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Mass vaccination sites staffed by active duty military members are now up and running in three more cities, with more set to come online in the next few days. Service members started administering shots yesterday at federally-run sites in New York City, Houston and Dallas. Teams of about 140 people are staffing each site. The smaller ones are able to deliver about 3,000 shots each day, but the first federal vaccination site in Los Angeles has now ramped up to about 6,000 doses per day. DoD has organized 11 teams so far while FEMA has requested 100 teams. The next sites expected to get up and running within the next week include four in Florida and one in Philadelphia. (Department of Defense)
Agencies will have to submit recommendations to the White House in the next 100 days for how to secure the supply chains for critical and essential goods. President Joe Biden signed an executive order yesterday detailing new mandates. The recommendations should focus on four key product sectors: Pharmaceuticals and active pharmaceutical agreements; critical minerals, including rare earths; semiconductors and advanced packaging; and large-capacity batteries, such as those used in electric vehicles. The EO also requires agencies in the next year to conduct a more in-depth analysis and offer policy changes across six sectors, including the defense industrial base.
Within the new Postal Reform bill are major changes to how postal retirees would receive their benefits. The Postal Service Reform would require future retirees to enroll in Medicare Part B once they turned 65 to participate in the Postal Employees Benefits Program. The bill won’t require current postal retirees to enroll, but it would give them a three-month grace period from late-enrollment penalties if they opt to do so. The bill would also eliminate the Postal Service’s 2006 mandate to pre-fund retiree health benefits well into the future and would return the agency to a pay-as-you-go system. The bill has backing from Postmaster General Louis Dejoy, the American Postal Workers Union, and the National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association. (Federal News Network)
The Justice Department’s Office of Information Policy is searching for the outstanding federal employees and teams promoting the Freedom of Information Act. Nominations for the 2021 Sunshine Week FOIA awards, recognizing the contributions of FOIA professionals from around the government, are open. The five categories include exceptional service by a FOIA employee or team, and exceptional advancements in IT to improve FOIA service. Nominations from agencies or members of the public are due by March 1. Justice will recognize winners during the department’s 2021 Sunshine Week event on March 15.
The new Veterans Affairs secretary said he’s starting to dig in on some of the agency’s collective bargaining challenges. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said he spent the last two weeks getting to know the agency’s employees. He’s trying to encourage and support employee telework by spending some time each week working from home himself. McDonough said he hasn’t made any decisions just yet on how he’ll handle collective bargaining at VA. Both the department and the American Federation of Government Employees had been locked in heated negotiations for over a year. (Federal News Network)
A group of 12 bipartisan senators want to change the name of the Transportation Department headquarters building to honor its first African-American secretary. A new bill would rename the DOT main building in Washington, D.C., after William T. Coleman Jr. who served as the Transportation secretary from 1975 to 1977. The Senate passed a similar bill last session, but the House never moved it out of committee. During his tenure, Coleman oversaw the creation of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s automobile test facility and the establishment of the Materials Transportation Bureau to address pipeline safety and the safe shipment of hazardous materials.
The State Department is the latest agency to raise the ante on diversity and inclusion. Secretary of State Antony Blinken ordered formation of a new position — a chief diversity and inclusion officer, who will report directly to Blinken. Each State Department bureau must designate a corresponding person to look after diversity and inclusion. Together, they’ll make up a new group called the diversity and inclusion leadership council. A department spokesman said diversity and inclusion will make State stronger, smarter, more creative and more innovative.
The military likely won’t see the budget increases in 2022 that it enjoyed over the last four years. The military budget for 2021 stands at more than $740 billion. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said it’s likely to stay that way next year because the political and economic environment changed over the last year. The government is spending trillions on COVID-19 relief, which means lawmakers will either want to cut back on other spending or continue the trend of spending money on domestic issues. Reed said the budget is going to take a lot of bipartisan effort this year, especially with the Senate in a 50-50 tie. (Federal News Network)
The Army named two new leaders to key contracting leadership positions. Brig. Gen. Christine Beeler will soon take over as the commander of Army Contracting Command, headquartered near Huntsville, Alabama. Beeler is currently the commander of Army Mission and Installation Contracting Command. She’ll be replaced in that job by Brig. Gen. Douglas Lowrey, who is now the commander of the Army’s Security Assistance Command.