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Sens. Mark Warner (D-Va.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) are pressing Senate leadership to extend the authority that lets agencies pay certain contractors even if they can’t work due the pandemic. Warner and Rubio wrote to Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) asking to push the sunset date of the 3610 authorities back by six months to September 30. Congress already extended the authorities to March 31 in the omnibus appropriations bill. By and far, the Defense Department has taken the most advantage of the authorities to ensure the national security industrial base remains in a ready state. (Federal News Network)
The Government Accountability Office said the Defense Department has made some improvements to its services acquisition oversight. But not enough to get it off the high risk list. DoD’s October report to Congress explained its changes to requirement reviews. It also detailed how it would collect data on contracted services inventories. But it left out how it would use that data. It also didn’t address how DoD can improve visibility into future budget requirements.
President Biden continued his spree of repealing policies from his predecessor. He rescinded a 2020 memo that gave the Defense secretary the authority to exclude certain employees from collective bargaining. The American Federation of Government Employees said DoD never used the new authority it got last year. But it applauded Biden’s action that will prevent DoD from exercising the option. The Federal Service Labor Management Relations Act allows the president and certain agencies to exclude some employees from bargaining for national security reasons.
Senators are pushing for more doses and a bigger role for the Department of Veterans Affairs in vaccine distribution efforts. VA so far has gotten 2.3 million COVID-19 vaccine doses and administered more than 2.1 million. It’s been receiving about 125,000 doses a week. But VA says it has the capacity to administer anywhere from 300,000-600,000 doses. Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) says, “Look, I can’t give you guys enough credit. Quite frankly, we just need to get more vaccines in your hands.” (Federal News Network)
The State Department is getting executive buy-in on its diversity and inclusion efforts. The agency is creating a new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer position, and is asking a deputy assistant secretary from each of its bureaus to serve on a new diversity and inclusion leadership council. These officials will oversee work on the agency’s soon-to-be-released Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Plan.
Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas plans to kick-start a nationwide cybersecurity effort. DHS is bringing all its authorities and skills to the table to take on ransomware and other long-standing cybersecurity challenges. Mayorkas said that means initiating a series of 30-day sprints like what the government did in 2015. “To start, we will be developing an initial set of sprints dedicated to combatting ransomware, building a deep and diverse cyber workforce, and urgently improving the security of our nation’s industrial control systems.” Mayorkas also said FEMA grantees will have to spend 7.5% of their funds on cybersecurity, up from 5%, which means an increase of $25 million dollars nationwide.
Reports of sexual assault and harassment at the military’s service academies dropped significantly last year, but the statistics may not mean much. The report covering last school year says there were 129 reports of sexual assault at the Air Force Academy, the Naval Academy and West Point. That’s 20 fewer cases than the year before. But Defense officials acknowledge most of the decrease happened in the fourth quarter of the school year, when most students had been sent home because of the pandemic. The department’s data for last year is also limited because DoD cancelled its annual anonymous survey regarding sexual assault and harassment at the academies, also because of COVID-19. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force said it’s almost finished with an initiative to cut down on headquarters-level regulations and policies that no longer make sense. After four years of review, the service has completely rescinded more than 500 policy documents. Officials have updated more than 850 others. Only about two dozen are left in the review process.
The IRS said it’s ready to send taxpayers a third round of stimulus payments if Congress gives the green light. Commissioner Chuck Rettig tells members of the House Appropriations Committee the IRS issued 300 million Economic Impact Payments worth more than $400 billion so far. Rettig is also asking for multi-year funding to modernize the agency under the Taxpayer First Act. “We know that we can do more and we know that we’re being called upon to do more and more,” Rettig said.
Midway into the tax filing system, the IRS touts its progress against one of the most potentially vexing problems taxpayers face. No, not high taxes. It’s identities stolen from the tax ecosystem. Michael Beebe, the IRS director of return integrity and compliance services, said in a blog the agency has cut reports of ID theft by 80% since 2015. Beebe cited the Security Summit, a partnership of IRS, state tax officials and the tax prep industry. He said progress has come from a number of discrete moves like stronger passwords and two-factor authentication, and redacting personal information from tax transcripts.