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The Labor Department will offer virtual seminars throughout August to prepare for federal contract minimum wage increases. The seminars will include video training on the Davis-Beacon Act and Service Contract Act, as well as question-and-answer sessions. It’s in response to President Joe Biden’s executive order in April mandating a $15 an hour minimum wage for all federal contract employees. Labor recently announced a notice of proposed rulemaking to implement the executive order. Registration for the seminars is available to agencies and contractors through Aug. 11.
The Department of Veterans Affairs and its largest employee union are hitting the reset button. VA will restore official time to its health care workforce. Doctors, nurses and other medical professionals couldn’t do union work on the clock under a policy from former VA Secretary Robert Wilkie. That policy is gone now, under a settlement agreement between VA and the American Federation of Government Employees. The union agreed to drop over a dozen pending lawsuits and other legal disputes. (Federal News Network)
House Democrats want to move administrative judges back into the competitive service. Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) and Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) are the lead sponsors behind the Administrative Law Judges Competitive Service Restoration Act. The bill would overturn a 2018 executive order that moved ALJ’s into the excepted service. It would require agencies to choose judges from a list of pre-approved candidates from the Office of Personnel Management. The House Oversight and Reform Committee advanced the bill along party lines earlier this week.
The IRS is awarding two contracts worth $151 million to help the agency with workforce training and moving to the cloud. The agency’s chief information officer is awarding both contracts to Maximus, which will provide technology integration support services as the IRS undergoes a large-scale cloud migration. Maximus under the contract award will also help the IRS carry out a new work under the American Recovery Plan and train IRS employees for upcoming filing seasons.
A bill in the House would give more compensation and protections to whistleblowers in the IRS. The IRS Whistleblower Program Improvement Act would place interest on delayed awards, grant whistleblowers anonymity in court and prevent payments from being deducted. Interest on awards would kick in one year after the fines are initially collected. The legislation would also allow IRS to retain 3% of the money collected to fund its whistleblower program. Rep. Mike Thompson (D-Calif.) introduced the bill to the Committee on Ways and Means.
The Postal Service is getting a handle on workforce shortages ahead of its peak holiday season. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy said USPS employees across 30,000 locations are coming back to work in higher numbers every day, as COVID-19 vaccination rates go up. Ahead of its year-end peak holiday operations, DeJoy told employees in a video message that he plans to hire 40,000 seasonal workers and convert 33,000 non-career employees to career status.
Cyber attacks on gas pipelines and the recent hack of a Florida water treatment plant have raised fresh concerns about the security of industrial control systems. New legislation in the Senate would require the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency to help critical infrastructure companies secure those important systems. It would also ensure CISA shares information about cyber threats with ICS users. The bill is sponsored by Sens. Gary Peters (D-Mich.) and Rob Portman (R-Ohio), who lead the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee.
Lawmakers are pushing the Pentagon to reduce its reliance on China for key supplies. A House Armed Services Committee task force is out with a final report on critical vulnerabilities in the defense supply chain. The group is recommending legislation aimed at shoring up the defense industrial base. They also want to reduce the United States’ reliance on China for things like rare earth elements, microelectronics and pharmaceutical ingredients. The proposals will be considered when the committee starts marking up the annual defense bill next week. (Federal News Network)
Check off the Securities and Exchange Commission and the Army Recruiting Command as two more agencies to make awards under the telecommunications and network modernization programs called EIS. GSA said agencies must turn up the tempo on transitioning to new contract providers. The SEC chose MetTel to provide fully converged voice, data and video services. The Army Recruiting Command hired Lumen Technologies under a $52 million task order to provide high-speed internet and voice over internet protocol services.
The Office of Personnel Management is sticking with a familiar face to lead its technology modernization effort. Guy Cavallo can remove the “acting” from his title to assume the permanent role of chief information officer at OPM. He has been acting CIO since March when Clare Martorana moved up to be the federal CIO. Cavallo joined OPM in September. Before coming to OPM, Cavallo spent almost four years as the deputy CIO at SBA where he helped move the agency into the cloud and revamp its cybersecurity tools and capabilities. At OPM, Cavallo inherits an IT infrastructure that has been slow to modernize and an IT budget of $125 million.
The Defense Department is offering a $150,000 prize to developers who can detect illegal fishing vessels. The xView3 competition is looking for novel ways to crunch data over large swaths of ocean. The competition builds off two previous contests from the Defense Innovation Unit. Those competitions resulted in faster assessment of infrastructure after a natural disaster. The contest will open in August and run for three months.
The housing marking is hitting explosive levels, and that’s making it hard for soldiers moving to new orders to find housing. Now the Army is stepping in. The branch said it is offering temporary housing in hotels for soldiers who are unable to find housing at their new stations. The service is also expanding its lead-time so soldiers have about six months to prepare for a move. The nation is in the midst of peak moving season. That’s putting stress on a limping moving industry that lost 25% of its workforce during the COVID-19 shutdown. The Army said soldiers should expect increased costs. The service is offering 100% reimbursement for soldiers who move on their own. (Federal News Network)
A former Air Force intelligence analyst is asking for a 12-18 months sentence for leaking government secrets about the U.S. drone program in Afghanistan to the press. In court papers filed yesterday, Daniel Hale said his guilt over participating in lethal drone strikes was what led him to violate the Espionage Act. He’ll be sentenced next Tuesday. Hale leaked the documents after he had left the Air Force and took a job with a contractor assigned to the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency. (Associated Press)