Lawmakers want to even out the rules for federal employees and prior cannabis use

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  • A group of lawmakers urge President Joe Biden to backpedal firings and suspensions of White House staffers for prior cannabis use. They cite legislative efforts to end cannabis prohibition, and Biden’s expressed support of these efforts. They say such employment standards are applied inconsistently. Career feds and staffers may be fired, while political appointees and elected representatives are unlikely to face repercussions for the same actions. They ask the White House to remove past cannabis use as a disqualifier for employment, and consistently apply that policy.
  • The Office of Personnel Management is building out its staff with more appointees. Alethea Predeoux is OPM’s new congressional and legislative affairs director. She previously served as the top legislative director at the American Federation of Government Employees. The agency says the appointment reflects the administration’s commitment to the federal workforce and elevating the role of unions. OPM also named Peter Bonner as the new leader of HR Solutions. He previously worked for the Association for Talent Development and ICF International. OPM also named a new senior adviser for appointee leadership development.
  • Calling it a year like no other, the General Services Administration summarizes what the public searched for on federal web sites in 2020. People queried more than two thousand federal sites nearly 321 million times. Thanks to the pandemic, the single most searched topic was loans. Together with benefits, the two topics made up 20% of all the queries. Space, immigration, and forms rounded up the top five topics. But the topics of health and COVID-19 made up another 10% of queries.
  • The General Services Administration is once again putting cryptocurrency on the auction block. GSA Auctions will accept bids on more than six Bitcoin, valued at more than $380,000. Bidding closes March 31. GSA held its first cryptocurrency auction earlier this month, and got more than 200 bids for three-quarters of one Bitcoin. The winning bid in the first auction totaled more than $50,000.
  • The Social Security Administration sends the IRS missing payment files to get stimulus payments out the door. Top Democrats on the House Ways and Means Committee pushed SSA to send data to the IRS that would move along $30 million of on-hold Economic Impact Payments. Committee leaders say SSA didn’t send the files until Thursday morning, despite urging the agency to do so two weeks before Congress passed the American Rescue Plan. SSA Commissioner Andrew Saul says the agency wasn’t authorized to coordinate with the Treasury Department or IRS until after the bill was signed.
  • The Army is promoting a slew of high-ranking officials into new positions. Lt. Gen. James Rainey is moving to be the deputy chief of staff for Army operations, plans and training. Maj. Gen. Maria Gervais will move to be the deputy commanding general for Army Training and Doctrine Command. She currently serves as the director of the synthetic training environment cross functional team. Also, Maj. Gen. Robert Edmonson will become the leader of Army Communications-Electronics Command.
  • The Navy is telling all of its commanders to use an online tool to identify unhealthy command climates that could enable sexual assaults. All active duty units will have to finish the Defense Organizational Climate Survey by the end of April. Navy officials say they want to use the results to help identify and correct “hot spots” for unhealthy command climates.
  • A key platform for the future of artificial intelligence in the military is up and running. The Joint Artificial Intelligence Center says its Joint Common Foundation is online and ready for use. The foundation is a cloud-based environment where service members can access Defense Department data for use in AI applications. DoD hopes the foundation will spur innovation across the services and make it easy for troops to build their own AI programs. The Pentagon is investing heavily in AI as a means to saving money and making weapons systems more lethal. DoD hopes to be AI-ready by 2025.
  • The Defense Department has made some progress in cutting back on its number of financial transactions that don’t have enough documentation. Those transactions normally go into “suspense accounts” until they can be reconciled. The Government Accountability Office says new DoD policies issued last year cut the balances left lingering in those suspense accounts by about $30 billion. But GAO says DoD still hasn’t done enough to find the root causes for the missing documentation, and the accounts still contain $1.6 billion worth of unsubstantiated transactions.
  • The Department of Veterans Affairs isn’t backing away from its multibillion-dollar electronic health record modernization program. At least not yet. VA Secretary Denis McDonough says he still believes VA can deliver a new electronic record within the original 10-year, $16 billion plan. But he does have some concerns about how the new system is working at the first site. “As it relates to EHRM, I’ll tell you what struck me…and you all know this, but we’re seeing productivity declines bigger than I would have anticipated, but importantly also continuing longer than I would have anticipated,” McDonough says. (Federal News Network)

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