Online petition calls for letting soldiers have beards

In today's Federal Newscast, after the Army made huge changes to its grooming standards last week, some soldiers want more change.

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  • After the Army made huge changes to its grooming standards last week, some soldiers want more change. An online petition to give soldiers the option to wear a beard has garnered more than 82,000 signatures in less than a week. Many soldiers were expecting the Army to relax standards on beards last week. Currently soldiers can only wear a beard for religious reasons or if they have sensitive skin that is susceptible to razor bumps and other ailments.
  • A federal grand jury has indicted seven former Army reservists for charging the government for military honors at funeral services that never actually happened. Two of the defendants are police officers for the City of New Orleans. Federal prosecutors said they stole more than $100,000 by claiming Army reimbursement for performing military honors at funerals for soldiers, retirees and veterans. But the U.S. Attorney’s Office said those funerals never took place. New Orleans police said the two officers involved have been administratively reassigned while that department conducts its own internal investigation. All seven former reservists were assigned to the 377th Theater Sustainment Command in New Orleans.
  • Members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus want Trump’s legacy gone from a Defense Department commission. Twenty members of Congress want Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to remove Trump era appointees from the commission to rename military bases. Congress mandated that the Defense Department rename bases honoring Confederate officials. The lawmakers said the four commissioners in question were appointed by a then-acting Defense secretary who was put in the position by a president who did not support the renaming of the bases. The lawmakers are asking Austin to install a diverse slate of commissioners in their place.
  • No surprise, President Joe Biden is withdrawing the budget rescissions his predecessor proposed during his final days in office. Former President Donald Trump asked Congress to rescind $27 billion from the 2021 budget members passed into law late last year. Trump’s proposal would have gutted the budgets for the Corporation for National and Community Service, National Endowment for the Arts and several large grant programs at the Education Department, Agriculture Department and others. Biden withdrew a total of 73 proposed rescissions.
  • Former Energy Department employees and contractors too often have access to systems and the agency longer than they should. The Energy inspector general found agency’s controls for terminating a security clearance and smart identity card access for separated employees is falling short of policy requirements. Auditors said two-thirds of employee PIV cards were not manually destroyed and about one-third of employees’ security clearances were not terminated within four days of separation. The IG made five recommendations and Energy plans to address most of them by October.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t doing the best job weeding out the bad apples from its signature community care program. VA excludes its own former physicians who provided poor care from later serving in its community care program. But providers who were removed before 2019 might still be part of the program. The Government Accountability Office identified over 200 former VA providers who may have fallen through the cracks. GAO said VA should ensure its contractors are constantly checking into their providers and their credentials.
  • The Department of Homeland Security dropped the ball to move to an electronic invoicing system by 2018 as required by the Office of Management and Budget. But that doesn’t mean all hope is lost — DHS released a sources sought notice asking for industry feedback on using machine learning, artificial intelligence and other technologies to process high volumes of transactions more efficiently. DHS outlines five tasks it potentially wants services around including automated workflow and robotics process automation and data analytics and dashboards. Responses to the sources sought are due by Feb. 8.
  • The House Homeland Security Committee named new leaders to its subcommittees. Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.) will serve as chairwoman of the Cybersecurity, Infrastructure, and Innovation Subcommittee. Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) will serve as the head of the Emergency Preparedness, Response and Recovery Subcommittee. And Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-N.J.) will lead the Transportation and Maritime Security Subcommittee.
  • Congressional scrutiny of Postal Service leadership intensifies as the agency sees more mail and package delays. Virginia Sens. Tim Kaine (D) and Mark Warner (D) asked Postmaster General Louis DeJoy what steps USPS is taking to improve on-time delivery now that its holiday surge is over. USPS data shows that about half of Virginia’s first-class mail arrived on-time last December. Meanwhile, Rep. Tim Ryan (D-Ohio) asked President Joe Biden to fire the entire USPS Board of Governors in response to these delays. The board currently has three vacant seats.

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