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Top Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee asked inspectors general at 10 agencies to find out if increased telework during the COVID-19 pandemic worsened or created new cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Lawmakers want the IGs to conduct these reviews at agencies that include the departments of State, Defense and Homeland Security. The lawmakers are basing their concerns on a 2016 report from the National Institute of Standards and Technology that found major security concerns associated with telework.
The Postal Service’s regulator takes a closer look at how the agency handled a difficult year. The Postal Regulatory Commission finds the Postal Service failed to meet annual performance goals for on-time delivery of mail and packages in 2020. The PRC says the COVID-19 pandemic, combined with a surge in mail from the 2020 census and election mail imposed significant challenges on the agency. USPS only met half of its benchmarks for providing a high level of customer service, and fell short of its response rate goal for an agencywide survey.
Congressman Ted Lieu (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to strengthen the cybersecurity of government contractors. The legislation would require vendors to publish vulnerability disclosure policies, or VDPs, letting ethical hackers detect security risks and report them to the company. The Department of Homeland Security last September mandated agencies create a VDP program and disclose vulnerabilities. Vendors, however, do not have the same requirement. Lieu believes requiring vendors to have a VDP program would go further to help contractors protect their networks and data.
Agencies that saw their workforces shrink or relocate in recent years are due for a hiring spree. The Biden administration wants staffing boosts at several civilian cabinet agencies in 2022. The Department of Housing and Urban Development and Environmental Protection Agency plan to add more staff under the president’s budget proposal. The Interior Department does too. All agencies say their workforces have declined in recent years. Interior is also reviewing the previous administration’s relocation of the Bureau of Land Management. The department says 80% of impacted BLM employees didn’t relocate. (Federal News Network)
A bipartisan group of lawmakers are pushing for a commission to study whether agencies should be relocated outside the Washington, D.C. metro area. Congressman Tim Ryan’s (D-Ohio) bill would establish a commission within the General Services Administration to examine this idea. The commission would consist of 10 members appointed by congressional leaders and will have two years to submit to a plan to Congress. The study will also prioritize low-income communities or other areas that are best suited for the agency.
Agencies will soon have new small business goals that would increase acquisition spending with small disadvantaged businesses by 50% over the next five years. President Joe Biden said he will raise the governmentwide SDB goal to 15% from 10%, which would mean agencies would spend an extra $100 billion with economically disadvantaged firms by 2026. The increase in SDB goals are part of the administration’s new actions to build Black wealth and narrow the racial wealth gap.
GSA moves into the next step in the process to create a new services multiple award contract. Three months after releasing the first request for information for a new governmentwide services contract, the General Services Administration is back with new questions for industry. GSA released a second query focused on identifying contractor capabilities and their alignment with anticipated requirements. In addition to the RFIs, GSA has briefed industry groups and participated in panel discussions in an effort to design the new contract. Responses to the second RFI are due June 21 and GSA is planning another industry day in late July to discuss the responses.
A federal judge sides with Amazon in a dispute over how to move ahead in the saga of litigation over DoD’s multibillion dollar JEDI Cloud contract. The Pentagon wanted the court to order Amazon to file its demands for additional documents in the case, and to depose senior Trump Administration officials, all at the same time. Amazon wanted a more sequential approach, leaving a schedule for those possible depositions up in the air. Judge Patricia-Campbell Smith took Amazon’s side in a ruling this week. DoD has argued that schedule will only drag out a case that’s already lasted 18 months. But even the Pentagon’s proposed schedule would have pushed the litigation into October at the very earliest.
A total of 90% of military installations have now eased COVID travel restrictions. The milestone is the highest number since the COVID pandemic began. The restrictions prohibited military service members from traveling between bases without a waiver or from traveling far from a base. There are still 23 installations with some restrictions. Those bases range from Alaska to Japan to Florida. (Department of Defense)
The Defense Department is responding to service members hungry for more curbside grocery pickup. All military commissaries in the United States will offer online ordering and curbside pickup by the end of the year. The Pentagon plans to expand that to overseas commissaries soon afterward. During COVID, the Defense Department improved its CLICK2GO program, which makes online grocery shopping easier. The new features on the program’s portal include improved site navigation, recipe features and enhanced product information. Currently only 11 commissaries offer the service.
A veterans hospital in Arkansas missed thousands of errors made by a former VA pathologist. Robert Morris Levy pleaded guilty last year to voluntary manslaughter in the death of a patient he misdiagnosed. VA fired Levy back in 2018. But the VA inspector general said the hospital itself contributed to Levy’s errors. Outside pathologists reviewed 34,000 of Levy’s cases. They found over three-thousand errors or misdiagnoses. Nearly 600 of them were major mistakes. The IG said the VA medical center didn’t have a culture of accountability that would have encouraged employees to come forward to report these mistakes.
The Office of Personnel Management is gearing up for the next Combined Federal Campaign. It’s asking agency leaders to start planning for 2021, and encouraging them to take on active roles in the campaign. OPM said employees are more likely to participate if they’re asked. Participating in the campaign as a coordinator or local leader is another way for employees to build professional development skills. The 2021 CFC will run from September 1 through January 15, 2022. Federal employees and retirees raised nearly $84 million during last year’s campaign.