Military has deadliest stretch of COVID-19 in August

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  • House Republicans said Farm Service Agency offices around the country are understaffed. FSA hired 165 permanent federal, 250 permanent non-federal, and 435 temporary employees last year during the pandemic. Visitors are allowed to return to FSA offices. And 75% of staff are back working in-person. But Reps. Michael Cloud (R-Texas), James Comer (R-Ky.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.) said they’re still hearing complaints about understaffed FSA offices. They’re asking the Farm Service Agency for an update on their hiring and onboarding efforts.
  • Some participants in the Federal Employees Group Life Insurance Program will see slightly different premiums next month. Rates are going up for employees enrolled in basic life insurance. Employees currently pay 15 cents every two weeks per $1,000 of insurance coverage. The new rate will be 16 cents every two weeks. Premiums for other life insurance plans may go up depending on the employee or retiree’s age. Participants ages 80 and up will see the largest rate increases. Some premiums aren’t going up at all. New rates go into effect on or just after October 1.
  • The Census Bureau added three new members to its Census Scientific Advisory Committee. The committee advises the bureau on the operation and implementation of the bureau’s programs, including the decennial census. The new members come from Emory University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Microsoft Research. The new members will serve three-year terms, and will appear at their first committee meeting later this month.
  • The State Department is looking for the next generation of IT talent to join its ranks. The State Department is accepting applications for its two-year Foreign Affairs IT Fellowship through the end of January 2022. The department will select 15 fellows, a mix of graduate and undergraduate students, and will support up to $37,000 dollars a year in tuition and related expenses. Fellows agree to serve a five-year stint in the Foreign Service as information management specialists. The fellowship aims to diversify the department’s workforce.
  • The lead U.S. cyber agency is telling other departments ‘you don’t have to go it alone on zero trust.’ The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency doesn’t want agencies to reinvent the wheel as they scramble to upgrade their network defenses. That’s why new zero trust guidance tells agencies about the cybersecurity services CISA already offers. CISA said it will also be rolling out new offerings, including advanced protective domain name system services within the next year. Agencies are grappling with the White House’s new requirement that they reach a basic level of zero trust architecture by 2024. (Federal News Network)
  • The 55th Communications Squadron at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska has now been redesignated as the 55th Cyber Squadron. The move means the squadron is not only responsible for ensuring the installation’s communication infrastructure is protected, but they are also now proactive cyber defense operators on the Air Force’s tactical edge. The squadron had to meet certain requirements outlined by the Air Force for the move to take place, including implementing Enterprise IT-as-a-Service, and having the wing commander recommend the redesignation to the unit’s major command.
  • The Army is beginning to recoup funds for the money it spent helping with the evacuation in Afghanistan. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said the service already secured $400 million in reprogramming. She added that the Army is working closely with the Defense Department and Congress to reroute another billion dollars for the service. Wormuth said she is concerned that the withdraw could end up being more expensive than planned. She noted how the National Guard mission protecting the Capitol ended up costing more than expected. (Federal News Network)
  • The military saw its deadliest month related to COVID-19 in August. Eleven military service members died of COVID-19 last month, making it by far the most fatal 31 days since the pandemic started. None of the service members were fully vaccinated from the virus. Before August, the most troops to die from the disease in a month was last November, when four service members passed away. In total, 43 service members have died from coronavirus. The Defense Department has mandated that all active duty military personnel get vaccinated. The Air Force recently told its airmen they need to get both shots by November 2.
  • Small business joint ventures looking to score defense contracts just got a win from the Government Accountability Office. Last week, GAO sustained a pre-award protest from a joint venture vying for an Air Force command-and-control contract. InfoPoint LLC challenged the Air Force’s requirement for joint ventures to get facility clearances, even if all the members are already cleared. GAO recommended the Air Force remove the requirement before proceeding with the contract.
  • The Defense Health Agency’s first step to consolidate more than 200 IT services contracts is under protest. ManTech and Deloitte filed complaints with the Government Accountability Office over DHA’s nearly $2 billion award to Peraton in late August. Under the blanket purchase agreement, called the Enterprise Information Technology Services Integrator contract, DHA is seeking a vendor to oversee the consolidation of help desks, IT service deliveries and to consolidate and standardize enteprisewide technology capabilities. DHA expects to award between six and eight total contracts over the next several years.
  • One industry association is raising alarm bells over GSA’s latest services contract. The Coalition for Government Procurement said the General Services Administration is abandoning its approach that created one of the most successful governmentwide acquisition contracts ever. The CGP said the seemingly final decision to use a single contract approach for GSA’s new services multiple award contract instead of the dual contract set-up—one for large and one for small businesses—used for OASIS is perplexing and causing industry real concerns. In a letter to GSA leadership late last month, the CGP says the services contract also is duplicative of the GSA schedules program across 14 of 15 areas.

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