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Agencies have new direction from the Biden administration to improve diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility within the federal workforce. President Joe Biden signed a new executive order Friday evening. The order tells agencies to assess whether employees from underserved backgrounds face hiring, promotion or professional development obstacles. It expands diversity and inclusion training and orders agencies to reduce their reliance on unpaid internships. The EO also directs the Office of Personnel Management to review standards for setting pay within the federal workforce. And it tells agencies to expand opportunities for formerly incarcerated people.
Official travel is back on for fully-vaccinated federal employees. The Safer Federal Workforce Task Force said there are no governmentwide limits for employees who are two weeks past their full dosage of the COVID-19 vaccine. Employees should follow their agency’s travel plan. Employees who aren’t fully-vaccinated should take only mission critical trips. The task force said it lifted travel restrictions following new guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Masks are still required for all travelers on public transportation in the United States.
An affinity group representing Justice Department employees is urging agency leadership to make pandemic workplace flexibilities permanent. The DOJ Gender Equality Network wrote to Justice management with seven recommendations. They say all eligible employees and supervisors should be able to telework at least three days a week. Employees are also encouraging Justice to make these flexibilities relatively consistent across subcomponents. They say setting a baseline across the department will improve morale, recruitment and retention at DOJ. (Federal News Network)
There’s a new director of the National Counterterrorism Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. The Veterans Affairs Department’s Office of Accountability and Whistleblower Protection has new leadership. These are two of the 12 nominations the Senate approved before leaving for the July 4th recess. Christy Abizaid joins the NCTC from Dell Technologies and previously worked at the Defense Intelligence Agency and on the National Security Council. Maryanne Donaghy received approval to be the new assistant secretary of Veterans Affairs to lead the Accountability and Whistleblower Protection Office. Donaghy comes to VA after working as an attorney and senior adviser at the University of Delaware’s Biden Institute and has taught accounting, law and criminal justice classes at the university.
The National Institutes of Standards and Technology just met a key deadline under President Joe Biden’s cybersecurity executive order. NIST is out with a new definition of “critical software” that will guide how agencies think about and protect their IT environments. The publication is in line with Biden’s executive order aimed at preventing future incidents like the SolarWinds hack. The next step is for the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to identify the type of critical software in use across government. NIST will then publish security measures agencies will need to use to protect such software.
A Canadian team took home the plaque from the Pentagon’s premier annual cyber training event. Team 15 from the Royal Canadian Navy won this year’s Cyber Flag exercise. The event tests participants for their tactical cyber skills and defensive resiliency. It featured more than 430 cyber pros from across the U.S. military, civilian agencies and international partners. Cyber Protection Teams from the U.S. House of Representatives, the U.S. Postal Services and the U.S. Coast Guard were among the participants. The digital maneuvers were conducted remotely across eight time zones in three countries.
Three agencies agree to coordinate the distribution of funds intended for rural broadband deployment. The Agriculture Department, the Federal Communications Commission, and the National Telecommunications and Information Administration all signed the agreement. FCC’s High-Cost program, USDA’s Rural Utilities Service, and other programs operated by NTIA all fall under the agreement. The agencies will consult with one another and share information about funds distributed.
The IT shops in the inspector general community are hopeful to receive an influx of cutting edge technology. The Council of the Inspectors General on Integrity and Efficiency’s technology committee wants to bring emerging technologies and data analytics and visualization tools to the chief information officer shops across the community. The committee is planning a series of industry days with the first one on July 27 to review specific technologies. In a new request for information, the technology committee outlined nine technology areas they want vendor feedback on. These include low code and no code development platforms, cloud-based identity management tools and e-discovery applications. Responses to the RFI are due July 14.
The Government Accountability Office wants the Thrift Savings Plan to study the impacts of climate change on federal employee retirement benefits. GAO said natural disasters and other climate events could affect the economy and stock returns for investors. The Federal Retirement Thrift Investment Board hasn’t reviewed climate change risks before. That’s partly because the TSP is required to invest passively by law. The TSP agency is supposed to work with the Labor Department to review climate change risks under a recent executive order from the Biden administration.
A bill making agencies’ annual budget requests more accessible passed the Senate. The Congressional Budget Justification Act from Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio) requires agencies post these budget request documents to a single website each year. The bill tasks the Office of Management and Budget with keeping the site updated with links to the documents, and the dates of when agencies submitted them. The bill passed the House last year, but didn’t make it past the Senate the first time.
More than half of the countries the State Department gives aid to are demonstrating a level of financial transparency that meets department standards. This year’s Financial Transparency report shows 74 out 141 countries publicly disclosed their government’s budget documents, contracts and licenses. 17 of 67 countries that didn’t meet these standards have shown significant progress. Countries that met the transparency standard also stood up audit institutions that adhere to international standards.
The Census Bureau is training five agencies to run do-it-yourself data sprints. The Census Bureau’s Opportunity Project matches agencies up with tech teams from the private sector to create digital projects that benefit the public and unlock new benefits from federal data. But the bureau is giving agencies the tools to run these sprints on their own. These include the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and the departments of Treasury and Housing and Urban Development. Opportunity Project Director Drew Zachary said the bureau piloted the concept last year. (Federal News Network)