EPA setting up team to deal with ‘forever chemicals’

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  • A new council at the Environmental Protection Agency will be tasked with researching how to protect communities facing issues with PFAS chemicals. EPA Administrator Michael Regan announced Radhika Fox from the Office of Water, and Deb Szaro who is acting regional administrator in Region 1, will lead the EPA Council on PFAS. Many areas in the country have been polluted with the so-called “forever chemicals.” This new task force is charged with coming up with a five year plan to help deal with those cases.
  • The Office of Management and Budget is slowly filling out its ranks of permanent political leaders. The Senate confirmed Jason Miller as OMB’s deputy director for management. He cleared confirmation with an 81-13 vote. Miller will oversee federal IT, workforce and other initiatives for the Biden administration. Miller will join Shalanda Young as only the second permanent, Senate-confirmed leader at OMB. The agency doesn’t have a permanent director yet. And President Biden hasn’t nominated a new candidate.
  • Celeste Drake is the first “Made in America” director in the Office of Management and Budget. President Joe Biden says in appointing Drake yesterday that she will shape and implement federal procurement and financial management policy to ensure American workers and businesses are front and center in government decisions. Drake joins the administration from the Directors Guild of America, where she served as the executive in charge of government affairs. Before that, she served as the trade and globalization policy specialist for the AFL-CIO.
  • After 44 years, a long-time technology executive calls it a career. Dave Bennett is heading off to retirement after spending 30 years in the Army and another 14 with the Defense Information Systems Agency as a civilian employee. Bennett served numerous roles at DISA, including as its chief information officer and most recently as its director of operations. Of all the technology changes he saw, Bennett highlighted mobile devices. “Not only changed how we did business but changed where we did business.” Bennett says he will take some time off before deciding what to do next.
  • The Biden administration is nominating two veteran defense acquisition professionals for top jobs in the Pentagon. Former Defense procurement chief Frank Kendall is getting tapped to serve as the highest-ranking civilian in the Air Force. Heidi Shyu, who previously led the Army’s acquisition office, is getting the nod as the Pentagon’s leader for research and engineering. House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith said Kendall is exactly the kind of public servant we need at the helm of the Air Force. Both nominees served under President Barack Obama.
  • A new Pentagon audit confirms what critics have been saying for years: Other Transaction Agreements are the wild west of DoD acquisition. The DoD inspector general report focuses on the military’s use of consortiums to spend public money on prototype systems. Among a host of problems: DoD doesn’t know how many contracts it’s awarded through those consortiums, and in many cases, can’t track which contractor actually performed the work. The IG said government contracting officers also violated laws and DoD policies surrounding the use of OTAs in numerous instances, partly because the department’s guidance is unclear. DoD used OTAs for nearly $16 billion in acquisitions last year alone.
  • The Army said a declining budget could affect its operational reach, but some lawmakers question if that’s a bad thing. Army Secretary John Whitley said the service makes up about 50% of the military’s current operational tempo. That costs a lot of money when the service is also trying to modernize and preserve its readiness. Whitley said any drops in the budget would first limit where the Army deploys. However, a bipartisan group of lawmakers said the military is overreaching itself. They said by reacting to every global issue the services are raiding their coffers for future technologies and weapons. The lawmakers are asking the military to rethink where and how it deploys. (Federal News Network)
  • The General Services Administration’s in-house tech incubator is funding 22 projects to improve government services. The 10X program is giving phase-one funding to teams to develop a government technology hiring toolkit, reduce duplicative content on agency websites, and help small disadvantaged businesses navigate the federal contracting marketplace. Another team is looking at ways to visualize the carbon footprint of federal buildings. The 10X program has launched programs like Login.gov and the U.S. Web Design System.
  • A long-awaited federal security initiative just got a new, later deadline. Like a stone kicked down the street, the Real ID enforcement start date is now May 3, 2023, moved back from this October 1. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas gave the pandemic as the reason. Under Real ID, travelers at TSA checkpoints would need state-issued driver’s licenses or other IDs that meet federal rules for identity verification. Motor vehicle bureaus have been operating at below-capacity. Mayorkas said the delay will give them time to get back to normal. Some states have issued REAL ID licenses to fewer than a third of their resident drivers.
  • The Social Security Administration is taking on phone scammers impersonating agency employees. The agency’s Office of Inspector General continues to release cautionary tips on identifying fraudsters as they have started receiving reports of sophisticated scammers creating false identification badges similar to the ones used by federal employees and sending them to potential victims to create the illusion that they are legitimate. SSA recently hosted their second annual National “Slam the Scam” Day and Inspector General Gail Ennis is encouraging anyone that comes across these fraud attempts to report them to the OIG’s website.
  • The Thrift Savings Plan is starting a multi-year effort to modernize services for its participants. The TSP is finalizing requirements and starting to transfer data as part of a major recordkeeping acquisition. The plan is working with Accenture on the project. It’s supposed to improve and modernize customer service at TSP call centers. It will also create a new mobile app and electronic signature options for participants. The TSP is planning to go live with new features starting in mid-2022.
  • The Postal Service is speeding up infrastructure investments to handle more packages this holiday season. USPS is accelerating its investment and procurement of 138 package-sorting machines, and expects to have them running ahead of its peak holiday season. It’s also leasing 45 additional package annexes, located near existing processing facilities, to store an “overflow” of packages. USPS is also revisiting a 2015 consolidation plan to remove or relocate mail-sorting machines from 18 mail-processing facilities. The agency said it will not lay off employees in the process. (Federal News Network)

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