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Another new executive order from President Trump. This one demands that cloud computing companies verify the identities of their customers. The outgoing administration says the order is meant to crack down on foreign adversaries that use cloud services to mount cyber attacks. The order is directed at companies that provide infrastructure-as-a-service. It gives federal agencies, including DHS and the Department of Commerce six months to implement new regulations.
60% of employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs say they’re not informed when a coworker tests positive for COVID-19 at their facility. That’s according to a survey of VA employees from the American Federation of Government Employees. 88% of employees say they know of a coworker who has contracted the virus. And 40% of AFGE respondents say they haven’t been given adequate personal protective equipment at their facilities. VA is currently tracking about 900 active COVID-19 cases among its employees.
The Military Health System is now making COVID-19 vaccines available to TRICARE for Life beneficiaries who are 75 and older. MHS says the availability of the vaccine may vary by location, but TRICARE recipients should contact their local military treatment facility, their civilian provider or their TRICARE network pharmacies. Currently more than one million people 75 or older on TRICARE for Life are eligible.
The Office of Personnel Management offered up a preview of the annual Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. OPM says federal employee job satisfaction improved again in 2020. A little more than 71% of employees say they’re satisfied with their jobs. OPM changed the annual survey last year to gauge how agencies responded to the pandemic. 85% of employees say their supervisors supported their efforts to stay healthy and safe. The preview from OPM comes on the last full day of the Trump administration. The full 2020 survey results are expected in early spring.
A data analytics official at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has moved up the ranks. The agency named Kimberly Essary as its deputy chief data officer and will work alongside EEOC’s CDO Chris Haffer. Essary previously served as the deputy director and senior counsel of EEOC’s Office of Enterprise Data and Analytics, and helped created the agency’s first Data Governance Board. She also served as a federal data fellow on the Federal Data Strategy team.
The Trump administration Environmental Protection Agency goes to the very last minute with proposed regulations. 26 hours before the advent of the Biden Administration, EPA proposed a list of four in-the-weeds rules having to do with ethanol, fuel pump labeling, underground storage, renewable volume compliance, and letters of requests for waivers from recent renewable fuel standards. The proposed rules have hit the Federal Register, sparking 90-day comment periods. The Biden EPA could end up dealing with them long after the Trump crew has departed.
Progress to reach OMB’s goal for adopting cloud services has hit a plateau. For the second straight quarter, the percentage of federal email boxes in the cloud remained at 84%. The latest data on the President’s Management Agenda scorecard shows 17 agencies met the target of having at least 95% of all email boxes in the cloud. OMB says of the six agencies still not meeting the 95% goal, only the departments of Energy and Justice made progress last quarter. Two agencies, the Social Security Administration and the Office of Personnel Management, lost ground.
It’ll take a while for the Senate to confirm the Biden Administration’s picks to lead the Pentagon, but we now know who’ll occupy DoD’s top leadership positions in the meantime. David Norquist, the Trump Administration’s number-two Pentagon official will serve as acting Defense secretary until the Senate confirms Lloyd Austin, Biden’s nominee to lead the department. Meanwhile, John Whitley will be the acting Secretary of the Army. Tom Harker will be the acting Secretary of the Navy, and John Roth will be the acting Secretary of the Air Force. Each of them had been lower-level Trump administration appointees.
The Defense Department moved quickly to extend the timeframe for contractors to be reimbursed for work that is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Pentagon issued a new memo extending the 3610 authority through March 31, 2021. Congress approved the extension in the fiscal 2021 consolidated spending bill after it was set to expire on December 31. A DoD inspector general audit in December identified 135 contracts that the Pentagon had paid out $68 million under the 3610 authority through September. Auditors say DoD primarily paid vendors for employee costs because they couldn’t work in government-owned facilities.
The Air Force is trying to rebalance its force and some airmen may be able to get out of their contracts early because of it. Some airmen now have the opportunity to retire early, separate early or move from active duty to the Air National Guard with no penalty. The Air Force is offering early separation waivers on a first-come, first-out basis. The option is only open to certain occupations, other requests will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. The change in policy stems from high retention rates in the Air Force caused by economic uncertainty during the global pandemic. The service recruited 900 more people than it needed last year. (Federal News Network)
12 National Guard troops in Washington D.C. have been removed after law enforcement agencies identified them as having ties with right-wing militia groups, or to have posted extremist views online. The Pentagon says two had made comments specifically pertaining to today’s inauguration. Defense spokesman Jonathan Hoffman said the removals were done out of the abundance of caution and were not linked to any credible threats. (WTOP)
Joe Biden’s pick to lead the Department of Homeland Security promised to make employee morale his highest priority. Alejandro Mayorkas says he’ll focus on equipping DHS employees with the tools they need to succeed if confirmed as the agency’s secretary. He already has experience leading DHS employee engagement efforts when he served as deputy secretary during the Obama administration. Democrats on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee want to confirm Mayorkas as quickly as possible. But Senator Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) says he’s placing a hold on the nomination. (Federal News Network)
The National Archives and Records Administration is seeking feedback on a proposed rule to wean agencies off hard-copy records. NARA’s proposed regulation sets standards for digitizing permanent federal records, and would allow agencies to dispose of hard-copy paper and photographic records. But these disposals would still have to comply under the Federal Records Act. NARA considers permanent records anything historic that requires agency preservation beyond administrative and legal requirements. NARA seeks comments by February 1. NARA won’t longer accept any temporary or permanent records from agencies in a non-electronic format after December 2022.