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Maryland and Virginia Democrats say federal employees should have the option of taking administrative leave to get the COVID-19 vaccine. They’re asking the Office of Personnel Management to guarantee the option. The request comes from Reps. Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gerry Connolly (D-Va.), Jennifer Wexton (D-Va.), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) and Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.). They say giving federal employees time off will encourage them to get the vaccine. And will allow agencies to function at the highest level possible.
House Democrats are trying again to give officers at the Transportation Security Administration more collective bargaining rights. The chairmen of the House Homeland Security, Appropriations and Oversight Committees are reintroducing the Rights for the Transportation Security Administration Workforce Act. The bill would give TSA officers the chance to earn a salary under the General Schedule and appeal a disciplinary action to the Merit Systems Protection Board. The House has already passed a similar bill on two separate occasions. But it’s never made it to the Senate.
The military is sending in active duty troops to help with the COVID response. The Pentagon is sending more than 1,100 active-duty troops to multiple areas across the United States to support coronavirus vaccine effort. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin approved service member deployments to FEMA vaccination centers in the next few weeks. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby says FEMA will be heading the effort. “We are supporting FEMA and FEMA will decide which site each team supports. We will continue to work with FEMA to scope additional requirements.”
Coronavirus made 2020 a very difficult year for military recruiting. Nonetheless, the pandemic didn’t make a dent in the overall size of the active duty force. The main reason is that retention in the armed forces is near all-time highs. Newly released numbers show the active duty force ended 2020 with slightly more servicemembers than at the beginning of the year. Only the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard saw an overall decrease in their end strength, and even those losses were small. The Air Force and Navy have implemented incentive programs to encourage some members to leave active duty early so they can stay below the caps Congress mandates each year. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force says it has directed its inspector general to investigate an installation breach that occurred on Andrews Air Force Base last Friday. The Air Force will also launch a comprehensive review of installation security and trends in response to an unauthorized civilian gaining access to the base. The Air Force Office of Special Investigations is also looking into the matter.
The Biden administration is looking to cancel out more decisions from the previous administration. The Washington Times reports a new memo from the Department of Homeland Security says that at least eight agreements signed by the Trump administration giving states a stake in federal immigration enforcement are “void, not binding and unenforceable.” The agreements were being used by many states as cause for not following the administration’s directives regarding immigration rules and deportations.
When it comes to the national security workforce, President Biden has given agencies a lot to think about. Biden’s new national security memo calls on agencies to review current recruitment and retention policies and consider what should change. He also suggests a review of current hiring authorities, security clearance procedures and critical skills gaps. He says agencies should consider whether classified workers could have access to more remote work opportunities. And he wants agencies to think about hiring more individuals with disabilities. (Federal News Network)
OPM wants to make all of its employees data analysts. Earlier this month, every employee at the Office of Personnel Management had access to new data analytics tools. Guy Cavallo, OPM’s deputy chief information officer, says the agency is rolling out Microsoft’s business intelligence software across the technology environment. Cavallo says the goal is to help individual mission owners understand why combining data will help the entire agency. He says breaking down these data silos and ensuring the data is secure and replicated will help further the needed culture change. OPM still must overcome a tremendous amount of technical debt, but the BI tools are a key step into that direction.
The Small Business Administration’s inspector general is sounding alarm bells about the agency spending almost $11 million since 2012 with three vendors who didn’t have a contract. The IG found SBA is using three vendors to handle foreclosures and sales of properties but none were registered in the System for Award Management and didn’t have formal contracts. SBA also didn’t follow its own policy for buying these services. The IG made three recommendations and SBA agreed with two of them, but says they do not need to ratify the money paid to these contractors.
The IRS has someone new in charge of its modernization efforts. The agency named Heather Maloy to lead the IRS Taxpayer First Act Office. Maloy comes from Ernst and Young. She previously served as the IRS commissioner for international and large businesses. Her new IRS office is in charge of reorganizing and restructuring the agency and improving employee training and taxpayer services.