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Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is reminding servicemembers and DoD employees about the ethical values of the department. In a two-page memorandum published Tuesday, Austin laid out his expectations for members of the Defense community. They included the completion of annual ethics training by the end of November and assessing the Pentagon’s work processes to prevent fraud, waste, and abuse.
Agencies will find little good news from the Government Accountability Office’s biennial high-risk list. GAO added two new broad topics to the list this year: The Small Business Administration’s emergency loan program, and national efforts to prevent, respond and recover from drug misuse. The Defense Department managed its scale back its infrastructure and facility program, however, and GAO removed DoD’s real estate footprint from the list this year. Five federal programs regressed since 2019, including federal human capital management. GAO said human capital and skills gaps challenges in the federal workforce are the root cause behind 22 items on the high-risk list. (Federal News Network)
Though the Pentagon’s shortcomings still make up a healthy share of GAO’s high risk list, at least the list is getting at least a little shorter. For almost a quarter century, DoD’s management of its more than $1 trillion worth of real estate and facilities has been on the high risk list. GAO finally took it off in this year’s update. The government’s chief watchdog said the Pentagon has shown clear progress in identifying and tracking its real estate holdings, getting rid of unused space, and cutting support costs. DoD is still responsible for several other areas on the latest high risk list – most of them having to do with financial and program management. (Federal News Network)
The Office of Personnel Management has its annual to-do list for federal health insurance providers. Mental health, surprise billing and the COVID-19 pandemic are all priorities for OPM in 2022. The agency is starting to negotiate benefits and rates for its carriers in the Federal Employees Health Benefits Program. OPM is asking insurance companies to start making preliminary preparations to cut back on surprise billing. OPM also said the pandemic is accelerating the need for insurance companies to cover more mental health services.
Industry is getting its first look at a new governmentwide multiple award contract for services. The General Services Administration released a request for information offering its initial thinking around the BIC-MAC. This is the first step of a two-year process to replace the popular OASIS governmentwide professional services contract. GSA plans to hold an industry day in April and then release a second RFI in May. The draft solicitation is expected in the fall. Responses to the initial RFI are due March 17.
The Office of Management and Budget said it’s time to return to the status quo on diversity and inclusion training. OMB has new guidance for agencies, now that former President Donald Trump’s order banning certain kinds of diversity and inclusion training is repealed. OMB said agencies should tell contractors they won’t be investigated, debarred or punished for hosting certain kinds of diversity and inclusion training. And agencies should delete any contract language to that effect. The Labor Department will also stop enforcing contractor compliance with the Trump order.
The military academies are plagued with problems in the student body. School leaders are now presenting plans to address the issues. Sexual assault, cheating scandals and suicides all rocked the military academies in 2020. That’s not to mention moving classes online for a while due to COVID-19. The school superintendents said they are reinforcing honor codes, having sit-downs with students and changing their approach to discipline. The question is whether it will work and how quickly. The Naval Academy is also fighting against climate change as the school is fending off frequent high tide floods. The superintendent said the school is looking into building levees or seawalls to mitigate the floods. (Federal News Network)
The Air Force is adding new attributes for airmen to describe themselves, or to aspire to, after taking a career development self-assessment test. The test is part of the MyVector program, which gives airmen resources to enhance their professional life, and may pair them with a mentor. “Digital literacy” and “fosters inclusion” are the newest attributes the program will use to describe some airmen. Digital literacy refers to using technology critically. Fostering inclusion means creating a culture where people are free to make their fullest contributions.
How could anyone forget the great pandemic of 2020 and 2021? Well, the Library of Congress wants to make sure no one will. The Library said that several of its divisions have put together materials that document the pandemic, now approaching the one-year mark in the United States. The archive includes photographs of, and artwork inspired by, COVID-19 and the conditions it caused, as well as geospatial data and maps showing the reach of the virus, and maps of its mutations. The Library’s Copyright Office pulled out some of the many COVID-related application’s its received.
Health agency CIOs see no going back from pandemic transformations. Department of Health and Human Resources CIO Perryn Ashmore said remote work was a relatively easy lift for HHS. But the pandemic transformed his job into being a part of emergency response. His office of 300 employees now tracks the status of 800,000 hospital beds across the country, as well as the supply of personal protective equipment to front-line workers. It’s also broken down some data-sharing barriers with other agencies. “Now that we’ve done it and we know how to do it, we’ll continue this work,” Ashmore said. (Federal News Network)
The Justice Department is making Freedom of Information Act processing data from agencies more accessible to the public. DOJ’s Office of Information Policy is updating FOIA.gov with an agency-by-agency look at who gets the most FOIA requests, and how quickly those requests are processed. This information on the website is pulled from annual FOIA reports agencies submitted to the attorney general. OIP said it’s received fiscal year 2020 FOIA reports from nearly 120 agencies.
A familiar face is taking over a major Department of Homeland Security component as its chief information officer. Sonny Bhagowalia is the permanent CIO at the Customs and Border Protection directorate at DHS, Federal News Network has confirmed, since mid-February. He had been acting CIO since June when Phil Landfried left after almost three years. This is Bhagowalia’s fifth time he’s risen to be CIO in the federal and state sectors. He’s been the lead technology executive at Treasury, Interior and for the state of Hawaii. Bhagowalia came to CBP in 2018 where he has overseen network and bandwidth improvements that lets CBP employees securely connect devices and obtain data through the cloud. (Federal News Network)