USDA Secretary in hot water for talking politics on a work trip

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  • The Office of Special Counsel said a speech from Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue was a textbook Hatch Act violation. Perdue gave a speech about a USDA food drive program earlier this summer. He spoke in his official capacity as USDA secretary. But OSC says parts of his speech amounted to a campaign push for the president. OSC directed Perdue to reimburse the Treasury for the costs of the trip he took to North Carolina where he gave his speech.
  • Employees impacted by Hurricane Laura or the California wildfires now have access to an emergency leave transfer program. Federal employees can donate unused annual leave to their colleagues affected by either one of those recent disasters. Impacted employees must apply through their agencies to receive donated leave. It’s up to each agency to figure out who needs additional leave and who has leave to donate. The Office of Personnel Management says it will help coordinate the transfer of leave among federal agencies.
  • The Trump administration said a recent hiring pilot successfully brought in over a dozen new customer experience experts to government. The Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Digital Service and other agencies asked subject matter experts to review design samples and resumes for the applicants. Over 100 applicants cleared those reviews. The candidates then went through an asynchronous interview and then another interview with the subject matter experts. Agencies found 44 qualified candidates and extended job offers to half of them. At least 17 have accepted job offers so far. (Performance.gov)
  • The Defense Department is awarding $600 million in contracts for 5G experimentation and testing at five more military bases. Sites include Hill Air Force Base in Utah and Joint Base Lewis-McChord in Washington. Each base will have a different function. For example, Naval Base San Diego will develop a 5G enabled smart warehouse to increase efficiency of naval logistic operations. Lewis-McChord will rapidly field 5G for augmented and virtual reality for mission planning and training.
  • The Defense Health Agency is rethinking some of its reforms due to COVID-19. About 200,000 people were supposed to move from getting healthcare at military clinics to private providers. However, because of the coronavirus many of the doctors’ offices and hospitals DHA was counting on may not be open anymore. DHA Director Lt. Gen Ronald Place says the agency is checking its math to make sure the medical community can still absorb the patients. Place says the Defense Department may not have a solid answer until early 2021. (Federal News Network)
  • DoD’s first ever data strategy moves into the implementation phase. Now the hard part begins. Officially finishing and releasing its data strategy means the department must now get the services and agencies to use the standards and follow the governance processes. To do that, the DoD chief data officer’s council will lead the charge. It will expand the number of members to include the combatant commands and field agencies. Additionally, DoD plans to launch a data stewards program to help promote the standards and bring the warfighter’s perspective to the effort. (Federal News Network)
  • Agencies are making significant progress in making data more transparent and publicly available. A new report by the Government Accountability Office found all 24 CFO Act agencies displayed their data inventories on their websites, as well as on an online catalogue of federal data assets run by GSA. GAO looked at the implementation of the Open, Public, Electronic and Necessary or OPEN Government Data Act of 2018. GAO made two recommendations for OMB to publish guidance telling agencies how to publish comprehensive inventories and a policy to ensure agencies correct mistakes on a regular basis.
  • The CIO Council’s first data science training program chose 61 federal employees from 32 agencies out of the hundreds who applied. Jason Gray, the co-chairman of the council’s workforce committee, says they are applying the lessons learned from the cybersecurity reskilling program and hope to include mentorship or detail assignments to ensure these employees have enough experience to get jobs when they graduate. The data science training program runs through July 2021.
  • The General Services Administration and the Energy Department are looking for commercial building technology to improve the air quality and electricity production of buildings. The two agencies issued request for information asking vendors to submit capabilities across three broad areas: improving indoor air quality, solar energy production and water and power conservation during grid disruptions. Responses to the RFI are due Dec. 4.

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