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One member of Congress wants the Defense Department to start looking at social media posts as part of the security clearance process. House Armed Services Personnel Subcommittee Chairwoman Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) sent a letter to President Joe Biden asking him to issue an executive order declaring white supremacy and violent extremist a critical threat that must be considered when applying for a security clearance. The order would involve updating Office of Personnel Management guidance to require applicants to disclose their social media handles and the platforms they participate in.
A new survey finds high levels of burnout among federal employees. 70% of Senior Executive Service members and 60% of federal supervisors say they’re feeling burnout. The results come from Eagle Hill Consulting Group. One in three federal employees say the pandemic is to blame. 44% say the workload is contributing to their burnout. And 29% say they’re missing the right tools and technology to help them get the work done.
The Department of Veterans Affairs says it’s given close to one-million vaccine doses to veterans and employees. At least 240,000 VA employees have at least one dose of the vaccine. Over 160,000 employees have both doses. And close to 583,000 veterans have received one or both doses. That’s according to a COVID-19 dashboard VA recently updated. It tracks the number of veterans who have received the COVID-19 vaccines. The department says it will eventually provide facility-by-facility vaccine data for employees too.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is starting the long process of reviewing, realigning and modernizing its health care facilities. VA published new criteria that will eventually guide those reviews. It will submit finalized criteria to the presidentially-appointed members of the Asset and Infrastructure Review Commission next year. The commission will then offer up its own recommendations for realigning and modernizing VA facilities and submit them to the president for his approval. The whole process is part of the 2018 MISSION Act.
Agencies have a set of new ideas to battle nation state cyber attackers. The National Institute of Standards and Technology finalized Special Publication 800-172 that offers a set of tools designed to counter the efforts of state-sponsored hackers to better protect controlled unclassified information. The publication addresses the protection of CUI for system components by promoting penetration-resistant architecture, damage-limiting operations and designs to achieve cyber resiliency and survivability. NIST says the goal of 800-172 is to help system owners protect high-value targets: sensitive information about people, technologies, innovation and intellectual property.
DHS moved quickly to fill a key leadership role. Eric Hysen, the former director of the Homeland Security Department’s digital service, is returning to be the agency’s new chief information officer. Hysen worked on the Biden transition team and started as a senior advisor on February 1, the agency confirmed yesterday. The White House needs to officially appoint him as CIO, which is likely to happen in the coming weeks. He replaces Karen Evans, who was the DHS CIO since May and left at the end of the Trump administration. Hysen previously served as the executive director of the DHS digital service from 2015 to 2017, and before that he was a founding member of the White House’s U.S. Digital Service in 2014. (Federal News Network)
The General Services Administration asked for and got industry feedback on a crucial web site. The GSA’s Vendor Support Center is an information site for multiple award schedule contract holders. An agency request for information about improving it it has yielded 71 complete responses. Vendors say they want a range of upgrades from bigger type fonts to more help desk support. A majority of companies say they’re okay with the site, but only half said it’s easy to use and navigate.
The Department of the Air Force is standing up a new headquarters office to tackle racial and gender inequities in the Air Force and Space Force. The new Office of Diversity and Inclusion sprang in part from inspector general reviews that found disparities of how Black servicemembers are treated on matters of military discipline and career opportunities. Officials say the new office will continue the work the Air Force’s diversity and inclusion task force started last year.
The Air Force says it plans to use a new rubric of “leadership qualities” to pick its future officers and senior enlisted leaders. The service will spend the next several months gathering feedback on how the system will work in practice, but for now, officials are signaling that they want to focus on ten specific areas ranging from job proficiency to resource management and how adept airmen are at leading people.
The Defense Department fired hundreds of members on its advisory boards. The Pentagon is completely reviewing its advisory committees after they became a battleground toward the end of former President Trump’s administration. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin relieved nearly all members of about 40 advisory committees including the Defense Business and Policy Boards. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says the review will look into the efficiency of the committees, “This review will allow him to make sure the advisory committees are, in fact, providing the best possible leadership.” Before leaving office, Trump fired a handful of board members and replaced them with politically divisive candidates like his former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski. (Federal News Network)
A group of House Republicans want to know why the Biden administration fired the top lawyer at the National Labor Relations Board before his term ends. President Biden asked NLRB General Counsel Peter Robb to resign. Biden fired him on his first day in office when Robb refused. The president also fired the NLRB deputy general counsel. The ranking members of the House Oversight and Reform and Education and Labor Committees say the removals are unprecedented. No other general counsel has ever been fired from the position and they say no general counsel has been asked to resign since 1950.
Congress introduced the first major postal reform bill in 2021. The USPS Fairness Act would eliminate the Postal Service’s 2006 requirement to pre-fund retiree health benefits well into the future. The bill would also give USPS a clean slate for the billions of dollars in defaulted payments to its Retiree Health Benefit Fund. The bill would allow USPS to keeping paying for retiree health benefits with funds until it is depleted.
The National Defense Authorization Act required the IRS to add new telecommunications requirements to 1,400 of its existing contracts. The agency used a bot to complete this work in three days, saving its contracting officers about a year’s worth of work manually adding this language. IRS Chief Procurement Officer Shanna Webbers says the agency had already been using bots to correct data errors in the Federal Procurement Data System.