Pentagon asking more employees to work from home over coronavirus concerns

In today's Federal Newscast, more Pentagon employees are being told to telework because of an uptick in coronavirus infections in the National Capital Region.

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  • More Pentagon employees are being told to telework because of an uptick in coronavirus infections in the National Capital Region. The latest set of restrictions will take effect on Thursday. DoD offices in the Pentagon and the nearby Mark Center are being told to aim for 60% of employees teleworking – up from 20% right now. Other changes include capacity reductions at the Pentagon Athletic Center and a switch to take-out-only from Pentagon restaurants and food courts. DoD is also banning gatherings of more than 25 people in the Pentagon. The previous maximum was 50 people.
  • House Democrats are out with a 265-page bill designed to modernize the Department of Homeland Security. The bill would add a new assistant secretary position to oversee DHS law enforcement components. It would set a specific order of succession among DHS leadership. It also authorizes a five-year term for the DHS undersecretary for management. And it tasks the chief human capital officer with leading employee engagement and leadership development activities at the department. The DHS Reform Act also provides transportation security officers with Title 5 collective bargaining rights.
  • A bipartisan Senate bill would eliminate a tax penalty on civilian disaster responders. The bill would let federal employees helping with disasters deduct travel expenses from their incomes for travel lasting more than one year. Current tax law only gives them the deduction for a year or less, so they’re often sent home before the job is done. Law enforcement responders already have the exemption. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
  • The Federal Labor Relations Authority said the Veterans Benefits Administration violated its union contract when it fired, suspended and demoted some employees without giving them a chance to improve their performance. The American Federation of Government Employees filed a national grievance over VBA’s implementation of the VA Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Act back in 2017. An arbitrator agreed with AFGE. And the FLRA agreed with the arbitrator. The authority is ordering VBA to rescind any adverse actions with back pay to employees who were fired.
  • Federal employee unions have a long list of goals for the incoming administration. Unions are counting on the president-elect to repeal three 2018 executive orders that limited collective bargaining. But they’re also hopeful new agency leaders will agree to renegotiate some union contracts. National Treasury Employees Union President Tony Reardon. “We don’t think the Trump administration was able to do anything that can’t be undone. It’s going to take some work beyond just rescinding the executive orders, but the damage is not permanent.” (Federal News Network)
  • The IRS is still wrapping up this year’s tax filing season while prepping for next year. The agency has about a million unprocessed tax returns in its inventory and a mail backlog of about 3 million pieces. It also has 6.8 million returns currently in process that will soon be completed. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig told members of the House Ways and Means Committee the agency has accelerated programming and “health testing” for IT systems to stay at least a month ahead of schedule for preparations. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service is going through another leadership shakeup. Chief Logistics and Processing Operations Officer David Williams will retire next year after a more than 30-year career with USPS. USPS announced his retirement along with a reshuffling of nine other senior agency executives. Chief Human Resources Officer Isaac Cronkhite will take over for Williams once he retires. Labor relations vice president Doug Tulino will become the next chief human resources officer. (U.S. Postal Service)
  • The Army has named its first civilian chief information officer following an IT leadership overhaul earlier this year. Raj Iyer’s formal title is chief information officer for Information Technology Reform. Iyer previously served in several IT management positions in the Army and HHS. Until this month, he was a managing director at Deloitte. In June, the Army decided to bifurcate its IT leadership structure into two senior positions: one civilian and one military. (Federal News Network)
  • After a damning report on sexual assault at Ft. Hood, the Army has promised to revamp it’s policies. Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy announced that the service will take a hard look at and revamp its sexual harassment and assault prevention program. McCarthy came to the conclusion after seeing preliminary results from a review board at Ft. Hood. That board is investigating the culture at the base after multiple deaths and high profile reports of assault. The full report will be available publicly on December 8. The Army plans to have completed action items in response to the committee’s recommendations at the time the review is released.
  • Airmen will see the maximum amount of tuition assistance they can receive in 2021 bounce back to previous levels. Students can garner $4,500 per fiscal year from the Air Force effective immediately. The service reduced the amount of funding students could receive in 2020 by $750 per year. The reasoning behind the decision was attributed to budget shortfalls and the popularity of the program. The Air Force wanted to give assistance to as many airmen as possible, senior enlisted leaders said.
  • The CIA’s next generation cloud contract is actually happening. Two weeks after Federal News Network first reported the CIA made five awards under its C2E cloud contract, the spy agency confirms the news. The CIA said in a statement that these expanded cloud capabilities will benefit the intelligence community as will the diverse set of providers. Federal News Network previously confirmed that the CIA chose five cloud providers — AWS, Google, IBM, Microsoft and Oracle. Under C2E, the CIA is asking vendors to provide infrastructure-as-a-service capabilities and support services. Bloomberg Government estimates the C2E contract could be worth $10 billion over 10 years. (Federal News Network)
  • All things considered, the state of federal customer experience is looking good this year. Research firm Forrester said federal agencies earned a new average high score for customer experience in 2020 after three years of statistically little change. But the attention paid to digital customer experience still eclipses what users really want: physical help or a physical-digital combo. In addition, agency and industry experts said government needs to make sure customers know their next steps to getting the right agency services. (Federal News Network)

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