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The U.S. Capitol Police Department is opening its first offices outside the Beltway. One will be in Miami, the other in San Francisco. The new regional offices are meant to improve the agency’s ability to protect members of Congress when they’re away from the Capitol. The agency’s inspector general testified yesterday that threats against members shot up by 107% this year compared to the same period in 2020. (Federal News Network)
Congress is renewing the push to give the Justice Department’s inspector general power to investigate the agency’s attorneys for misconduct. The Justice IG is the only inspector general that doesn’t have the authority to investigate professional misconduct from the department’s lawyers. A new bill from six House members would close that loophole. Their legislation is similar to a bill that passed the House back in 2019. Twelve senators introduced an identical bill which has bipartisan support, too.
Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee called on President Joe Biden to fill watchdog jobs at 13 agencies. Most of those vacancies have been in place for more than a year. Committee members said the lack of permanent IGs puts longer-term projects on hold. The IG Independence and Empowerment Act introduced in the House last month would require the president to notify Congress if he hasn’t nominated an IG within 210 days of a position becoming vacant. (Federal News Network)
The Department of Veterans Affairs is now offering walk-in COVID-19 vaccination clinics for all veterans, their spouses and caregivers. VA has vaccinated 2.7 million people so far. That includes 60,000 people who Congress made eligible to get a vaccine through VA via new legislation. The SAVE Lives Act gave the department the authority to vaccinate veterans not enrolled in VA health care, their spouses and caregivers. VA is encouraging veterans to check the hours for their local clinics before walking in for a vaccine.
Agencies can grant administrative leave to federal employees who have an adverse reaction to the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees can get up to two days of leave to recover from each dose if they have a reaction. The guidance comes from the Biden administration’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force. Employees who need more than two days can consider requesting time off through the new Emergency Paid Leave Program if it’s available. The Office of Personnel Management is operating a temporary paid leave fund for the vast majority of federal employees.
NASA’s associate administrator Steve Jurczyk is retiring after more than 30 years of service with the agency. He’s been the agency’s highest-ranking career civil servant since May 2018. Taking his place will be Robert Cabana, who has been director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida since 2008. Cabana is a Naval Academy graduate who has managed all NASA programs at Kennedy including its Commercial Crew Program.
Two big personnel changes in the federal technology community: The Energy Department is getting a new chief information officer and the Defense Digital Service is looking for a new director. These are two of the latest changes in leadership across the federal technology sector. Energy chose Ann Dunkin for its top technology leadership position. She previously served as CIO of the Environmental Protection Agency during the Obama administration. Meanwhile, Brett Goldstein is leaving as the head of the Defense Digital Service in June after a little more than two years on the job. Deputy Director Katie Olson will serve as acting director until a new leader is named.
A bipartisan group of House members wants to raise the sole-source thresholds for the Small Business Administration’s 8(a) contracting program. The Expanding Contracting Opportunities for Small Businesses Act introduced by Reps. María Elvira Salazar (R-Fla.) and Marie Newman (D-Ill.) would increase sole-source contracting caps for 8(a) firms from $5 million to $8 million for general contracts, and from $7 million to $10 million for manufacturing contracts. Congress hasn’t raised the sole source caps for more than a decade.
A small but significant IT modernization effort would aid citizens with hearing or speech impairments. The General Services Administration said it will begin the switchover for users of its FedRelay contract to a service called the Telecommunication Relay Services, overseen by the Federal Communications Commission and paid for by an FCC fund. While it readies the new service, GSA will extend the old one through November. Officials said the new plan will enhance the ability of the hearing and speech impaired to communicate with agencies via telephone. Separate contracts give agencies the option of adding conference captioning and video remote interpreting.
The White House’s Scientific Integrity Task Force will meet for the first time Friday. It will review agencies’ scientific integrity policies to determine whether they do enough to bar political appointees from interfering with the work of career federal employees. The 46-member task force is part of the White House’s Office of Science and Technology Policy, and created through a memo President Joe Biden signed in January. Two deputy OSTP directors will lead the task force, along with co-chairs from the departments of Interior and Education, EPA and National Library of Medicine.
An interagency group of cybersecurity experts warned the United States’ implementation of 5G technologies could be compromised by “undue influence” from hostile nations in setting international 5G standards. That assessment comes from a new working panel set up as part of the National Strategy to Secure 5G. The group published its initial thinking in a white paper yesterday. But the group, made up of experts from the National Security Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, and Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, said the new publication is the beginning of its work, not the end.
The Defense Department is poising itself to be a more data-centric organization. The Pentagon is thinking about warfare differently in 2021 and data is a hot commodity. The Defense Department released five data decrees that will help make information more visible, accessible and secure. The tenets include maximizing data sharing and rights for data use within DoD, as well as publishing a federated data catalog. DoD wants to store data in a manner that is safe and decoupled from other hardware or software dependencies. It also creates a data council to manage data and promote its literacy. (Federal News Network)
The Pentagon needs to focus on the resiliency of GPS and other positioning, navigation and timing technologies. A new Government Accountability Office report found that the Defense Department is relying too much on GPS, and leaves the military vulnerable to navigation challenges if it does not find alternative technologies. GAO is recommending that DoD coordinate with industry for alternative technologies and consider creating a centralized office to oversee navigation issues.