USPS weathering the storm through 2020 election

In today's Federal Newscast, the Postal Service reports an uptick in mail volume a few weeks ahead of Election Day, but on-time delivery is also on the rise.

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  • The Postal Service reported an uptick in mail volume a few weeks ahead of Election Day, but on-time delivery is also on the rise. The agency handled more the 3 billion mail pieces in the first week of October. USPS said it delivered more than 86% of first-class mail on-time, and will authorize additional resources closer to the election.
  • The Pentagon and Department of Veterans Affairs said they’ve hit another milestone in their efforts to share health data. The DoD and VA health information exchange can now connect to the CommonWell Health Alliance. That adds another 15,000 hospitals and clinics to the exchange, of which 46,000 community care providers are already a part. Providers who use the information exchange can access prescriptions, immunizations, allergies and other data about their patients who may visit the private sector, DoD or VA for their health care.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs gained control of the internet domain name as part of a legal settlement in 2012, but the agency has now lost it. For the past eight years, has sent users to an official VA website on G.I. Bill resources. As of now, it sends them to a site that asks them to install a suspicious web browser extension. In a statement to the military newspaper Stars and Stripes, the department said VA lost control of the domain during the Obama administration because officials serving at the time didn’t have a “continuity plan.” But that explanation is difficult to square with registration history records, which show the domain pointed directly to a VA web server until May of this year.
  • The Army expects to save another $10 billion through its Night Court process in 2022. That money will be divested from old systems and put into new modernization plans. The service saved a similar amount in its 2021 budget. The military branch is focusing on 31 weapons systems for its modernization effort. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said the service will need to tighten its belt in 2023 to meet its goals, especially if it doesn’t get any budget increases from Congress. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army is changing its protocol for a soldier who doesn’t report to duty. Soldiers will now be considered missing and treated that way if they do not report to duty. Previous Army policy initially jumped to putting a soldier who did not come to work on Absent Without Leave status. Under that status the Army did not actively look for the missing soldier. The change is part of the Army’s make its people its top priority. The Army as recently experienced a handful of soldier disappearances. The most high-profile of those was Ft. Hood Specialist Vanessa Guillen, who was sexually harassed and murdered in Texas.
  • The Navy has plans to build the fleet up to more than 500 ships by 2045. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this will be necessary to compete with China’s planned fleet buildup. It would consist of a combination of manned and unmanned vehicles, with an emphasis on submarines and smaller surface combat vehicles. But one big challenge could stand in the way of this plan — capacity. The plan would include an investment of $20 billion over 20 years to improve shipyards and grow the workforce.
  • The Pentagon established a field version of its Joint Hypersonics Transition Office at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Crane Division in Indiana. The office is responsible for creating strategies and roadmaps to develop hypersonic technologies and bring them to operational capabilities. The new satellite office will perform detailed engineering activities. It will coordinate architectures, interfaces, schedules and plans for hypersonics weapons. The new office will also execute some workforce development initiatives including sponsored research and curriculum development.
  • The National Security Agency and Defense Department are taking the lead on a new initiative designed to expand the national cybersecurity talent pipeline. The agencies launched a new Cybersecurity Education Diversity Initiative. NSA’s Centers for Academic Excellence will help historically Black colleges and universities and minority-serving institutions set up their own cybersecurity programs. DoD’s small business office will help students find internships with small companies and others in the defense industrial base. Both agencies say the initiative will help more students enter the cyber talent pipeline in the public and private sectors.
  • Two agencies are teaming up to push the government’s 5G telecommunications strategy forward. The Federal Communications Commission and U.S. Agency for International Development signed a memorandum of understanding to coordinate their efforts. They say it will speed USAID’s digital strategy for development and humanitarian assistance. And the FCC’s FAST plan, aimed at U.S. superiority in 5G technology. The agencies say their joint effort will further the National Strategy to Secure 5G, which aims to ensure 5G is deployed everywhere in the country, using a secure infrastructure.
  • The White House flags 20 emerging technologies that agencies need to stay on top of. The National Strategy for Critical and Emerging Technologies sets out goals for fields that include artificial intelligence, quantum information science, and military and space technologies. The strategy doesn’t set specific measures like some of President Donald Trump’s executive orders focused on AI and quantum science. But senior administration officials said the strategy serves as a framework and a jumping off point for other strategies focused on particular technologies. (Federal News Network)
  • The Energy Department is bucking the trend with collaboration and workforce software. The Energy Department chose Google cloud for a broad range of technologies, including the Google Cloud Platform (GCP) and Google Workspace productivity tools. While many agencies have stuck with Microsoft Office 365 or moved away from Google over the last few years, Energy decided to sign a five-year deal with the cloud giant to give 100,000 employees access to storage, development and machine learning capabilities. Rocky Campione, the Energy CIO, said a recent conference that this deal will help the department’s labs focus on solving problems and not worry about technology.
  • Two U.S. Park Police officers in Virginia have been indicted for the shooting of an unarmed civilian. Fairfax County Commonwealth Attorney Steve Descano said both officers are charged with manslaughter and reckless discharge of a firearm. Descano expects the Descano said that he expects that the officers, as federal employees, will ask that the case be moved to federal court. (WTOP)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is out with some tougher disciplinary policies for federal employees. The new rules formally implement President Donald Trump’s 2018 executive order on employees firings. They give federal employees a shorter window to improve their performance and then respond to proposed disciplinary actions. And they set brand new penalties for supervisors who retaliate against whistleblowers. OPM said the new policies will streamline a disciplinary process that some agencies say is too burdensome. But unions see them as an attack on employees. The new policies go into effect next month. (Federal News Network)
  • Jack St. John, the general counsel at the General Services Administration, is leaving his post next week. GSA confirmed St. John’s last day will be Oct. 22. He plans to rejoin the private sector. GSA has not announced an interim replacement. St. John has been with GSA for almost four years, starting as the senior advisor and then moving up to be chief of staff. Before coming to GSA, St. John worked as an attorney in private practice.

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