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President Joe Biden has told Cabinet secretaries to take a “hard look at their agency’s spending” to make sure they are meeting the goals of his Buy American executive order. Biden told agency leaders to be prepared to report back to him at the next cabinet meeting on their progress. Biden’s executive order outlines five goals, including a new director of Made in America at OMB, a cross-agency review of domestic preferences and increased oversight and definitions to enable stricter enforcement by agencies.
Defense and civilian agencies partnering up during the fourth annual National Supply Chain Integrity Month. The Counterintelligence and Security Center, CISA, the FCC and DoD’s Center for the Development of Security Excellence kicked off an effort in April to enhance supply chain risk management. The agencies released a series of best practices reminders and plan to hold events to further educate federal, state and local governments and industry about how to address supply chain risks. The Counterintelligence and Security Center released new supply chain risk management information for the technology, energy, health and manufacturing sectors. Agencies warn that attacks against the software supply chain are on the rise as seen with the SolarWinds attack and public and private sector organizations need to take additional steps to protect their data and networks.
Over 250 organizations are calling on the president and Congress to pass stronger whistleblower protection laws. They want to give federal employee whistleblowers the right to a jury trial. The groups say administrative protections for federal employees are practically non-existent because the Merit Systems Protection Board has been without a quorum for over four years. The Government Accountability Project and Project on Government Oversight are among the groups looking for congressional action.
Another attempt to relieve a Social Security penalty for federal retirees. House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Richard Neal (D-Mass.) reintroduced legislation that would offset the Windfall Elimination Provision. The WEP reduces Social Security benefits for a subset of federal employees and other public sector workers who also worked in the private sector. The bill would partially alleviate the penalty on those retirees. Neal and other House members have tried multiple times to address the WEP through legislation. This bill has nearly 150 cosponsors.
A familiar face is headed back into the DoD financial management realm. President Joe Biden says he plans to nominate Mike McCord to be the Pentagon’s comptroller and chief financial officer. McCord served in the same position during the final two years of the Obama administration. He was the number-two official in the DoD comptroller’s office for five years before that.
President Biden makes an unconventional pick to head up the Defense Department’s acquisition bureaucracy. The White House says the president will nominate Mike Brown as the next undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment. Brown is currently the director of the Defense Innovation Unit – the small organization that’s been working to build DoD’s ties with Silicon Valley and other companies that don’t do much business with the Pentagon. In recent memory, all of DoD’s previous acquisition chiefs have come from backgrounds in the Defense industry or in the Pentagon itself.
Every command in the military will immediately conduct a climate survey on sexual assault and harassment prevention policies and enforcement. The assessment is an attempt by the Defense Department to crack down on rising assaults and harassment. The surveys will be used to help each service identify high-risk installations. The deadline for completing the surveys is at the end of the month.
Military families who care for people with autism will see changes in medical benefits by the end of the year. The military’s Comprehensive Autism Care Demonstration program is expanding to give more support to the 16,000 military children with the disease. Care navigators will be assigned to families to help them find their way through the military health system and get the resources they need. Parents will be able to get guidance and training by telehealth and parents will be given greater involvement in the development of a child’s care plan. Changes will begin to take effect on May first and finish by the end of the year.
The IRS is seeking volunteers to serve on its Taxpayer Advocacy Panel. It’s a federal advisory committee that listens to taxpayer concerns and makes taxpayer experience recommendations to the agency’s leadership. Members report to the Treasury secretary, the commissioner of the IRS, and the National Taxpayer Advocate. New members serve a three-year term, starting this December. Individuals can apply for the position until May 14.
The IRS shed more light on how it’s handling COVID-19 among its workforce. The number of IRS employees who report testing positive for COVID-19 increased after the agency reopened facilities for limited operations last spring and summer. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration finds 3,400 IRS employees, as of the end of February, have tested positive for COVID-19 during the pandemic. This February alone, 336 employees tested positive.