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Nearly one in five FEMA employees say they’ve experienced some kind of harassment or discrimination on the job. FEMA employees say they’re more trusting of their direct supervisors and more skeptical of senior leadership to address harassment and discrimination. The results come from an employee survey the RAND Corporation conducted on FEMA’s behalf. 40% of employees who had a gender or race-based discrimination issue say they were encouraged to drop it. FEMA says it has a plan to address harassment and discrimination. But it has hired RAND to do another employee survey.
The House and Senate have finished negotiations on the 2021 defense authorization bill. The legislation authorizes more than $740 billion for the military. It approves $8.4 billion for military construction projects and bolsters funds for cybersecurity. President Trump has threatened to veto the bill if it does not take protections away from internet companies. Those provisions shield companies from liability for content posted by their sites’ users. He’s also threatened a veto over a provision that would rename military bases that are currently named after Confederate generals. (Federal News Network)
The nation’s top general says the military will be ready to send out COVID-19 vaccines in the next three weeks. Now the question is who will get the shots first. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley says the military is poised to send out coronavirus vaccines as soon as the Food and Drug Administration gives its approval. The military says it has a good idea of who to prioritize in its ranks once the vaccine is made public. Health care workers and emergency personnel will be at the vanguard. After that, strategic forces like cyber operators and troops on missile submarines will get immunized. The military’s priorities differ from the nation’s as a whole. Within the general populace health workers and people in long-term care will get priority vaccination. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department is taking a fresh look at blockchain uses in health care. Blockchain has gained a foothold in federal health agencies. Now DoD is looking at what this distributed ledger technology can do for them. Bruce Doll, the assistant vice president for technology research and Innovation at the Uniformed Services University, says DoD should consider blockchain for everything from credentialing providers at clinics to tracking the distribution of a COVID vaccine as part of Operation Warp Speed. (Federal News Network)
The Government Accountability Office has new resources for the presidential transition teams and incoming Congress. The resources are designed to inform the incoming administration and Congress about the challenges facing federal agencies. GAO says it’s especially concerned about the country’s fiscal outlook and the government’s ability to address ongoing federal IT and human capital challenges.
Although the president still hasn’t conceded the election, the Pentagon says it’s making good on its obligations for an orderly transition to the next DoD civilian leadership team. President-elect Biden hasn’t yet named a Defense secretary, but Pentagon officials say they’ve been accommodating his DoD agency landing team this week. They’ve provided office space at the Pentagon, and started conducting tours for at least some members of the transition team. Officials say they’re also coordinating briefings between the Biden team and current Pentagon officials, and answering the incoming administration’s requests for information.
One of the first priorities of the incoming Biden administration should be to reestablish norms in cyberspace and emphasize there will be consequences for going against those norms. Cybersecurity experts at the Center for Strategic and International Studies say the United States and other countries agreed to these cybersecurity norms in 2015, but there has been no accountability for sticking to them. By clearly spelling out the consequences of a cyber attack against critical infrastructure like the electric grid or the banking industry, experts say it would go a long way to establish the Biden administration’s policy positions.
Changes are coming to the cloud security requirements under FedRAMP. The Federal Risk Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, laid out a four-step plan to incorporate new controls in the cloud security initiative. FedRAMP must update its standards to bring them in line with the final version of NIST special publication 800-53 revision 5 released in September. The program management office kicked off step 1, which is to review the changes in revision 5 and update FedRAMP baselines, parameters, control guidance, and to develop an implementation guide for cloud service providers. Steps 2-4 include gathering public comments and issuing final documents.
The National Treasury Employees Union has its own lawsuit over shutdown pay for federal employees still pending in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. NTEU accused the Trump administration of violating the Fair Labor Standards Act when it failed to pay excepted federal workers during the most recent government. It’s a similar argument that Heidi Burakiewicz and the American Federation of Government Employees made when it sued the administration last January. Over 30,000 employees have opted into the AFGE lawsuit. NTEU says 20,000 of its own bargaining unit members have opted into its suit. (Federal News Network)
The Pandemic Response Accountability Committee released new Coronavirus Relief Fund spending data. The data includes information on how recipients spent down to the project and sub-recipient level. The dataset includes spending data on nearly 600 prime recipients from March 1 through September 30. The data release comes days after a PRAC report flagged 16 critical gaps in the data it has available to conduct oversight.
An agreement has been reached between the Justice Department and Amtrak, which will have the National Railroad Passengers Corporation make some upgrades to its stations. DOJ says Amrtrak has agreed to make existing stations in its intercity rail transportation system readily accessible to people with disabilities and will also pay $2.25 million to victims hurt by its inaccessible stations. It’s not like the agency wasn’t warned, the Americans with Disabilities Act gave Amtrak 20 years from the law’s 1990 enactment to make its stations accessible.
The Environmental Protection Agency marked a historical milestone. The agency celebrated its 50th birthday yesterday, having been established during the Nixon administration. At a D.C. headquarters celebration, administrator Andrew Wheeler dedicated a conference center to William Ruckelshaus, the first administrator. Wheeler noted that since 1970, air pollution has dropped by 77% in the United States and that far greater numbers of people have clean drinking water. Today, Wheeler visits the Richard M. Nixon presidential library in Yorba Linda, California to mark the opening of an environmental exhibit.