Pentagon easing more COVID-19 restrictions within the building

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  • Beginning June 23, those working in the Pentagon will begin to see some new coronavirus restrictions lifted. Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said the building will move to Health Protection Condition Bravo. Under the new rules, workplace occupancy can move from 40% to 50%. Gatherings in the building can increase from 25 to 50 people. Those who are not fully vaccinated should continue to follow mask and social distancing guidelines.
  • The active duty military has finished its mission of helping to run mass vaccination sites. At the height of the Pentagon’s response, more than 5,100 active duty servicemembers had been staffing 48 separate federal vaccination sites in the continental U.S., Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands. But DoD said the last one of those sites — in New Jersey — shut down this week. But even though the need for active duty forces has subsided, it’s not a complete end to the military’s role in administering shots. National Guard troops across the country are still involved, under the authority of their states’ governors. All told, the military has administered some 17 million vaccines.
  • Advocacy groups are pushing back on the Pentagon’s latest bid to conceal unclassified information from the public. DoD is once again asking Congress to expand its FOIA exemptions. The Pentagon said it needs to keep some unclassified details — like military tactics and rules for the use of force — secret to protect national security. But 45 open government groups are urging lawmakers to reject the request, arguing the law already provides sufficient exemptions for the military. They say the proposed changes are overly broad, and point out DoD’s FOIA backlog is at an 11-year high. It’s the seventh time the Pentagon has made such a request since 2011.
  • An investigation by the Pentagon’s inspector general finds employees of the Defense Digital Service improperly used the encrypted messaging app Signal for official government business. Several employees told the IG there was a perception that DDS used the app for the explicit purpose of concealing their messages from disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act. The findings were part of a broader investigation into DDS’s director, Brett Goldstein. The IG said it received 30 complaints that mostly alleged he created a hostile work environment, but investigators say those claims were unsubstantiated.
  • A majority of solutions to the Defense Logistics Agency’s cybersecurity problems are implemented behind schedule. DLA failed to complete 69% of its corrective action plans within its one-year time frame, the Government Accountability Office found. DLA also only fully addressed two of its six risk management steps. To address these shortfalls, GAO made five recommendations for the DLA director, including revising the agency’s assessment plan approval process and developing system-specific monitoring strategies.
  • Just five Army bases account for one-third of the sexual assaults on women. Forts Hood, Bliss, Riley, Carson and Campbell make up a disproportionate amount of the Army sexual assaults against women. A new study from the RAND Corporation found the average female soldier has a 5.8% chance of being sexually assaulted in the Army. However, that risk was significantly higher on those bases. The study also found that women working in field artillery or in ammunitions had a higher risk of assault. RAND hopes the Army will use the data to better target sexual assault and harassment prevention measures. (Federal News Network)
  • Commercial space activities will follow new safety standards and regulations in an effort to build more oversight around space flight. The Federal Aviation Administration and Air Force agree to blend FAA regulations and licensing requirements with Air Force ground safety rules at ranges operated by the Space Force. The agreement specifically applies to launch and re-entry activities at Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida and Vandenberg Space Force Base in California. The procedures are designed to eliminate redundant processes within the commercial space sector and increase communication between the Air Force and FAA.
  • NASA has a new Deputy Administrator. Pam Melroy was sworn in Monday. She is only one of two women to command a space shuttle, and has logged more than 38 days in space on all three of her missions, which were to help build the International Space Station. She also served more than two decades in the Air Force.
  • A Postal Service career executive who led its pandemic response task force will retire this summer. USPS Chief Retail and Delivery Officer and Executive Vice President Kristin Seaver will retire from the agency at the end of August. Last year Seaver served as the head of the agency’s COVID-19 Response Command, which oversaw employee outreach and USPS continuity of operations in the early stages of the pandemic. Seaver served as the agency’s chief information officer during part of her nearly 30-year career, and helped shaped the agency’s 10-year reform plan released in March. (Federal News Network)
  • A legislative fix of a key provision in the Modernizing Government Technology Act now has House support. Congressman Gerry Connolly said he will introduce legislation to ensure agencies can set up IT working capital funds. The 2017 law authorized agencies to retain savings or use unspent money for IT modernization efforts. But several agency general counsels decided they didn’t have the authority to set up such a working capital fund without Congressional approval. Earlier this year, Sen. Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) said she too would introduce legislation to fix the MGT Act.
  • The $50 billion small business contract from DHS is facing a major challenge. Two vendors said the Homeland Security Department is unduly restricting competition and creating unnecessary limits on competition under its FirstSource three solicitation. zSofTech Solutions and KPaul Properties filed protests with the Government Accountability Office alleging DHS’s requirements for two certifications are unfair. The companies said DHS didn’t answer questions nor give industry any sort of heads up about why it’s requiring the ISO 9001 and Open Trusted Technology Provider Standards to qualify to bid on the 10-year contract. GAO has until September to decide the protest. (Federal News Network)
  • Contractors will soon get an important preview of one way the Biden administration wants to protect the government’s software supply chain. On July 11, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration will a publish a list of minimum elements for a “Software Bill of Materials.” NTIA’s Allan Friedman said the SBOM should detail what goes into a software product, just like the list of ingredients on food packaging. NTIA received more than 80 comments on its request for input on the SBOM initiative ahead of the July release.
  • Federal contract spending shot up last year, and is still heading up this year. The latest analysis from Bloomberg Government shows spending in fiscal 2020 rose by $83 billion to a record of $682 billion. When added up this fiscal year, which runs through September, it could hit nearly $700 billion. Pandemic response fueled much of the growth. But military platforms like warships and fighters also rose by double digits. That left Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, General Dynamics, Boeing and Northrop Grumman as the five largest federal contractors. Bloomberg’s Top 200 list had one new entry. Fisher Sand & Gravel of Arizona ranked number 32 with $2.5 billion in federal contracts. (Federal News Network)
  • The Biden administration is launching a new website to help the IRS roll out a new form of stimulus to households this summer. ChildTaxCredit.gov allows households to submit eligibility information to the IRS  if they haven’t yet filed tax returns for 2019 or 2020. The IRS, starting in July, will send monthly payments of up to $300 per child to eligible families. That’s because Congress expanded the child tax credit program in the last round of COVID-19 relief spending.

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