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The Department of Health and Human Services is looking for federal employees to serve four-month details at the southern border. Employees would help HHS care for and place unaccompanied children who cross into the U.S. with sponsors and others. The Office of Personnel Management is partnering with HHS to promote the details. Employees who volunteer may interact with migrant children, Customs and Border Protection, FEMA and other federal agencies. OPM is encouraging supervisors to allow interested employees to volunteer.
The House of Representatives is getting its first African-American Sergeant at Arms. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) announced Maj. Gen. William Walker, currently commanding general of the District of Columbia National Guard, would be filling the post. Walker replaces Paul Irving, who resigned after the Capitol Hill riots on Jan. 6. The appointment was also praised by minority leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). (Federal News Network)
A bipartisan group of senators is calling on the Energy Department to keep its cyber leadership in place. Senators Jim Risch (R-Idaho) and Angus King (I-Maine) lead nine others in backing the current structure of Energy’s Office of Cybersecurity, Energy Security and Emergency Response, or CESER . The Trump administration created the office in 2018, and is staffed by an assistant secretary at the department. The senators say an increase in cyber threats requires the agency to watch out for vulnerabilities in the electric grid.
Women in the Army will soon be able to wear long ponytails while in uniform. The Army has not released the official guidance yet, but Sergeant Maj. of the Army Michael Grinston says women will be able to wear one or two ponytails down to the shoulder blade. The Army recently loosened up some of its appearance standards and allowed women to wear shorter ponytails. Grinston says after hearing from soldiers the Army changed its mind about longer ponytails.
Soldiers now have new options to pay for childcare expenses and some schooling costs. The Army Emergency Relief organization is now offering no-pay-back grants for soldiers and Army families who need financial assistance for childcare and education expenses. There is no cap for the grants soldiers can receive for childcare. Schooling costs for things like tuition, materials and internet are capped at two or three thousand dollars depending on the age of the child. The Army Emergency Relief says it started covering childcare costs after many soldiers had issues finding services during the COVID-19 pandemic. The organization provides about $70 million in assistance a year. (Federal News Network)
It’s been almost 20 years since the Navy vacated its training ranges in Puerto Rico. But it will take at least another decade to undo the environmental damage. The Navy stopped operations on the island of Vieques in 2003 after years of protests. But a new report by the Government Accountability Office finds it will take until 2032 to fully clear the island of unexploded munitions, plus numerous environmental concerns like groundwater contaminated by chemicals used in decades of military exercise. Crews have already removed tens of thousands of munitions from the island, but GAO estimates the remaining work will cost another $420 million. (Federal News Network)
A linguist contractor for the Defense Department pleads guilty to delivering national defense information to aid a foreign government. Mariam Thompson was working at a DoD facility in Iraq in early twenty-twenty when an individual she’d been communicating with for two years began asking for classified information. Thompson provided classified data on human intelligence sources, including names and photographs. She admitted that she knew the information would be provided to Hezbollah, a designated terrorist organization. She was arrested by the Justice Department in February twenty-twenty, and faces life in prison.
The Department of Veterans Affairs is restoring official time and previous collective bargaining practices with the American Federation of Government Employees. VA will no longer charge the union rent for office space. And it will revert back to the bargaining agreement it signed with AFGE back in 2011. The actions VA announced Friday are in line with President Biden’s January executive order. His order revoked three workforce policies from the Trump administration.
President Biden has a new leader in mind for a beleaguered office within the Department of Veterans Affairs. Maryanne Donaghy is Biden’s pick to lead VA’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection. She’s a former federal prosecutor, teacher and accountant. She has experience standing up an inspector general office within the Philadelphia school district. VA Secretary Denis McDonough says she has a proven track record of accountability. VA’s accountability office has been under fire in recent years. Lawmakers, employees and whistleblowers themselves say it’s struggled to meet its mission. (Federal News Network)
The IRS is tackling fraud tied to stimulus payments, the Paycheck Protection Program and other COVID-19 relief. The agency over the past year has investigated more than 350 tax and money laundering cases worth more than $440 million. The agency says these cases cover everything from individuals fraudulently obtaining loans and payments from pandemic programs that they weren’t eligible to receive.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration inked a big contract to get better control of its network of satellite ground systems. NOAA has awarded a 10-year indefinite delivery-indefinite quantity deal to Earth Resources Technology to take over operations and maintenance for environmental satellite antennas. The deal has a potential value of $700 million. NOAA says it already awarded $357 million in task orders. The company will help NOAA with its strategy of securing satellite data processing in a secure government cloud. The contract covers six NOAA locations throughout the country.