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A group of Senate Democrats want to know how the Department of Veterans Affairs is planning to distribute a COVID-19 vaccine to veterans and employees. They’re especially concerned about how VA will make a vaccine available to front-line health care workers. VA Secretary Robert Wilkie said the department is working with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on a vaccine distribution plan. VA medical staff participated in planning exercises last month to prepare for the vaccine. The department is monitoring close to 13,000 active cases of COVID-19. That includes over 1,100 VA employees who currently have the virus.
The Office of Government Ethics said it’s ready to help agencies with the presidential transition. OGE is out with a new transition guide for federal agencies. It encourages agency officials to tell incoming nominees early and often that government ethics matters. OGE also updated its transition checklists for agency ethics officials and guidebooks for incoming nominees. The agency is responsible for reviewing financial disclosures for most presidential nominees requiring Senate confirmation.
President-elect Joe Biden is filling out his national security team. His nominees gave a few shout-outs to federal employees. All of the nominees Biden introduced yesterday praised the work of career federal employees at the State Department, Department of Homeland Security and the intelligence community. Alejandro Mayorkas is Biden’s pick to lead DHS. He commented, “There are more than 240,000 career employees who selflessly dedicate their talent and energy to this mission. Many risk their lives in doing so. I would be honored to return to the department and support these dedicated public servants.”
Lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic are giving the IRS momentum to overhaul taxpayer services. The IRS has already rolled out several new capabilities ahead of next year’s filing season. The 1040 Individual Income Tax Return Form is now available in English and Spanish. Taxpayers can also check a box telling the agency which language it should use in all of its official correspondence. IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig said the agency expanded telework capability to 85% of its employees during the pandemic, a capability that the agency didn’t have in February. (Federal News Network)
A federal advisory committee meant to fast-track the sale of excess government real estate is getting new leadership. President Donald Trump is expected to appoint Gino Campana, the president of a Colorado-based development company, as the chairman of the Public Buildings Reform Board. The board identified 12 high-value but underutilized federal properties this year, and is recommending the General Services Administration put them up for sale.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) and a dozen other Democrats are making their own plea to congressional appropriators about the president’s Schedule F executive order. They want Congress to include language in the next spending bill that will block implementation of the order. Agencies are on a 90-day deadline to review their positions and indicate which ones they want to reclassify to Schedule F. The Office of Management and Budget already submitted its list to the Office of Personnel Management for review. Real Clear Politics reported 88% of OMB’s positions are candidates for reclassification. (Federal News Network)
A lot more military service members may not be home for the holidays. The Pentagon said it expects bases to restrict travel ahead of the holidays as coronavirus cases within the military continue to spike. Over the past five days nearly 6,000 service members have been infected with the disease. That leaves more than 30,000 currently active cases in the military. Right now about 60% of military bases eased their travel restrictions, but that data is more than a week old. A Pentagon spokesman said the Navy is already increasing all of its installations’ health protection levels to Charlie. That cancels in-person events and restricts base access. (Federal News Network)
Military commissaries are offering more personal protective equipment for sale in their stores for service members. The Pentagon announced that the commissaries will now carry digital contactless thermometers, disposable protective masks for children and N95 protective masks. Commissaries will also now carry reusable masks and different sizes of hand sanitizing gel.
Yesterday was something of a graduation date for the military version of the “internet of things.” The Air Force’s Advanced Battle Management System aims to connect pretty much every weapons system in the service’s inventory into one cohesive network. AMBS has now moved on to a full-scale demonstration and deployment phase. Will Roper, the Air Force’s acquisition chief, said the technology should start appearing on existing platforms next year. He’s also designating the Air Force Rapid Capabilities Office to coordinate the management of ABMS developments from here on out. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department recently awarded its first nine prototyping projects as part of its National Imperative for Industrial Skills” initiative. The awards amount to about $27 million and are meant to help the U.S. defense industrial base with its deficit in domestic manufacturing and engineering talent. The awards went across all over the country. DoD says they’ll help the U.S. build its next generation of combat ships, submarines, aircraft, ground vehicles, missiles and other platforms and weapon systems.