Congressional inaction on debt ceiling causes Treasury to take action with Thrift Savings Plan

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  • The Treasury Department is temporarily suspending investments in the Thrift Savings Plan’s G fund to prevent the government from defaulting on debt. Congress hasn’t yet raised the debt limit or passed a suspension of the current one by the recent deadline. So the Treasury Department is reviving emergency measures that it last took in 2018. Federal employees’ TSP accounts aren’t affected. And TSP participants who are invested in the G fund won’t lose anything during this time. The TSP says G fund account balances will stay the same as if they were invested in Treasury securities.
  • The Justice Department has major deficiencies in how it manages its human resources efforts. That’s according to a report from the Office of Inspector General. The IG found that the Justice Management Division has not followed Office of Personnel Management policies for its direct hiring authority, internship programs, and veteran hiring. The report also noted that DoJ has not reviewed its HR guidelines on a timely basis, leading to policies that contradict or supersede each other. The IG recommended DoJ put its HR policies in a centralized, online location — something that the department currently lacks.
  • The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to reset labor relations with the National Treasury Employees Union. HHS says it’ll recognize the 2010 contract it signed with NTEU until the two parties can negotiate a new agreement. HHS is the latest agency to restore collective bargaining under President Biden’s executive order. But things aren’t smooth sailing at all agencies. The American Federation of Government Employees has 14 outstanding unfair labor practice complaints with the Education Department. The Federal Labor Relations Authority ordered the two parties to a hearing in the fall if they can’t settle their legal challenges by then. (Federal News Network)
  • The Postal Service sees an uptick in employees in quarantine. USPS setting its own rules on masks and vaccines, apart from the rest of the federal workforce. But data from the American Postal Workers Union shows a nearly 30% increase in employees who have had to quarantine over the past month. APWU says USPS unilaterally lifted its mask mandate for fully vaccinated employees last month, without input from the union. An administration official says USPS employees aren’t required to get vaccinated, but are strongly encouraged to do so. (Federal News Network)
  • The Army awarded Pfizer a $3.5 billion contract this week to produce half a billion COVID-19 vaccines to send abroad as international donations. The massive contract was awarded from the Army’s fiscal year 2021 research and development budget. The Biden administration says it will start shipping the Pfizer vaccines to 100 low-income countries later this month. The United States has already sent more than 110 million doses to more than 60 countries, according to the White House.
  • The Defense Department is trying to bring more attention to its civilian employees. The Pentagon developed a new website that will educate the general public about civilian employment in the military. The Defense Department says it hopes the site will drive more people to want to work for the Pentagon as civilians. The site is dynamic in the sense that it lets visitors follow different career pathways. DoD offers more than 600 different occupations that range from artists to engineers to medical professionals.
  • The Pentagon has shed a little more light on who’s running its top acquisition office. DoD says Paul Cramer is now performing the duties of deputy undersecretary of Defense for acquisition and sustainment. Cramer moves into that slot from another temporary position — he had been performing the duties of the assistant secretary of Defense for sustainment. DoD previously announced Gregory Kausner is performing the duties of the undersecretary for acquisition and sustainment. As of now, all five Senate-confirmed positions in the acquisition and sustainment office are filled by acting career officials.
  • A grassroots effort of airmen ended up in substantial change within Air Combat Command. Women civilians will now be compensated for taking breastfeeding breaks and airmen may now store Bluetooth enabled breast pumps in secure facilities. The idea came from a female airmen who submitted an administrative package to the command. The Air Force says the policy will reduce the likelihood of losing qualified airmen.
  • A new division in the Air Force will focus on modernizing its nuclear infrastructure. The Air Force Civil Engineer Center is introducing the nuclear enterprise division to lead large-scale renovation efforts for the service’s intercontinental ballistic missile and bomber systems. The division will coordinate with the Air Force Global Strike Command and Air Force Installation and Mission Support Center to design new launch facilities, control centers, and weapon-generation facilities. The Installation and Mission Support Center is managing over $12 billion in investments to advance these projects.
  • The Coast Guard is previewing some new actions to improve the cybersecurity of U.S. ports, shipyards, and other maritime infrastructure. For the first time since 2015, the Coast Guard released an update to its cyber strategy. The new “strategic outlook” includes a major focus on securing marine transportation infrastructure, which the Coast Guard says is susceptible to the effects of a cyber attack. The service says it will refine cyber incident reporting requirements, develop better cyber expertise, and field Cyber Protection Teams that are interoperable with the Defense Department’s joint force, among other actions previewed in the document.
  • The race to accelerate the dreaded “authority to operate” process for federal systems is in full swing. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services has five projects looking at this complex and time-consuming process. One of those is focused on creating a reusable library of components, each focused on a specific security control. The FedRAMP program is developing software to make transferring data happen more seamlessly. FedRAMP also will release new details for how vendors and agencies can create automated validations for cloud services. The authority to operate — or ATO — ensures systems are secure but also can add significant time to launching new capabilities.
  • Another week, another change for NITAAC’s $50 billion IT services and software procurement. Amendment nine of the CIO-SP4 procurement makes three major changes for contractors bidding on this troubled multiple award contract. First, vendors have an extra two weeks before bids are due. The new deadline is Aug. 20. Second, NITAAC tried to clarify the subcontracting rules. Now prime contractors must more specifically say what services they will provide versus just saying they will do 51% of the work. Finally, NITAAC updated the self-scoring sheet to clarify that vendors should only count points based on obligated dollars and not total value awarded for previous contracts.
  • The IRS is showing process from its ongoing six-year IT modernization effort. Deputy Chief Information Officer for IT Operations Kaschit Pandya is accelerating a push to digital services and wean itself off paper. Pandya says the IRS now runs a bot to ensure vendors are compliant with their taxes before awarding contracts. He says work used to take an employee three days, but only takes the bot five minutes.

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