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In one of her first moves as Energy Secretary, Jennifer Granholm is reviving one of the agency’s largest loan programs for clean energy. The $40 billion program was the same one that gave loan guarantees to companies like electric car maker Tesla. However, it wasn’t without its failures as it also gave about $500 million to failed solar company Solyndra. (Associated Press)
About 92,000 federal employees retired in 2020 — the fewest in 10 years. A Federal News Network survey of about 800 federal employees showed some changed their retirement plans due to the pandemic. A quarter of respondents said they were planning to retire in 2020 or 2021 but will push those plans back. Fifteen percent said they’ll retire sooner than they thought because of the pandemic. Federal employees said they make their retirement plans based on their finances, health and job satisfaction. Many said their views of their jobs have changed for better and worse as the ability to telework has evolved over the last year. (Federal News Network)
The Postal Service offered early retirements to non-union employees as part of an agency reorganization. To avoid a reduction in force, the Postal Service is offering voluntary early retirements to non-bargaining unit employees at its headquarters, as well as at area and district offices. The offer doesn’t come with any monetary incentive, and employees who accept the offer must do so by April 16 for their retirement to take effect April 30. USPS is also consolidating its 67 districts into 50 districts that closely align with state boundaries as part of an ongoing agency restructuring. (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration is calling cybersecurity a top priority that requires a diplomatic response from the federal government. In its Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, the White House called on the State Department to elevate international engagement on cyber issues, and looks at ways to bring top cyber talent into government. The interim guidance previews the National Security Strategy the White House will release later this year. (Federal News Network)
A cybersecurity fire drill for agency CIOs is in process. New zero-day vulnerabilities in on-premise Microsoft email servers is forcing agencies to either immediately patch or remove those servers from their network. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency issued an emergency directive yesterday requiring agencies take action by Friday. CISA said the exploitations pose an “unacceptable risk” to agencies. Attackers could use these vulnerabilities to access on-premises Exchange Servers and gain persistent system access and control of an enterprise network. The zero days do not impact cloud-based email, CISA said. Treasury, DHS, Energy and Justice are among the agencies with the least number of email boxes in the cloud. (Federal News Network)
A new report shows a troubling relationship between sexual harassment and assault in the military. A massive study of active duty service members shows that troops working in environments where sexual harassment is more tolerated are more likely to be sexually assaulted. Sexual assault risks increased by a factor of 1.5 and by a factor of 1.8 for men in those climates. On average service members reported 21% of their female colleagues and 6% of male colleagues were harassed in the last year. The study suggests addressing harassment and assault as a singular problem in the military to change the environment around permissible harassment. (Federal News Network)
Training for certain employees at the Veterans Benefits Administration have fallen short in recent years. The Veterans Affairs inspector general said VBA has uncertified staff processing veterans’ compensation and benefits claims. A 2008 law requires VBA to certify their employees’ skills. But the IG said VBA isn’t consistently testing employees. And many employees failed the those certification tests during a recent three-year period. The IG says three-quarters of the employees who failed a test between 2016 and 2019 weren’t given a training plan that could have helped them improve.
AT&T sold its Government Solutions division to Tyto Athene for an undisclosed sum. This means Tyto would take over AT&T’s IT professional services, which includes contracts like Alliant 2, ITES-3S and Seaport-NxG. It does not include the Enterprise Infrastructure Solutions, or EIS, contract or the FirstNet work. AT&T’s Government Solutions business brought in more than $63 million in fiscal 2020, according to USASpending.gov. Its biggest customer was the Defense Department. Tyto is a systems integrator that brought in $66 million in federal revenue last year. This is its third acquisition since 2018.
The Space Force is about to unveil its own acquisition organization. Gen. John Raymond, the chief of space operations, said he expects to announce plans for a new Space Systems Command within the next week or so. He says the main objective is to bring “unity of effort” to the various DoD offices that are in charge of buying space capabilities as of now. Raymond said the new organization will be designed to move quickly, with acquisition authorities delegated down to the lowest possible levels.
The award program for senior federal executives is back after a year hiatus. The Office of Personnel Management is bringing back the Presidential Rank Awards for 2021. The awards honor the top 1% and top 5% of Senior Executive Service members. The awards usually come with a cash bonus worth 20%-30% of the executives’ salaries. OPM said it was happy to bring back the awards after last year’s break. The Trump administration canceled the rank awards due to the pandemic. Agencies have until April 9 to submit nominees to OPM. (Federal News Network)