More paid leave for federal employees takes another step towards reality

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  • Federal employees are one small step closer to more paid leave during the pandemic. The House Oversight and Reform Committee cleared a $570 million emergency paid leave bank for federal employees and postal workers. The proposal would allow employees to take up to 15 weeks of paid leave to quarantine, recover from COVID-19 or care for children who are learning from home during the pandemic. It’s part of a series of budget reconciliation proposals House Democrats are drafting. The proposals would advance President Biden’s COVID-19 relief package.
  • The House Veterans Affairs Committee advanced a budget reconciliation package that will give VA $17 billion more to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. The package includes funding for VA supply chain modernization initiatives. It also includes $272 million to boost staff overtime and make other improvements to address a growing backlog of disability claims and appeals. Democrats on the committee said the funding is necessary during the health crisis. But Republicans said the department hasn’t made the case it needs the extra funding.
  • States and territories get federal help to stem a tide of fraud in pandemic relief payments. From $100 million, the Labor Department doled out $49 million to 27 states and to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands. Among the state recipients are California, Texas, Washington and Florida. The money is supposed to help them build systems to prevent fraud in two programs: Pandemic Unemployment Assistance and Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation. Since the first pandemic relief package, states have seen hundreds of billions in fraudulent payments.
  • The Office of Management and Budget, the General Services Administration, the Office of Personnel Management, the National Archives and Records Administration and other agencies falling under the Financial Services and General Government appropriations bill may be in line for a friendlier time before the Senate subcommittee. Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) takes over the gavel as the new subcommittee chairman. Last session, Sen. Chris Coons, (D-Del.) was the ranking member. Van Hollen said among his priorities are to continue to support the federal workforce by providing necessary funding to agencies and renewing the push for a new FBI headquarters in Maryland. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) is the ranking member of the subcommittee.
  • The Agriculture Department is preparing for a major financial management system upgrade. USDA launches a six-year project to modernize and move its financial systems to the cloud. The agency issued a sources sought notice to determine vendor capabilities to provide analysis, design, testing and migration of the current SAP business suite to the next generation SAP Intelligent enterprise platform. The market research includes the initial written responses as well as second phase that includes oral presentations. USDA said it seeks offers with an aggressive acquisition and implementation schedule with a goal of having the new system architecture fully operational by September 2027. Responses to the sources sought notice are due by February 17.
  • The Chief Data Officers Council gave Congress an update on progress made since its inaugural meeting more than a year ago. The CDO Council stood up working groups among agency CDO members, including panels on COVID-19 response, data sharing and the improving data skills in the workforce. The council also conducted a pulse survey to identify top data priorities for member agencies. Congress authorized the CDO Council when it passed the Foundations for Evidence-Based Policymaking Act in 2019.
  • The fast-track sale of a dozen federal properties hits some snags. The Public Buildings Reform Board a year ago urged the General Services Administration to sell a dozen high-value,  underutilized buildings. Now GSA and the board are running into hurdles selling these facilities. A federal judge in Washington State filed a preliminary injunction blocking the sale of one of the properties, a National Archives facility in Seattle. The Government Accountability Office in a recent report said the board didn’t fully document how it narrowed its short-list of buildings to sell from 44 to 12.
  • The military is doing a reasonably good job of protecting its older weapons systems from cyber threats. That’s according to a new audit by DoD’s inspector general. The IG looked at a sample of five platforms that are now well into their operations and sustainment phase, and found that each of them are mitigating cyber risks by implementing the Risk Management Framework. The report also makes several recommendations to protect systems that are already well past the design and procurement stages.
  • The Defense Department is putting some high-profile names on the commission to rename military bases. The Pentagon appointed former Marine Corps Commandant Robert Neller and retired four-star Navy Admiral Michelle Howard to the commission to rename bases commemorating Confederate officials. They will join two other Defense Department appointees and four others selected by the House and Senate Armed Services Committees. The congressional panels chose the 14th Secretary of the Smithsonian Lonnie Bunch and retired Army Lieutenant General Thomas Bostick. The commission will deliver a report by 2024.
  • The Pentagon has given the green light to 20 more teams of servicemembers to help administer coronavirus vaccine throughout the country. That brings the total number of teams to 25. The Biden Administration is aiming for 100 teams that could eventually involve 19,000 military members. DoD says it’s working on military resources based on requests from FEMA. Only one team has deployed to a federally-run vaccination site so far. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Health Agency completed transferring 140 military medical treatment facility websites to the TRICARE.mil domain. DHA said the migration is a key milestone as it takes over the management and administration of military clinics and hospitals from the services. The three-year project is supposed to modernize the web presence of the facilities and provide a standardized experience for patients.

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