Defense Secretary considering making COVID-19 vaccine mandatory for military personnel

In today's Federal Newscast, with vaccine rates lagging among some members of the armed forces, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin is reportedly weighing whether...

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  • The intelligence community said it’s ready to embrace the hybrid work environment for its employees. Many IC agencies are notoriously inflexible when it comes to when and where their employees work. But things are changing now. The Office of the Director of National Intelligence has a new telework policy. It allows employees to spend some time working at home on unclassified materials, and a few days a week in the office on classified work. Employees have the option of working on weekends or evenings when they do have to visit the office. (Federal News Network)
  • The Defense Department has finally pulled the plug on the online collaboration tools it put in place to help employees telework during the pandemic. The service, called Commercial Virtual Remote, officially went dark last night. It was DoD’s version of Microsoft Teams — officials managed to get the cloud service up and running within just a few weeks at the start of the pandemic, and extended the stopgap solution several times amidst wild popularity — at its height, it had 2.3 million users. The military services and Defense agencies are now all transitioning to more permanent platforms that offer a fuller menu of Office 365 tools. That cloud transition is already mostly complete for the Air Force. The Navy doesn’t expect to wrap up until later this year.
  • Marines in the intelligence community are eligible for a big payday if they decide to reenlist. The Marine Corps is offering reenlistment bonuses because the demand for qualified troops in the intelligence realm remains high for the foreseeable future. A sergeant who reenlists for six years may get an $87,500 bonus. Marine intelligence officers may be assigned to the Defense Intelligence Agency, Fleet Marine Force, combatant commands or other billets.
  • Four nominees for the Department of Veterans Affairs are stalled in the Senate. Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) has a hold on the nominees. One is the president’s pick to be deputy VA secretary. Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.) is the chairman of the Veterans Affairs Committee. “We sit here and play these games of holding up nominees to fill critical agency departments. We can play them and play them and play them again, and we can say we’re doing it on behalf of the veterans; that is bull… you got it. Total bull.”
  • The Army said it’s open to regularly reporting to Congress about missing firearms. Senate budget committee lawmakers pressed Secretary Christine Wormuth after a recent Associated Press report highlighted the disappearance of 19 hundred pistols, machine guns, shotguns and automatic assault rifles that belonged to the military. Some of the weapons were used in street crimes across the country.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is considering making it mandatory for military personnel to get the COVID-19 vaccine once the FDA approves it on a non-emergency basis. Acting Navy Secretary Thomas Harker said Austin is weighing such a decision as vaccine rates lag among some members of the armed forces. For instance, seventy-five percent of the Navy is fully vaccinated, but only one in two Marines has received a full dose. President Joe Biden previously said he would leave it to military leaders to decide whether to make the vaccine mandatory for troops.
  • Military families should expect delays this moving season. After a tumultuous year for transitioning to new orders, the military is expecting a large demand on companies as service members start moving to new areas during peak season. The moving industry lost 20 to 30 percent of its labor during COVID-19. Civilians are relocating to new homes at high rates and many third-party freighters are out of business. It’s a perfect storm for those trying to get their household goods across the country. The Pentagon is working to ease business rules and build in more flexibility to orders to mitigate the issues. (Federal News Network)
  • The Office of Personnel Management is studying whether to update the job applications for sensitive government positions to root out domestic terror threats. The changes are being considered as part of the White House’s new National Strategy for Countering Domestic Terrorism. The departments of Defense, Justice and Homeland Security are similarly working to improve screening and vetting processes for military and law enforcement personnel. The White House said training and resources will be provided to state and local governments, as well as some private companies, so they can also screen their employees.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland’s whole-of-society approach to domestic terrorism also includes lots of government. The Department of Homeland Security said its joining the effort. Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said that for the first time, DHS designates domestic violent extremism as a national grant priority. The department makes $77 million available to state and local governments for domestic terrorism prevention and response. The grants and partnership development come through DHS’s Center for Prevention Programs and Partnerships.
  • The Chief Data Officers Council is working on a playbook that’ll tie up lessons learned from members. The CDO playbook will give an overview of all the compliance activities that chief data officers must do. It’ll also look at best practices for CDOs to engage in the ongoing Federal Data Strategy. CDO Council Chairman Ted Kaouk said agencies are standing up CDO offices at different levels of maturity. “It’ll be different at different agencies. Each agency has different needs, obviously. But we think that there are a couple of trends that are emerging about the roles that CDOs can play.”
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency is standing up a data exchange, as part of a larger enterprise data analysis and modernization initiative. The data exchange is in its prototype phase, but looks to provide a scalable platform for data analysis that would help the agency meet its mission. FEMA’s chief information officer said the data exchange will allow the agency to integrate data from multiple IT systems.
  • Updating the nearly seven year old law governing agency cybersecurity reporting is a top priority for the new federal CISO. Chris DeRusha has been the federal chief information security officer since late January and already knows that updating the Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) is a top priority. DeRusha told Federal News Network cybersecurity is much different today than in 2014, which is when Congress passed the FISMA Modernization Act. He said assessing performance to drive real progress needs to be based on the ever changing threats agencies face. Lawmakers also seem open to updating FISMA as the topic came up during several recent cyber-focused hearings.

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