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Over 50 House members are urging the Department of Veterans to create a centralized spot within the agency to report sexual harassment. VA employees have a centralized policy for harassment. But veterans don’t. House VA Committee Chairman Mark Takano (D-Calif.) and others want VA to detail what resources it needs to develop a reporting system. Congress passed a law earlier this year that calls for a comprehensive sexual harassment policy from VA. Lawmakers say veterans have reported recent incidents of harassment at local VA facilities.
A third individual pled guilty to bid rigging of online auctions held by the General Services Administration. The Justice Department says Alan Gaines of Missouri conspired with two others to suppress and eliminate competition by agreeing to submit bids for particular lots and designating which co-conspirator would win a particular lot. The trio rigged their bids for these online auctions from about July 2012 until as late as May 2018. Gaines pleaded guilty to a violation of the Sherman Act and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison and a $1 million criminal fine.
The State Department launches new funding to help fight official corruption in southeast Asian nations. The $1.5 million program seeks one or two organizations to help Association of SouthEast Asian Nations (ASEAN) governments stop or prevent corruption, per an international agreement those ten nations have ratified. The competitive grant program is run by State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. The solicitation encourages ways to keep the U.S. government visible in anti-corruption campaigns. It’s open to both U.S. and foreign-based non-profits and businesses.
A new audit uncovers potentially serious financial management problems at the Army’s Communications and Electronics Command. DoD’s inspector general started the audit after a whistleblower complaint to its hotline. Among other problems, the IG found the command wasn’t able to back up more than half of the labor charges CECOM billed to other DoD organizations, and an overall lack of internal controls around its billing practices. Auditors say the command may have violated both the Economy Act and the Antideficiency Act. CECOM has agreed to make some changes in response to the audit, but the IG says several of its recommendations are still unresolved.
The organization responsible for identifying the military’s needs for weapons will release its principles for a top-down approach to data, software, 5G and other future data-sharing technologies this spring. Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. John Hyten said the Joint Oversight Requirements Council is currently working on the Information Advantage Strategic Directive. The plan will set requirements from the top brass for the military services to follow when developing and procuring weapons systems. The strategy will ensure they fit into the Pentagon’s data-sharing model. (Federal News Network)
The Defense Department is setting up a review panel of last resort for those who are being forced out of the military. Service members who have been discharged from the military or want their dismissal characterization changed now have a final option for appeal. The Pentagon is setting up the Discharge Appeal Review Board. Any service member separated on or after December 20th, 2019 who has exhausted all their options can have their case reviewed. The board was created by Congress in the 2020 defense authorization act, DoD is just now finalizing the process. The Air Force will be the lead agent in operating the board.
The Environmental Protection Agency is the latest to roll back workforce policies from former President Trump. EPA will restore official time and hand back office space to the American Federation of Government Employees. These are some of the steps EPA will take to comply with an executive order from President Biden. His order repealed three others from his predecessor. EPA says it will temporarily adopt collective bargaining policies from its 2007 agreement with AFGE until it can negotiate and finalize a new contract. (Federal News Network)
The Postal Service has spent most of the $10 billion in COVID-19 relief spending it got from Congress. USPS said the Treasury Department reimbursed them for $8.6 billion so far in pandemic-related expenses. Congress first gave USPS the money as a loan in the CARES Act, but revised the loan into a one-time funding in the 2021 Consolidated Appropriations Act. The agency currently has more than $25 billion cash on hand, but Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said the agency will run out of cash late next year if it doesn’t move forward with a 10 year reform plan.
A bipartisan group of senators is telling the Biden administration to invest in secure 5G. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Mark Warner (D-Va.) leads colleagues in a letter asking for $3 billion in 5G funding in the White House budget request. Those funds would be split between The Public Wireless Supply Chain Innovation Fund and the Multilateral Telecommunications Security Fund, both created under the last National Defense Authorization Act. Warner said the funding is necessary to compete with China and vendors like Huawei in the 5G marketplace.
The Office of Management and Budget is turning up the pressure on agencies to migrate to the new IT modernization and telecommunications contract. Agencies have until July 1 to lay out an updated plan for how they will transition to the Enterprise Infrastructure Solution program. Federal News Network has learned that OMB is requiring this revised strategy in the IT passback sent to agencies in March. The passback tells agencies to describe how they will meet the goals of EIS and complete their transition by September 2022. OMB joins Congress in pressing agencies to accelerate the move to EIS and modernize their networks. As of January, agencies had awarded 94 of the 212 task orders expected under EIS. GSA plans to release new transition data in May. (Federal News Network)