Senators looking to mandate whistleblower training for all VA employees

In today's Federal Newscast, a bipartisan pair of senators want to write whistleblower training for employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs into law.

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  • Federal agencies are starting to set tentative re-entry dates for their employees. The Agriculture Department has eyed Oct. 1 as the date some employees may return to the office on a phased basis. Individual offices are still working out and bargaining over the details with employee unions. The Labor Department said Sept. 7 is the earliest it will allow half of the workforce back in the office. Agencies had until last Monday to submit re-entry plans to the White House. The Social Security Administration got more time to work on its plan. (Federal News Network)
  • Phase three of the multiple award schedule consolidation initiative is underway. The General Services Administration said this includes moving all schedule holders to a single contracting officer to reduce confusion and burden. Phase three is part of the Federal Marketplace Strategy. In addition to phase 3, GSA also is improving its Advantage portal, giving users more photos to go along with their search results to enhance their buying experience. Finally, GSA also said its new contract writing system, called CALM, was deployed to 80 existing contracts under a pilot phase.
  • More protests and more frustration fell upon the solicitation for the CIO-SP4 governmentwide acquisition contract. Another protest, another letter calling for a redo, the solicitation for the CIO-SP4 governmentwide contract is flailing. Pluribus Digital filed a protest with the Government Accountability Office after NITAAC issued amendment seven that once again restructured the way small businesses can form and use their teams to bid on the vehicle. Pluribus’ complaint is the third before GAO. Amendment seven also incurred the wrath of the Professional Services Council as it wrote a second letter calling on NITAAC to pull back the RFP and fix the problems and inconsistencies. (Federal News Network)
  • Service members in small or remote installations are not getting the proper transition benefits when the leave the military. That’s according to a new study from the Government Accountability Office. Troops leaving small bases are faced with limited local employment opportunities. Other issues included remote bases not being able to fill the minimum class sizes for transition training.
  • The Marines are trying to mix up the demographics of drill instructors. The Marine Corps is in dire need of female drill instructors to guide new recruits through the training process. The position is famous for its tough, no-nonsense attitude. The call for more women instructors is part of the service’s effort to integrate its forces. The Marine Corps has offered various means of bonus pay or lump sum payments as an incentive to recruit women to the position. Instructors are needed at Parris Island in South Carolina and in San Diego and Quantico.
  • The Pentagon refuted a recent report that it was lifting a 2018 ban on the use of Chinese-made drones. In a statement, the Defense Department said the use of drones made by leading Chinese manufacturer DJI is still forbidden due to cybersecurity concerns unless a DoD organization secures a waiver first. The Hill reported in early June that two DJI drone models were cleared for use by the Pentagon. The Hill cited a May report from U.S. Army Special Operations Command. The Pentagon said the release of that report was unauthorized.
  • The Pentagon might need to spill some details about its high profile contractor cybersecurity program soon. The Senate Armed Services Committee wanted the Pentagon to deliver a report on plans for the Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification. That’s a requirement in the committee’s mark up of the annual defense bill released last week. The CMMC program was supposed to get started this year. But the Biden administration launched a review of the program during the spring, and has said little about the next steps for CMMC. Lawmakers and other stakeholders have raised questions about the efficacy of the certification program, including whether it’s too expensive for small businesses.
  • The Senate has started to clear its backlog of nominations to serve in senior civilian DoD leadership positions. In voice votes late last week, Senators approved six of the president’s Pentagon nominees. That means DoD now has a Senate-confirmed general counsel, undersecretary of Defense for research and engineering, assistant secretary for readiness, assistant secretary for Indo-Pacific security affairs, undersecretary of the Air Force, and assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment. Four more nominees for senior DoD posts have been awaiting action by the full Senate for more than a month, and another 10 have yet to have hearings before the Senate Armed Services Committee. But there are several other key positions for which the administration hasn’t nominated anyone at all.
  • A bipartisan pair of senators want to write whistleblower training for employees at the Department of Veterans Affairs into law. Senators Maggie Hassan (D-N.H.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) introduced the VA Inspector General Training Act. Senators said VA currently offers optional whistleblower training to employees. Their bill would require training for the VA workforce on how to report waste, fraud and abuse. The training would be in coordination with VA’s inspector general. The legislation would also allow the VA IG to directly contact the workforce without the secretary’s permission.

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