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A prominent veterans group said the Pentagon decided not to allow it to use the building’s parking lots as the staging area for its annual Memorial Day motorcycle ride. AMVETS has started the ride from the Pentagon for the past 32 years, but said the Defense Department denied the application this year over COVID-19 concerns. Organizers said they’d been planning responsible safety protocols, but that DoD refused to discuss its concerns before denying the application.
Congress and the Biden administration are celebrating Public Service Recognition Week in a variety of ways. Sixty-three agency leaders signed on to a resolution to recognize PSRW this year. The Partnership for Public Service said that’s a record. Reps. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.) introduced their own resolution in the House. Nine others introduced a similar resolution in the Senate. The Office of Personnel Management said it’s hosting a town hall, financial literacy course and wellness seminar for its own employees this week.
The pandemic forced federal employees to telework more often. But it also expanded the program’s reach to include more people. Nearly one in four federal employees couldn’t telework before the pandemic because they had to be physically present at their jobs. But 16% couldn’t telework for that reason by the peak of COVID-19. Nearly one-third of federal employees haven’t been physically present at their work sites at all during the pandemic. That’s according to the latest results of the Federal Employee Viewpoint Survey. (Federal News Network)
The Special Inspector General for Pandemic Recovery said federal financial privacy laws have made its job a lot harder than it should be. Under current law, inspectors general have to notify the targets of their investigations when they subpoena their financial records. SIGPR said that process tips off fraudsters and lets them destroy records. The IG said grand jury investigations are exempt from that notification requirement, and criminal investigations by IGs should be, too.
Whistleblowing federal employees facing retaliation would get a new legal remedy through a bill introduced this week. The Whistleblower Protection Improvement Act would grant whistleblowers access to a federal district court jury trial if the Merit Systems Protections Board does not issue a decision on their cases within 180-to-240 days. The MSPB hasn’t had a quorum to rule on its 3,500-case backlog in four years, and hasn’t had any members over the past three years. The legislation would also take steps to prevent the public disclosure of a whistleblower’s identity. (Federal News Network)
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said he is dropping his opposition to creating an independent prosecutor position to handle sexual assault crimes in the military. Milley said the services have tried to keep prosecutions in the chain of command for years, but have not been able to move the needle. Milley’s remarks are just the latest from an overwhelming number of lawmakers, experts and former leaders who think sex crime prosecutions need to change in the services. (Federal News Network)
The Navy is changing some of its health policies on bases to be clearer about COVID-19 safety. It’s adjusting installation services and adopting a new framework to keep sailors informed on coronavirus dangers. Navy bases are now using an expanded Health Protection Condition tier system, which tells sailors how severe the virus is in the area and how many people should be in the workplace. The system goes from “A” to “D”, “D” being the worst. The Navy also added a “B plus” rating between “C” and “B”. An “A” rating means there is minimal community transmission and a daily average of two COVID cases per 100,000 people over seven days. A “D” rating signifies 60 new cases under the same criteria.
The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services awarded a $1 million prize to the winner of its artificial intelligence challenge. The agency worked with the American Academy of Family Physicians and Arnold Ventures to review more than 300 entries to the challenge. CMS under the challenge sought case studies where AI could predict patient health outcomes for Medicare beneficiaries. The top prize went to ClosedLoop.AI after being named one of seven finalists.
The Department of Homeland Security is taking an important step to offering new cybersecurity shared services. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency will soon offer civilian agencies a tool to better protect their networks from malicious software or phishing attacks. Sources confirmed that the General Services Administration, which is acting as the procurement arm for CISA, awarded Accenture and its partner Cloudflare a five-year contract worth up to $111 million to provide these cyber services. CISA will give agencies what is known as Protective DNS Resolver services through its Quality Service Management Office, or QSMO, under the cybersecurity shared services effort. Initially, agencies will not have to pay any money for these cyber tools.
Technology contractors chomping at the bit for a look at the National Institutes of Health’s $40 billion follow-on contract called CIO-SP4 will have to wait a little longer. NITAAC said it plans to release the final solicitation on May 7. This is almost two months later than initially expected. NITAAC said it plans to make as many as 450 awards to large and small contractors by early 2022 under this fourth generation health IT services governmentwide acquisition contract.