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The Biden administration is lifting the cap on the number of employees allowed inside federal buildings. But don’t expect a mass return to the office. Agencies must take several steps before increasing the number of employees inside the federal offices. They have until mid-July to submit phased reentry plans to the Office of Management and Budget. Once they’re approved, they’ll have to work with federal unions and give employees at least 30 days notice before asking them to return. Vaccinations aren’t a requirement for in-person work. (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration confirms the future of work in the federal government will soon look much different. Federal employees who teleworked during the pandemic are still eligible once the health crisis is over. The administration detailed its vision for telework, remote work and other workforce flexibilities in a post-pandemic world. It envisions more of a hybrid environment, where many employees work remotely more often, and some work remotely on a near permanent basis. Agencies have until July 19 to finalize plans for gradually bringing more employees back to work in-person. (Federal News Network)
While many small businesses were hurting during the pandemic, those near national parks were able to reap in some of the benefits of being close to one of the only activities available during lockdowns. The National Park Service said visitors passed along $28.6 billion and supported 234,000 jobs in local communities around parks. The annual National Park Visitor Spending Effects helps gauge how much visitors contribute to local economies.
The National Institutes of Health is taking actions under a long term plan to end structural racism in the biomedical science field. In a new article, NIH Director Francis Collins and co-chairmen of the NIH “UNITE” consortia said they will correct policies and practices that perpetuate structural racism. Early examples include addressing the discrepancy between the rate of grants approved for black researchers compared to their white counterparts. The NIH is also seeking proposals under a five-year, $60 million fund for projects to reduce health disparities and inequalities.
NASA brings in more post-doctoral scientists and engineers to conduct research and provide administrative support. The space agency awarded the work to Oak Ridge Associated Universities in Tennessee. The deal is worth more than $129 million over five years. The institution will work on one- to three-year assignments that advance NASA’s mission areas, including astrophysics, aeronautics and earth science. Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will host some of the post-doctoral candidates.
The Navy is reaching out to students online in an attempt to build science, technology, engineering and mathematics awareness. Kids in high school will have an opportunity to hear from some notable alumni of Navy science internships. The Naval Horizons program is a grouping of videos that allow students to learn about designing parachutes, seal tracking, deep-submergence rescue vehicles and more. The program is also holding an essay contest to help plan out future visions for Navy science. Teachers and students can find resources at NavalHorizons.us.
The USO is giving military spouses and transitioning service members an opportunity to find mentors in their next career field. The USO Mentorship offering pairs service members and spouses online with civilians established in their careers. The goal is to help troops and spouses make personal connections that may lead to getting a job in the future. The USO also offers other career development courses like mastering LinkedIn and building a resume. (Federal News Network)
More than 80% of Army facilities with privatized family housing now feature a tenant’s bill of rights. Congress required the military services to adopt a housing bill of rights in 2020, after families brought forward issues with mice, mold and lead paint. The remaining facilities have implemented 15 of the 18 elements in the bill. The Army said the rest are expected to be fully enacted by the end of July.
Key political appointees for the Biden administration are one step closer to joining the Pentagon. The Senate Armed Services Committee advanced the nominations of Frank Kendall to be Air Force secretary, Heidi Shyu to serve as under secretary for research and engineering, and Susanna Blume to be director of Cost Assessment and Program Evaluation. The panel also approved the nominees for the top two leadership positions at the National Nuclear Security Administration.
Richard Stone will step down as the acting leader of the Veterans Health Administration next month. He led the Veterans Health Administration since 2018. Stone will stay on the job through mid-July to help a new Veterans Affairs health undersecretary make the transition. The department formed a commission back in March to identify candidates for the job. The White House hasn’t yet named a nominee for the position. VA Secretary Denis McDonough said veterans owe Stone a debt of gratitude for his work during the pandemic. Stone oversaw the VHA’s pandemic operations and vaccination campaign.
The Biden administration’s picks for top cyber jobs promise coherence among agencies to prevent future breaches. Nominees to serve as the National Cyber Director and director of the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency said they’ll work together, and avoid duplicating work from other cyber agencies. Jen Easterly, the nominee to lead CISA, said the agency would serve as the administration’s cyber quarterback, and would protect civilian government networks. She said Chris Inglis would serve as the administration’s cyber coach if confirmed as national cyber director. (Federal News Network)
The Biden administration wants the federal vehicle fleet at zero emissions, but agencies have a long way to go to meet that promise. White House National Climate Advisor Gina McCarthy said less than 1% of the fleet are plug-in electric vehicles, and that agencies only bought 200 electric vehicles last year. Nationwide McCarthy said agencies have access to 2,000 charging stations.
Federal contract spending reached new highs last year. Agencies spent $83 billion more in 2020 than in 2019 on federal contracts. That’s a 14% increase and a total amount of $682 billion. New analysis from Bloomberg Government finds 2020 was the fifth straight year total procurement spending increased. No surprise that medical procurement increased by 50% while sustainment supplies and equipment dropped by 16%, the most of any category. BGov also forecasts that procurement spending will likely top $600 billion this year.
Letter carriers in Houston, Texas beware. The city, for the third year in a row, has been named the city with the most dog bites affecting postal employees. The Postal Service finds dogs bit more than 5,800 postal employees in the U.S. in 2020. Chicago ranks second place, and Los Angeles comes in third. USPS tells households to keep dogs inside the house or behind a fence to prevent attacks. The agency warns employees to avoid behavior that would startle dogs.