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The Postal Service is putting ethics and integrity front and center this week. Postmaster General Louis DeJoy announced the beginning of the first ever Ethics Awareness Week. DeJoy says while USPS is consistently ranked as one of the nation’s most trusted public institutions, employees must strive to do more. During Ethics Awareness Week, the Postal Service will highlight a new ethics app for smartphones, ethics websites for postal workers and the public, live and virtual ethics training sessions and other educational efforts.
Robin Carnahan believes she has a rare opportunity as the new administrator of GSA. Carnahan says GSA has money and momentum to make real changes to federal buildings, technology and acquisition. The momentum is coming from the pandemic, which is forcing agencies to rethink what the future federal office will look like. The money is coming from Congress. The House approved almost $9 billion from the Federal Buildings Fund to address a backlog of repairs. Carnahan says her goal is for GSA to provide the best customer experience for agency and industry customers alike. (Federal News Network)
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) is calling on federal agencies to crack down on fake vaccine cards. The New York Democrat says CBP, HHS and the FBI need to investigate the mass production of counterfeit cards, and the Justice Department needs to prioritize prosecuting those cases. Federal agencies have seized thousands of fake cards this year, including a shipment sent from China just last week.
Another military installation is putting restrictions on unvaccinated people on base. Fort Jackson in South Carolina will not allow unvaccinated military family members on base for basic training graduation. The installation’s officials say the health and protection of its soldiers are of utmost importance and that the delta variant is too much of a risk. Other bases have already implemented restriction. Fort Stewart in Georgia is not allowing unvaccinated soldiers to eat inside off-post indoor dining areas. The Defense Department recently announced that it will mandate vaccinations for all active-duty military by mid-September.
Promotions in the Air Force and Space Force will come a little earlier than usual in fiscal 22. Guardian promotions for sergeant through sergeant master will be in May, major through colonel in October, and senior and chief master sergeants in November. Airmen promotions for lieutenant colonels in combat support will happen in January, whereas colonels and chaplains will see promotions in late March or early April. The boards are meeting two to three months earlier than they did in fiscal 2021.
The Air Force awarded two contracts furthering one of its futuristic vanguard programs. The service is giving up to $20 million to private companies to continue testing its Skyborg program. The initiative creates artificial intelligence-driven drones that fly with fighter pilots. Those drones will be equipped with sensors that will inform pilots of threats and read landscapes. (Federal News Network)
Department of Veterans Affairs research is now in one easy-to-find place. VA migrated 105 medical centers with research programs to a centralized commercial platform. The VA Innovation and Research Review System generates one authoritative data set of all research projects inside the department. VA says the move will reduce the need for national data calls. It will also allow the department to develop an air traffic control system of sorts over what studies are happening across the VA system. VA wants to increase veterans’ access to clinical trials. Over 10,000 veterans participated in research trials last year.
A bipartisan group of senators want to compel former VA employees and contractors to cooperate with audits and other investigations. Senate VA Committee Chairman Jon Tester (D-Mont.) and members Joe Manchin (D-W.V.) and John Boozman (R-Ark.) introduced the Strengthening Oversight for Veterans Act. The bill would give the VA inspector general authority to subpoena testimony from individuals relevant to an ongoing investigation. Congressmen have a similar bill in the House. The VA IG says subpoena power would have helped investigators complete a more thorough review of recent deaths at the medical center in Clarksburg, West Virginia.
The Senate left town before acting on a top priority for some federal employee groups. President Biden’s two nominees to restore a quorum at the Merit Systems Protection Board still haven’t cleared a key Senate hurdle. The president tapped Cathy Harris and Ray Limon to fill two of three spots at the MSPB. The board has been without a quorum for over four years. It now has over 3,300 pending cases awaiting board action.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development will partner with the Federal Housing Finance Agency to share information, coordinate on investigations and monitor mortgage companies. The two independent agencies signed a memorandum of understanding to promote fair housing and lending. Under the partnership, the agencies will improve their oversight of Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and the Federal Home Loan Banks.
The Environmental Protection Agency is offering more resources and requirements to make data centers more energy efficient. Agencies and data center providers will have new specifications for ENERGY STAR certifications, and will have access to a new EPA website for data storage how-tos. Data centers are also set to receive new ENERGY STAR scores after surveys are conducted in the fall. Eligible products for certification include computer servers, data center storage, power supplies and routers, among others.
A lawsuit is being brought against the Interior Department for not hosting drilling auctions on federal lands and waters this year. The American Petroleum Institute, along with 11 other oil industry groups, say the government is required by law to hold regular sales, and that length of this particular stoppage is unprecedented. President Biden made a campaign promise while he was running to pause issuing new leases to oil and gas companies as part of his agenda to combat climate change.