DoD says service members and civilian employees can leave masks at home if vaccinated

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  • The Federal Aviation Administration said its employees will need cybersecurity, data analytics and project management skills to handle all the new technology coming to the industry. But the Government Accountability Office said FAA’s workforce planning initiatives so far have fallen short. FAA interviewed agency leaders and surveyed employees about the skills gaps they believe the agency will need in the future. But FAA doesn’t know how many employees actually have those skills and where gaps might exist. Nearly 35% of FAA’s non-controller workforce is eligible to retire in five years.
  • The Office of Management and Budget’s first cohort of federal employees to enroll in its data science upskilling effort graduate from the program. OMB accepted 61 federal employees from 20 agencies to pilot its Federal Data Science program. The upskilling program gives agencies a chance to fill critical skill gaps faster than they could accomplish by onboarding new talent through the competitive hiring process. The agency launched the program last August, building on lessons learned from the Census Bureau’s own agency-wide training program that began December 2019. Accepted employees went through training from September 2020 through January 2021. (Federal News Network)
  • Mythbusting federal acquisition has morphed into an IT Vendor Management Office. The Office of Federal Procurement Policy kicked off its mythbusting campaign about a decade ago to help educate agencies and vendors alike. Now OFPP, along with the General Services Administration, NASA and the National Institutes of Health, are building on that effort through the new governmentwide IT vendor management office (ITVMO). The ITVMO released a new request for information asking industry for feedback on how best to promote communication and collaboration in procurement. In the RFI, the ITVMO asks for feedback around strategic issues like IT trends and policy implications as well as tactical issues like proposal review requirements and contract terms and conditions. Responses to the RFI are due May 26.
  • Over the past 18 months, the FBI-led Procurement Collusion Strike Force has trained more than 8,000 federal, state and local workers with a goal of doing more to prevent crimes like bid rigging, price fixing and market allocation. Over the past six months alone, the strike force has trained more than 400 data scientists to identify red flags like a small number of vendors controlling a large market. The data scientists will rely on information from other agencies, including inspector generals.
  • All federal employees have until January 2022 to repay outstanding debt from last year’s payroll tax deferral. Some retirees and seasonal workers got incorrect bills last month from the Agriculture Department’s National Finance Center. The notices told retirees and seasonal workers to pay the remaining balance of their 2020 deferred payroll taxes by early May. But USDA said the date is incorrect. Impacted employees have more time to repay before penalties and interest will accrue. USDA said it will send out new notices to impacted employees with correct information. (Federal News Network)
  • Vandenberg Air Force Base is no more. It’s now Vandenberg Space Force Base. The central California installation has been home to space missions for decades, and is one of the first to be turned over to the new military service. Vandenberg’s host unit, the 30th Space Wing, is being renamed Space Launch Delta 30. Five other former Air Force bases in Colorado, California and Florida have already been turned over to the Space Force. (Federal News Network)
  • The Pentagon said military members and civilian employees can do their jobs without masks, as long as they’re fully vaccinated. A new memo from Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks aims to bring the department in line with the latest guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but gives local commanders some latitude to make exceptions. But Hicks said commanders and supervisors shouldn’t ask employees whether they’ve been vaccinated, and shouldn’t use that information to make decisions about telework.
  • One of the Defense Department’s top health experts said she’s concerned about service members’ appetite for getting the COVID vaccine. The Pentagon is seeing significant resistance from military service members eligible to get the coronavirus vaccine. Defense Department acting assistant secretary for health affairs Dr. Terry Adirim said the military is using every avenue possible to convince service members to get vaccinated, however even those who were prioritized for the shot months ago are still hesitant. Adirim said DoD is not considering making the vaccine mandatory at this time. Since the shot is approved under emergency-use authorization it is not required for troops. There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the vaccine is safe for nearly all people. (Federal News Network)
  • The Air Force said it’s starting to see drops in its suicide rates. In the past two years, the service saw suicide numbers top 100, an especially high number. Lt. Gen. Brian Kelly, the deputy chief of staff for manpower, personnel, and services, said early numbers show suicide rates for 2021 back down to rates before 2018. The Air Force is now offering training to families to detect signs of suicidal behavior. The military saw mental health issues increase among service members during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • The Veterans Affairs Department agreed to take a second look at certain Vietnam-era claims for Agent Orange benefits. The VA, following a loss in court, will re-adjudicate denied claims by former sailors whose ships transported the herbicide, and now have illnesses tied to exposure. So-called “blue water cases” cover those who served offshore, but weren’t exposed to Agent Orange as it was sprayed from aircraft over the Vietnam landmass. In November, a California federal court ruled in favor of Navy veteran plaintiffs seeking enforcement of a consent decree going back 29 years.
  • The Postal Service’s inspector general warns the agency isn’t doing enough to protect its online reputation. The IG is flagging multiple fraudulent websites and social media accounts offering USPS branded goods or services without the agency’s approval. The report also warned the agency’s Corporate Information Security Office to crack down on employees using their work email to create third-party web accounts. The IG found nearly 3,500 compromised USPS email accounts on the dark web involved in known data breaches of retail, gaming and dating sites.

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