Some members of Congress are skeptical about White House’s plans to bring feds back to the office

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  • Not everyone is happy with the Biden administration’s reopening plans for federal employees. Two of the top Republicans on the House Oversight and Reform Committee say the administration’s reopening plans for federal employees are unacceptable. Reps. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.) say the plans put federal unions first. They say Americans aren’t getting the services they need because of remote work. Agencies have until mid-July to finalize reopening plans. Then they’re supposed to meet collective bargaining obligations and give employees at least 30 days’ notice before asking them to return.
  • Over 7,000 frontline Customs and Border Protection employees contracted COVID-19 since February 2021. 24 died due to complications from the virus. The Government Accountability Office says over 20,000 field operations employees and Border Patrol agents were out of work at one time because they were potentially exposed to COVID-19. Field operations leaders say employee absences had little impact on CBP operations because travel volume at U.S. ports of entry was down. But Border Patrol leadership says absences had a bigger impact on their work.
  • President Joe Biden is expected to nominate acting Inspector General of the Department of Education Sandra Bruce to serve as the department’s permanent IG. Bruce began her public service career as an auditor with the U.S. Army Audit Agency, then moved on to various roles in the Postal Service and Department of Energy. She is also a recipient of the Excellence in Government Leadership award. She has worked in the Education Department’s Office of Inspector General since 2014.
  • The Postal Service’s inspector general is rolling out a dashboard to track the agency’s on-time delivery metrics. The IG’s new service performance webpage breaks down quarterly on-time delivery data by mail class, location, and service standards. The Postal Service earlier this year told mailers it would stand up a similar dashboard, to address persistent mail delays. The IG’s office says it will continue to update its platform quarterly as it gets new data from the Postal Service.
  • The Defense Department inspector general is raising red flags about a new effort to track extremism in the armed forces. In a report to Congress, the DoD IG identified resources as one roadblock in setting up the new Deputy Inspector General for Diversity and Inclusion and Extremism in the Military. The position was established earlier this spring and is hiring an initial staff of 10-to-12 people. But the IG says more resources will be needed to support its goal of hiring 80 additional positions over the next two years. DoD also faces challenges in tracking extremist behavior among its ranks, as the IG says there is no central database for collecting such information from command and local law enforcement organizations.
  • Discrepancies have been found between vacancy reports in the Veterans Affair Department’s human resources offices. A report from VA’s Office of Inspector General shows that some vacancy counts in VA medical facilities were overstated by as much as 20.7%. The faults in the data can be attributed to the VHA’s lack of a strong oversight mechanism for data reporting. The inspector general suggests that agencywide guideline be set in place.
  • Members of the National Guard are asking the president for healthcare from the Defense Department. About 20% of National Guard service members do not have private insurance. That gap became a big issue this past year as more guardsmen were deployed than any time since the Second World War. Now the Guard’s top advocacy group and its top general are calling on the president and Congress for a change. They want free TRICARE for all members of the Guard and the reserves. There’s currently a bill in Congress that would expand healthcare coverage to the nearly half million service members.
  • Transgender members of the military can once again serve openly. They still may not be addressed by their correct names, however. Two top Democrats say the Defense Department is taking too long to update forms of service members and veterans to reflect gender transitions. The lawmakers are asking the Pentagon to work with the service secretaries to complete the process in 90 days.
  • The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency says its leadership program needs to evolve. The competency model is no longer ideal and a new approach that uses formal and informal learning methods is needed. To that end, NGA issued a request for information seeking vendor input on how they can transform their leadership program. NGA says the modernization effort increases emphasis on value-based learning, neuroleadership and other emerging leadership and professional development best practices. It should include self-development, team development, cohort learning and peer-coaching opportunities. Responses to the RFI are due July 12.
  • Reality Winner – the former NSA contractor who plead guilty to leaking classified information to an online news outlet – is out of prison. She’ll spend the rest of her sentence in home confinement. At the time of Winner’s conviction, her five-year sentence was the longest ever issued to a clearance holder for leaking information to journalists. That sentence will run its course in November. Until then, Winner is still technically in federal custody. (Federal News Network)
  • Head of the Justice Department’s National Security Division, John Demers, is stepping down at the end of the month. This comes after reports that DOJ pursued records from journalists and political opponents of the Trump administration. Demers was appointed to the role back in 2018, he’s been with the department since 2003, starting as an attorney adviser for the Office of Legal Counsel. (Associated Press)
  • Technology is making the Census Bureau more efficient, but can it control costs? The 2020 census is the most expensive decennial count done by the Census Bureau. The bureau expects that once it’s complete, the count will cost more than $14 billion. But the Government Accountability Office says the bureau can do more with new technology to save money for the next decennial count. Census takers for the first time used laptops and smartphones to collect census data when going door to door. That helped enumerators collect more cases per hour. But GAO says the bureau could do more to collect efficiency metrics on miles traveled per case, or hours worked per enumerator.

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