RAND: Federal STEM workers earning thousands less than private-sector

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  • The private sector pays more, but federal agencies offer other benefits to its scientists. The RAND Corporation finds federal employees who work in science, technology, engineering and math make about $2,600 less than their private-sector counterparts. But new research finds there’s more general and racial diversity among federal STEM workers, and a less of a pay disparity for women and minorities. The report also finds federal STEM workers generally work shorter hours than in the private sector, and are more likely to have access to benefits.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs will start to vaccinate family members and others who take care of veterans. VA says it will begin offering both COVID-19 testing and vaccines to participants in the Caregivers program. Each facility will have its own start date based on vaccine availability. VA so far has given at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine to roughly 284,000 veterans and 220,000 employees. It’s tracking over 14,000 active COVID cases among veterans, employees and others.
  • Agencies are doing a better job at managing how they spend procurement dollars. New data from the Office of Management and Budget shows agencies spent $226 billion using the principles of category management. The governmentwide goal was $190 billion out of a potential $420 billion that falls under the spend under management initiative. The 2020 number was also $40 billion more than what agencies achieved in 2019.
  • As one of his first official acts, the new secretary of Defense told the U.S. military to reexamine sexual assault within its ranks. Secretary Lloyd Austin sent a memo to the military service chiefs on Saturday, giving them two weeks to report back on which prevention programs have worked and which ones haven’t. Reported sexual assaults increased by 13% in 2018, and by another 3% in 2019. Austin’s memo said the problem is “a leadership issue.” (Federal News Network)
  • Members of Congress are once again bringing up the issue of war powers now that President Biden has taken office. A handful of lawmakers are calling on President Joe Biden to repeal the authorizations for use of military force from the beginning of the Afghanistan and Iraq Wars. For years, Congress has wanted to rethink the powers it originally gave to the Bush administration to deal with terrorism and other Middle East issues. In a letter to Biden, the lawmakers say Congress has abdicated its constitutional responsibilities by allowing wars to drag on for decades with little oversight. The lawmakers say Congress needs a new agreement that addresses the current threat landscape.
  • The Air Force officially designated Defense Department Cyber Crime Center as an operating field agency. The unit previously operated under the office of special investigations. With the new designation, the crime center will now operate under the Air Force inspector general. The Air Force says the new role will help the center to evolve faster to meet the branch’s needs. The DoD Cyber Crime Center was first established in 2001.
  • The Pentagon has little to show for a cyber defense effort that’s taken seven years and spent hundreds of millions of dollars. The Defense Department starting building Joint Regional Security Stacks in 2013 to help give cyber defenders a better view over its scattered networks. But a new report from DoD’s office of operational test and evaluation finds JRSS has never shown an ability to protect against “operationally-realistic” attacks, even on its unclassified networks. The same report shows DoD pulled the plug on JRSS deployments on its secret networks, and doesn’t plan to restart them until 2023.
  • The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has new leadership. President Biden tapped EEOC Commissioner Charlotte Burrows to serve as the new chairman. She’s been an EEOC commissioner since 2015. EEOC Commissioner Jocelyn Samuels will be the new vice chair. Janet Dhillon was the EEOC chair under the Trump administration and will remain on the commission. The remaining two Republican-leaning commissioners also remain at the EEOC.
  • A long-time federal technology executive is retiring. Frank Konieczny, the Air Force’s chief technology officer, is retiring from federal service at the end of January. Known as Frank K, he has been CTO since 2010 and worked in the federal sector mostly as a contractor since 1971. As the Air Force’s CTO, Konieczny focused on developing the future technology baseline, mobility enterprise solutions, data management, identity, credential and access management, artificial intelligence and quantum capabilities, and cybersecurity. He says he has no specific plans for retirement, but hopes to say involved in the federal community.
  • The State Department reinstated diversity training for its workforce following an executive order from President Joe Biden. That executive order overturned a Trump administration ban on certain kinds of diversity and inclusion training for federal employees, contractors and grantees. The agency had been working on its latest four-year diversity and inclusion plan when the ban went into effect. The Government Accountability Office recently found that overall diversity has improved at the agency, but found racial minorities were less likely to receive promotions than their white colleagues. (Federal News Network)
  • A new executive order from President Biden rolled back four more Trump-era policies for federal employees. Those orders from Trump limited collective bargaining, cut union time and tried to make it easier for agencies to fire federal employees. They also attempted to reclassify career employees as quasi-political appointees. But Biden repealed all four of them with his own executive order. He also directed agencies to review any actions they took to implement the Trump orders and roll those back too. (Federal News Network)
  • The pandemic fueled a surge in giving to the Combined Federal Campaign. Complete national numbers for the just-ended annual charity campaign aren’t in yet. But for the National Capital Region, contributions so far have reached $34 million, $4 million more than last year. The goal was $30 million. That’s according to chairman Vince Micone. He said they’re still counting, but the final total could top $37 million. Micone said one in four donors gave for the first time, and that donations from retirees rose by 25%. (Federal News Network)

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