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President Joe Biden is looking to freeze any new federal regulations agencies instigated in the waning days of the Trump administration. In a memo, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told agencies to hold off on publishing any new rules until after Biden’s appointees have had a chance to review them. For now, almost all of those appointees are career civil servants working in an “acting” capacity. For recent rules that have already been published, the memo also asks agencies to consider delaying their implementation by two months — again, so the new administration can determine whether or not it supports them.
Federal employees are getting more than a mask mandate from the new Biden administration. A new executive order requires employees and contractors to wear a mask inside federal buildings and lands. It also creates a new safety task force, and it calls on the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a COVID-19 testing plan for the federal workforce. The task force will concentrate on testing, telework and commute options, and vaccination distribution. The Office of Personnel Management, General Services Administration and new federal COVID-19 response coordinator are in charge of the group. (Federal News Network)
Agency chief financial officers say their jobs changed significantly under the COVID-19 pandemic. A new survey from the Association of Government Accountants and Grant Thornton showed some CFO offices moved travel services staff to support acquisition in the early stages of the pandemic. Others relied on investments in data analytics to oversee emergency pandemic spending. CFOs said long-term effects of the pandemic will likely include increased telework and a decline in office space.
Lil Wayne and Steve Bannon were among those last-minute Trump pardons but it wasn’t just people that got a reprieve as the old administration sunset. Former Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler, in one of his very last acts, directed the agency to retire the bunny rabbits still remaining in EPA laboratories and put them up for adoption. He did so in a memo dated yesterday. Wheeler had earlier directed EPA to sharply reduce animal testing with an eye towards eliminating it as much as possible by 2035. Biden has a rescue dog, so it’s possible that policy will continue.
House Democrats are urging Biden’s pick to lead the Office of Management and Budget to open up lines of communication between the agency and Congress. The chairmen of the House Appropriations and Budget Committees wrote to OMB nominee Neera Tanden with their suggestions. They want OMB to bring career employees to take the lead on the apportionment process. They’re also calling on OMB to drop any attempts to reclassify career employees as Schedule F appointees. And they’re asking OMB to publish certain documents related to the Antideficiency Act.
Avril Haines is the first Biden nominee to receive Senate confirmation. The Senate approved Haines to be the director of national intelligence in a vote of 84-10. She is the first woman to serve as DNI. Haines has spent much of her career in the intelligence community. She served as the deputy director of the CIA, deputy national security advisor in the White House and deputy counsel to the President for National Security Affairs in the Office of White House Counsel. (WTOP)
Career executives are taking up acting leadership positions at several agencies while the Senate confirms Biden’s new appointees. Kathleen McGettigan is the new acting director of the Office of Personnel Management. She’s the OPM chief management officer and led the agency on an acting basis during the last presidential transition. Dat Tran is the new acting Veterans Affairs Secretary. He’s led enterprise integration programs at the department. Transportation Security Administrator David Pekoske is the acting secretary at the Department of Homeland Security.
Two familiar faces are coming back to lead General Services Administration’s Federal Acquisition Services. The Biden administration moved quickly to fill two key acquisition and technology leadership roles. Sonny Hashmi, the former chief information officer at GSA, is coming back as the commissioner of the Federal Acquisition Service while David Zvenyach, the former acting executive director of 18F, is returning to become the deputy FAS commissioner and director of the Technology Transformation Service, or TTS. Hashmi left GSA in 2015 to join technology company Box. Zvenyach left GSA in 2018 and has been director of product at Hangar.
The Defense Department swore in a slew of new officials yesterday as the Biden administration took the reins. Among the new officials are Jongsun Kim as deputy comptroller for budget appropriations, Max Rose as special assistant to the defense secretary for COVID-19 and Matthew Williams as deputy assistant secretary of defense for Senate affairs. Susanna Blume is also performing the duties of the director of cost assessment and program evaluation.
The new public face of the Pentagon will be a familiar one. John Kirby took over as the Defense Department’s top spokesman on Wednesday. The retired rear admiral previously served as the Navy’s Chief of Information. He was also the State Department’s spokesman during the final years of the Obama Administration. Kirby is among several of the DoD political appointees who don’t require Senate confirmation, and who started work just after Biden took the oath of office.
The military is permanently changing rules on how military service members are reimbursed when moving. Members of the military will now get full reimbursement from the Defense Department if they want to hire their own movers to get to their new orders. Previously, service members and their families were only given 95% of the value if they didn’t do their moving through the military. DoD changed it to 100% during the COVID-19 pandemic as a form of relief and found that it was serving troops better. As of January first, the full reimbursement rate is permanent.
As the Biden administration gets up and running, a new report highlights room for improvement in the State Department. The agency’s workforce grew under the Bush and Obama administrations but a report from the Partnership for Public Service showed it saw its first “net staff reduction” in decades under the Trump administration. The report showed State saw a 3% decrease in its combined civil and foreign service workforces between 2017 and 2019, and that the agency fell in the Partnership’s Best Places to Work rankings during the Trump administration.