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Coronavirus has returned to the U.S.S. Theodore Roosevelt. The Navy says three sailors have tested positive for COVID-19. Officials say those servicemembers and other sailors they came in contact with are in isolation aboard the ship. The Roosevelt is the same carrier that saw a massive COVID-19 outbreak last year. A thousand sailors were infected, and one died. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department is experimenting with new ways to quell coronavirus. The Pentagon is participating in a new study that may help people exposed to COVID-19, but do not have the vaccine. The STORM CHASER study is trying to find out if injecting COVID antibodies into someone who has been exposed to the disease and is not symptomatic will keep them from developing the virus. The Defense Department says the treatment could be helpful for health care workers or restaurant workers. DoD says the antibodies could provide rapid protection from the disease, but only for a short period of time.
The military’s agreements with on-base housing providers requires those companies to carry enough insurance coverage to get through events like natural disasters. But a review, set to be published this week by the Government Accountability Office, found that wasn’t the case for recent disasters on at least two bases. GAO says that’s largely because neither the Pentagon nor the military services are keeping close tabs on the housing companies’ insurance policies. DoD says it issued new policy guidance last month to help correct the problem.
The Space Development Agency is preparing to buy 150 satellites for the next iteration of the National Defense Space Architecture. The system will improve command and control, increase surveillance, provide ground support and fit in with the military’s plan to quicken the pace between sensors, decision makers and warfighters. SDA plans to put up a high volume of low cost satellites every two years to build out the weapons structure. (Federal News Network)
Cloud security is getting a risk-based makeover. The Federal Risk and Authorization Management Program, or FedRAMP, is trying to bring a more agile approach to security authorizations. FedRAMP and Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency developed a new methodology to prioritize security controls that are effective against the current threat environment. Agencies will be able to apply this methodology in six ways, including developing a comprehensive risk profile and prioritizing controls that can be reviewed on a continuous basis. FedRAMP and CISA area asking for feedback on the methodology from agencies, cloud service providers and other experts.
Employees at the Education Department are next in line to get a remodeled building. Education plans on consolidating their headquarters within the National Capital Region from three properties to two; the Potomac Center Plaza and the historic Lyndon Baines Johnson Federal Building. The General Services Administration will release a solicitation in March to further remodel the headquarters building. Upon completion of this new project and the consolidation into the Potomac Center, the building will be able to house approximately 600 additional employees and further reduce the government’s private sector lease footprint.
The General Services Administration named several new policy executives. Exodie Roe III will become associate administration for the Office of Small and Disadvantaged Business Utilization. He’s a long-time Capitol Hill staff member, most recently of the Congressional Black Caucus. Acting administrator Katy Hale said Roe’s group will partner with the Federal Acquisition and Public Building Services. Roberto Rosas and Valencia Fernandez, who also have Hill experience, become policy officers in the Office of Congressional Intergovernmental Affairs.
An Oklahoma Republican wants to overturn President Biden’s recent federal workforce executive order. Congressman Kevin Hern (R-Okla.) introduced legislation that would prevent agencies from implementing an executive order Biden signed on his third day in office. Biden’s executive order rescinds four EOs from the Trump administration. It also called on agencies to restore official time and collective bargaining with federal unions and it rescinded former President Trump’s Schedule F order.
Virginia Congressman Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) is reintroducing his bill that would shed more light on agencies’ safety and reopening plans during the pandemic. The legislation requires agencies to publish those plans on their websites. They would address telework, accommodations for high-risk federal employees and other protections for those who must report to work. Connolly named the legislation after one of his constituents. Chai Suthammanont worked at Quantico Marine Corps Base and died last year due to complications from COVID-19.
A new federal task force says agencies can and should give employees leave to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The recommendation comes from the Biden administration’s new Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. It recommends four hours of leave for employees to get one dose and eight hours to get two. The group also has more details on how agencies should comply with the president’s new mask mandate. It says employees who ignore the mandate could face discipline. Agencies can consider reasonable accommodations for certain employees for religious or health reasons. (Federal News Network)
The Treasury Department’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service looked back on a busy 2020. The bureau, in its latest progress statement, counts speedy payments under the CARES Act and other COVID-19 spending bills among its top accomplishments. The bureau also added more states, agencies and programs to its Do Not Pay suite of web services that detect and prevent improper federal payments. The bureau is also setting long-term goals for 2030, which includes using automation to free up agency chief financial officers from handling rote tasks.
The Department of Health and Human Services is taking a deep dive into its data to root out fraud. The HHS inspector general’s office is awarding a $24 million contract to the tech firm Excella to stand up what it calls a “detective dashboard.” The dashboard will give HHS OIG auditors greater data insight into Medicare, Medicaid, and more than 100 other HHS programs. The dashboard builds off Excella’s previous work standing up a Grants Analytics Portal for HHS and will help the agency fight fraud, waste and abuse of federal spending.