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The largest federal employee union said it will not challenge the legality of the president’s vaccine mandate. The American Federation of Government Employees said it reviewed the president’s recent executive order and past court history on vaccine mandates. The union told its members it does not see a viable legal path to challenge Biden’s order. AFGE said it continues to believe agencies should bargain over the implementation of the order, but acknowledged the scope of bargaining will be limited. The union said it continues to encourage federal employees to get vaccinated.
The Defense Department has put an emphasis on military spouses recently and it is now asking for their help. The Pentagon is encouraging more than 600,000 spouses of active duty service members to fill out a survey to better promote their needs. Military spouses struggle with employment because of constant moves and are often dealing with issues like childcare and family health. The survey is conducted every two years and gives the Defense Department a better idea of what spouses need from the government. This is the first year the survey is open to all spouses. Those interested can find the questionnaire at DoDSurveys.mil.
A spike in military deaths from COVID-19 continues to heighten. Three more service members died of the disease, bringing the number of fatalities to 46. Now nearly half of the military’s COVID deaths have happened since mid-July. The Defense Department said all of those who died were not vaccinated. The military is requiring that all service members get inoculated, now that the vaccine is approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
The Interior Department is moving the Bureau of Land Management headquarters back to Washington, D.C., a reversal from the previous administration. Interior ordered 328 employees to move to Grand Junction, Colorado and other western states last year. Interior Secretary Deb Haaland said the BLM director and a few other senior leaders will be required to move to Washington. The remaining employees can choose for themselves. Interior will keep the Grand Junction office and staff it with BLM employees who already live outside the district. Of those ordered to relocate last year, 41 BLM employees actually did. That includes just three employees who moved to Grand Junction. (Federal News Network)
Lawmakers are set to grill the Biden administration’s cybersecurity leadership this week. Ransomware, attacks on critical infrastructure and agencies’ implementation of President Biden’s cybersecurity executive order are all sure to come up during this Thursday’s hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. National Cyber Director Chris Inglis, Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Director Jen Easterly and federal Chief Information Security Officer Chris DeRusha are scheduled to testify. It will be the first time Inglis and Easterly have appeared before Congress since being confirmed earlier this summer.
The House is eyeing the establishment of a Civilian Cybersecurity Reserve. An amendment submitted to the defense authorization bill would set up the reserve as a pilot project at U.S. Cyber Command. The idea is to help the government respond to significant cyber incidents by bringing in cyber reservists to serve in temporary positions. The American Federation of Government Employees opposes the amendment, arguing it will weaken the civil service competitive hiring process.
Customs and Border Protection opens a first-of-its-kind facility for checking air shipments. It’s called Air Centralized Examination Station, and the ribbon cutting took place at Los Angeles International Airport. CBP describes it as a place to speed up e-commerce shipments arriving from other countries, while ferreting out illicit goods. The 40,000 square foot portal saves CBP from sending packages to some 87 distant warehouses for examination. It has the latest non-intrusive inspection gadgetry, allowing faster processing of items crucial to the U.S. economy’s supply chain.
Federal employees who need to rent cars while on official travel overseas are getting some new rules. The General Services Administration proposes to update the travel regulations for employees who need to rent a car while relocating overseas and are waiting for their personal car to arrive. The proposed rule aims to clear up confusion that arose over the interpretation of miscellaneous expenses. The Federal Register notice said the government will pay for the car rental, as well as collision-damage waivers and theft insurance. Comments on the proposed rule are due by November 13th.
Servicemembers, civilian employees and contractors have new options for cybersecurity training. The Defense Information Systems Agency is offering training around cyber defense analysis, database administrator and network operations under a new set of courses on cyber.mil. DISA said these courses are open to servicemembers, civilian employees and contractors. All of the new training will be virtual, but instructor-led. Classes are free and use the Microsoft Teams platform. The DoD Cyber Exchange platform now offers 24 different courses, nine of which are instructor led and under the Cyber Excepted Service program.
The chairman of the Chief Data Officers Council is on the move. Agriculture Department Chief Data Officer Ted Kaouk is heading to the Office of Personnel Management in October. Kaouk will join OPM as its CDO, as well as its deputy director for human capital data management and modernization. USDA Deputy CDO Chris Alvarez will serve as its acting CDO. Kaouk helped stand up more than 500 data dashboards at USDA and helped the CDO Council meet goals under the Federal Data Strategy. (Federal News Network)
The National Archives and Records Administration brings a critical records system back online after getting knocked offline by Hurricane Ida. NARA said flooding led to a sustained connectivity failure with its Electronic Records Archives. The outage meant agencies could not use the system for records scheduling or transfer requests, but those will resume this week. NARA is considering steps to avoid future outages, like adding new layers of redundancy to its network.