. At GSA, Benishek will also be the designated ethics official. He replaces Jack St. John, who departed two weeks ago.